Saturday, November 10, 2007

* Asterisk, and I'm not talking the European comic book character

"The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished. You would hate to have that attached to your accomplishments. They've got it.
"I guess it will be noted that the Patriots were fined and a No. 1 draft choice was taken away during that year of accomplishment...
"That tells you the seriousness or significance of what they found. I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record."

-Don Shula, New York Daily News, November 11, 2007

Welcome to the NFL's version of Grumpy Old Men.

Sure, Shula doesn't directly say that the Patriots accomplishments should have an asterisk next to them - but he comes as close as possible to saying it. Sure, the intention was there to cheat - but the camera man was nailed pretty much in the first quarter of the first game of the season, giving them no opportunity to cheat.

Yes, he backed off that statement later in the week, but still referred to the theoretical undefeated season that the Patriots are possibly on their way to as "tainted."

Let's really consider the implication of Shula's statement - he implies that a team caught violating NFL rules in order to gain a competitive edge should, in essence, come with a footnote in the record books.

Herein lies the questions that creates -

Does that mean that the 1972 Dolphins deserve an asterisk? After all, the Dolphins were penalized a first round draft pick only a year earlier for tampering by a much more lenient commissioner than the current for hiring Shula away from the Colts. In Shula's words, that tells you the seriousness of the offense.

This doesn't consider the fact that the '72 'Phins played the weakest schedule of any champion during the Super Bowl era (opponent winning percentage of .365), and had an average margin of victory around 15 points. Patriots opponents through the bye have had a winning percentage around .480, and the average margin of victory has been in the neighborhood of 23 points. Maybe one, or both of the above deserve to be noted in the record books.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Steve Courson, a key member of the team opening holes for Franco Harris and protecting Terry Bradshaw, admitted in 2000 to steroid use on a team where rumors of use were wide spread. Courson noted certain players that would not touch them, like Jack Lambert, but he in no way absolved everyone. Without knowing how long, or how pervasive the steroid culture was in the Steelers locker-room, then don't we as fans, have to assume - like some have suggested about the Patriots - that all of the Steelers titles were tainted?

Former Raiders coach John Madden famously said, "Everybody says the Raiders cheat...OK, we cheat. So, what are you going to do about it?" Does that mean that there should be an asterisk next to everything that the Raiders accomplished under Madden? Not only is it an admission that the team cheated, but he dared anyone to do anything about the fact that his team cheated.

Nobody brings up the fact that the Denver Broncos were in violation of the salary cap both years they won the Super Bowl (last time checked, spending more money than the other teams that are staying under the cap would create an unfair competitive advantage). In addition to that - Mike Shanahan had the gall to send someone to San Diego to tape practices from a hill adjacent to the Chargers practice facility. This isn't like some sideline taping, this is paying extra for a hotel and airfare to illegally scout an opponent's practice.

The Colts? Nobody outside of Indianapolis is buying the CBS glitch excuse. Bettors point out that the network would benefit from closer spreads in the final score by keeping ratings higher throughout the game. Sites from other teams have questioned the validity of the NFL's findings. This doesn't even take into account the fact that Bill Polian, the Colts general manager, pretty much had the way the rules of the game were enforced, because the teams he put together were unable to get over the hump in the playoffs without the extra help? Does that deserve an asterisk?

Under current rules, the Cowboys dynasty of the mid-1990's would never have been able to maintain any sort of continuity in regards to winning because players like Michael Irvin, and Nate Newton, just to name a few, would have constantly been suspended for their criminal activities - and this doesn't even take into account the coach (Barry Switzer) getting nailed trying to bring a hand-gun on a plane. Should that be a footnote?

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what has happened over the last 40+ years in the NFL. I haven't even touched on things like the Detroit Lions gambling scandal in the 1960's, rumors of steroid and amphetimine use with the Cowboys of the 1970's, and countless other little and big scandals throughout the history of the NFL.

Where do the footnotes end? Why doesn't camera-gate go away like all the previous scandals?

One simple reason.

We live in the information age. Like me, everyone has an opinion, and anyone with access to the Internet has the ability to keep any story alive.

Ten years ago, this story would have been dead already. For those of you who don't believe it would have been, once again, check out the Broncos issues and how long those were a big deal. Now, we have news 24-7, and producers that pander to what they think sells.

And let's face it - scandal sells. Even one that was put to rest months ago.


sugarshane024 said...

We all clearly have the same, general opinion on this matter. But I think you've taken the best angle made the best argument. In the grand scheme of things, is this really any worse than any of the other violations you mentioned? That said, it seems that the Patriots - not the Jets or anybody else - are the real victims. Were any of these other teams penalized for their actions other than the '71 Dolphins having to forfeit a draft pick? It doesn't appear so. Yet, the Patriots are fined a total of $750,000 and forced to surrender a first-rounder.

Teresa said...

Read this column. He is a Colts fan, so of course it has that slant, but he is really saying the same thing you are....he just gets paid more.

Kevin Smith said...

Gotta admit, you're right, I don't completely agree with him - he conveniently left out the part where people (including Shula) questioned the team's past accomplishments - which is as much a slight to the players as to the coach. To call Vrabel classless over just calling Shula, who couldn't even stick to his guns for more than two days, is a little over the top and pandering to his audience.

That said, yeah, nice to see the fourth estate noting the same ideas.

David Sullivan said...

Its like one girl gettting expelled for hugging while another gets detention for bringing a gun to school. You have to check out my spot for this to make complete sense.