Monday, December 10, 2007

Cheating and fan hypocrisy

With the Patriots due to play the 3-10 New York Jets on Sunday, a lot is going to resurface in regards to Camera-gate, Tape-gate, Spy-gate, or whatever you want to call it. In the wake of every game, some fan of some team puts their foot in their mouth and wants to yell about the Patriots as cheaters.

I have not denied that the Pats were caught doing something they weren't supposed to be doing, nor would I. The irony of it is that the problem was that they were filming from the sideline. If they had done it from the coaches' booth, it wouldn't have been considered cheating (a stupid loophole, but a loophole none the less).

I would, however, point out to the Eagles fans, Steelers fans, Rams fans, and other groups that complain that the Patriots championships deserve an asterisk that, while the league frowned on the practice, the sideline camera wasn't officially outlawed by the NFL until this season. The Pats kept doing it. They got caught in the first half of the first quarter of the first game of the season.

They were nailed with an unprecedented punishment.

So it goes.

For those fans who want to continue this holier than thou farce, I give you the following -

2006-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers - in the spring, one of the team's game-day sideline doctors was fingered by a federal investigation into illegal distribution of HGh by one of Florida's anti-aging clinics. Despite claims by the doctor that the hormone was used for elderly patients, the Steelers dismissed the doctor. Considering he purchased through illegal channels, his claims come off as somewhat disingenuous.

2007 New York Jets - Accused of emulating the snap count on defense in a game against the Baltimore Ravens, a personal foul that should have resulted in at least one, if not multiple personal fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct, had the officiating crew noticed.

1998-2007 Indianapolis Colts - Repeatedly accused by opponents, including the Steelers, Jaguars, and Patriots (among others), of piping in crowd noise. In spite of the fact that the NFL absolved the team of wrong-doing in the most recent incident, rumors abound that a stadium employee has acknowledged the team's cheating.

2007 Washington Redskins - Multiple Redskins fans have blogged this season that the Skins are piping crowd noise into FedEx field. The claims are being made by people who claim to be attending the games and sitting under the speakers.

2007 Green Bay Packers - Still currently under investigation by the NFL for reports of defensive players offering "bounties." League rules prohibit teams and players "from offering or accepting bonuses to a player for his or his team's performance against a particular team, a particular opposing player or players, or a particular group of an opposing team."

2007 Dallas Cowboys - In mid-November a trainer from Plano, TX plead guilty to possession of illegal steroids. The man provided federal investigators names of FORMER and CURRENT Cowboys whom he claims to have supplied with performance enhancing drugs.

2007 New York Giants - Have faced recent allegations that certain coaching decisions have been dictated by the Las Vegas point spread. Granted, this is speculation based on Big Blue's recent game against the Bears, however, if the Vegas point spread is indeed dictating coaching decisions and proof can be found to back this allegation, this could be a bigger scandal than the NBA ref incident.

Those are just the ones that hit the fan in the last twelve months - but are the fans of the following clubs ready to give up NFC Championships, AFC Championships, and even Super Bowl wins for the following?

1997 San Francisco 49ers - According to ESPN, "Carmen Policy made secret side deals with Young and three other players to clear out some cap room for the team. This, too, crossed the boundaries, and it came to the attention of the NFL Management Council, an ownership committee.
"After hearing Policy's protestations of innocence, Jerry Jones reportedly asked fellow committee members, 'How many of us believe what he said?'
"The 49ers eventually reached a settlement with the league, which docked the club two draft picks and assessed fines against Policy and general manager Dwight Clark."

1996-1998 Denver Broncos - Found to be in violation of multiple salary cap issues, were fined $950,000.00 and a third round draft pick in the third round of the 2005 draft by the less strict Paul Tagliabue. During that same time period, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was caught filming (gasp! Not filming!) a Chargers practice...during the week...from a hill overlooking San Diego's practice facility.

1999 DenverBroncos/1998 Miami Dolphins - According to an article at ESPN..."In an interview published in the September 1999 issue of Muscular Development magazine, Conte said BALCO had 'provided testing and consultation for over 250 NFL players, including the entire Denver Broncos Super Bowl championship team, as well the entire Miami Dolphins team.'
"A Broncos spokesman told the Chronicle that the team was never a client of BALCO's and that any players who used the company did so on their own. Dolphins strength and conditioning coach John Gamble said that in 1998 Conte tested all of the Dolphins players for mineral deficiencies and that he subsequently sent supplements to counteract those deficiencies. Gamble said, though, that he did not believe Conte was paid for his services."

That's eleven teams (including the Pats) over the course of the last decade against which serious allegations were made, or were outright caught. Eight within the last year alone. And that was just based on a cursory search on a handful of teams.

I didn't include recent allegations by Shawn Merriman that Jeff Fischer "ordered a hit," this past weekend for three reasons - one; the blocks he's complaining about were clean and legal. Two; he's a whiner. Three; he was nailed for steroid use and hasn't exactly been the force he was since getting nailed.

I am by no means condoning what the Patriots coaching staff did earlier this season. To the contrary, I think it was mind-bogglingly stupid and unnecessary. They got caught, they got punished - and they should have been punished.

My point here is different.

My point is that the sanctimonious fans of other teams need to get off their high horse. I have no problem with those fans screaming about the Pats cheating, as long as those fans are acknowledging that their own team isn't a group of saints either...well, except of course for the Saints fans...but you get what I mean.

There is no such thing as an innocent team, there are only the ones that haven't been caught yet - and if you don't believe that with millions of dollars on the line in coaching contracts, player contract, endorsement deals, and various bonuses are going to prompt the most competitive people in our society to cheat, then you are truly among the most naive in society. Remember, part of the idea behind cheating is to not get caught.

For those who scream, "what does this teach the children," it teaches them that professional sports is a cold, hard business in which winning is the bottom line. If these people are using professional athletes as roll models for their children, well they're just morons.

Cheating in professional sports is a long standing tradition - from Ty Cobb sharpening his spikes and sliding with his feet high in order to cleat an opponent's shins, to Todd Bertuzzi's ordered hit on ice, to NASCAR pit crews making alterations to cars that violate NASCAR's rules, every sport, every team has a dark side to it's history that it doesn't want to see dredged into the light.

The White Sox have, arguably, the darkest story in all professional sports being the centerpiece of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. Rumors abound that the 1970's Steelers, one of the most dominant teams in the NFL during the Super Bowl Era, were practically pioneers in the use of steroids (note, I did say rumors, although at least one Steelers lineman from the 1979 team came forward in 2000 to talk about his steroid use). Baseball Hall-of-Famer Gaylord Perry admitted to throwing the spitball. In 1963 the NFL suspended Packer Paul Hornung and Lion Alex Karras for gambling.

If you have a big problem with cheating, then give up on professional sports. If you want to believe that what each of these teams is doing creates an uneven playing field (which all of this is intended to do), then maybe it's time for you to walk away from the games. If you're looking for a villain because you need a bad guy - that's fine too, but admit, at least to yourself that's what you're doing. But don't pretend that there's a team out there that isn't doing everything it can in order to get an edge.

On another note -

The weighing in - 185, down 3.5 from my start weight last week.


Dave said...

Well done. Great post.

Let's not forget the 2006 Miami Dolphins, who all but admitted they had advance knowledge of Brady's audibles in their 21-0 win.

Kevin Smith said...

I was going to mention that, but wasn't really sure how they came across the knowledge. Standard film study? Watching the sideline films taken by NFL Films for the NFL Network? Signing a former Patriot? Nothing necessarily wrong with any of those things from a rules standpoint. Is it grey area ethically? Sure. But outright cheating...I'm not completely sure.

Dave said...

If I remember correctly, it was a toss-up between them purchasing a video tape of Brady calling the audibles or their D-line being miked. The former really treads the line (like Bill did with the camera) The latter...well, it's pretty obvious that's a rule-breaker.

Kevin Smith said...

Those sound like what I came across, but I wasn't able to find more than rumors - of course, I do deal in some rumors here. And really, those are the items I came up with only on teams that I searched.

I didn't look on anyone else and I had at least one hit for each team I searched on.