Thursday, February 07, 2008


There are much worse things that could have happened in the desert on Sunday than the Patriots loss, according to this story that's not getting a lot of attention.

Thankfully, the man came to his senses and turned himself in.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

No Excuses

I'm a little disappointed.

More in my fellow Pats fans than in the game.

I'm beginning to see the excuses surface from Patriots fans. The clock was mismanaged by the refs, the Patriots gave the game away, Arlen Specter brought up Spygate at an inopportune time. It's all a crock.

The Patriots were outplayed, pure and simple.

We saw from week two that the this team could put aside the distractions of Spygate, and there was nothing unusual about how the clock was run (I saw the film, and all I can say is the guy who did that didn't have a full understanding of how the clock gets run, and maybe he should look up the rules before he starts any conspiracy theory. I won't justify his theory any further by posting a link to it).

The team was lucky that the defense played as well as they did, or this could have been a rout because our offense was smoked. The defense, in spite of two crucial misses in the last minute (the missed sack and the missed interception), kept the team in the game.

As for the excuses - do you, as a Patriots fan, really want to be lumped in with the Ravens fan conspiracy theorists, or the Raiders fans that still whine that they had the game stolen from them based on a rule that's in the books?

Stop the excuses, stop the whining and deal with the pain. After decades of last minute losses by the Red Sox and Patriots, have we really become so soft that we can't recognize the Giants' accomplishment?

Get it together people, I don't want to be embarrassed to be a New England fan. Make me proud and take it like a fan that actually knows the game well enough to know that our team was handed their hats.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The changing face of the sports media

Please bear with me on this - I will get to the sports side of things.

It's more than the sports media. There has been a trickle down effect.

News has become entertainment.

It is why a couple of reporters did something for the Washington Post in the 1970's that could never happen now. It is why the press has failed in its responsibility as a watchdog over politics and industry over the last decade. We read about some nut-job woman from Atlanta who bails on her fiance and runs to Vegas for almost two months, but watch the press treat the current administration largely with kids gloves in spite of the myriad of Constitutional offenses that the current group appears to be guilty of.

The closest we've seen to Woodward and Bernstein in the last 30 years has been Fainaru-Wada and Williams in the case of Barry Bonds.

Hard hitting reporting is a dying breed in favor of the Fox Newsettes, the pretty faces that have taken the place of your Walter Cronkites and Charles Kuralts. The sons of Walter Winchell, the preachers of the gossip column have taken control.

An unfortunate and fortunate side-effect of the overall impact of the Washington Post's Watergate reporting has been that public figures' private lives have become public. It has become more important for the media to cover things like Tony Romo spending a weekend with Jessica Simpson, or the fact that Bill Belichick wears a hoodie on the sideline, than what's happening between the hashmarks. It's more important that we know that Jenna Bush is getting married or publishing a children's book than it is that our vice president may have been directly involved in the dismissal of federal District Attorneys for nothing more than political reasons.

And the reason is that we, as a news consuming public, eat it up. We demand the fluff stories, writing off the important news of the day as boring.

It runs from the hard news through to the sports news.

We call for changes to the games, to the long as the team we root for is kept out of it. We revel in the embarrassment of the other teams, and more often than we should, act as though our teams are innocent of wrong-doing. As fans, we have the arrogance to believe that we root for people that are clean.

And when our teams our caught, our favorite players nailed, we circle the wagons. Bonds apologists will claim that steroids have no real impact on the sport, but be unable to explain why, then, players use them.

Fans of other teams go on the attack, in spite of the fact that everything in the history of sport shows us that at the worst possible time that those same teams that people are fans of will have some scandal of their own - multiple criminals like the Bengals, a pleasure cruise gone awry in Minnesota, a number of different baseball players representing almost every team in the majors on a list of steroid and HGH users, a boxer's name being linked to an illegal HGH ring shortly before a title bout.

Sometimes the players are caught in off-field shenanigans like Alex Rodriguez, or going on an innocent vacation with their girl-friend in what should be non-stories for the sports page, but they take on a life of their own because we dig in like jackalls.

People complain about the press, but we keep coming back, because what they give us is what we (as a society) want. It's what sells the papers. The irrelevant. The stupid and innocuous.

Reporting about sports was once about great feats on the field of play, and the occasional trade. Now it's as much about business and gossip as anything else.

Is it jealousy? Possibly. Great resentment festers in the light of great success. It's why in the 1970's there were people who hated the Dallas Cowboys, and, more recently, the Yankees of the 1990's, and right now, the Boston professional sport scene.

I have no problem with the resentment. I just wish we would focus on the sports, on the facts, and tell the press we're done with unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Putting my finger on it

I think I have figured it out. Why yesterday's loss didn't bother me as much as I thought it should.

Over the last couple of months I have written a lot about the hypocrisy of the fans out there who bitch and moan about cheating when any individual would have a hard time finding a clean team out there. I have pointed out that, for the inquiring mind, and the fanatical historians of the game, that the Steelers of the 1970's were rumored to have pioneered steroids in the game (at least one offensive lineman from the last two Super Bowl squads of that era confirmed that he took steroids), that the Miami teams of the early 1970's were penalized for coach tampering, John Madden pretty much admitted that the Raiders he coached cheated and challenged, "what are you going to do about it?" From 1972 to 1982 those teams accounted for nine out of eleven possible Super Bowl appearances by the AFC, winning eight.

There are a number of other teams whose violations have faded over time - the Broncos who both filmed and were in violation of the salary cap - but all is talked about is the team's championship.

But those aren't the only things that have faded with time.

Time has put the Bills' four Super Bowl losses in different perspective. Once thought of by pundits and fans alike as being the biggest losers in football history for having lost those four consecutive championships, time has mellowed the perception, allowed for the appreciation of the difficulty inherent in what the Bills accomplished.

People talked about how, if the Pats lost, this Super Bowl would be the biggest upset in the history of the game. It may be, and that perception may remain for some time, as will the ghost of Spygate, but both will fade. Somewhere in my gut and in the back of my mind is the understanding that I might have just witnessed a season that might not repeat itself during my lifetime and that at some point it will be recognized for the incredible ride that it was.

The fact they weren't able to put the exclamation point on the season will likely linger longer than the cheating scandal - which will have a longer life than previous scandals, not because it is tied to a multiple Super Bowl champion, but because we live in an information age where the fourth estate is about ratings and advertising rather than objective news. It's why stories like the "Run Away Bride" in Georgia lasted for over a month in the national news when as recently as 15 years ago that story would have been, at best, two paragraphs in news of the odd every place outside of the greater Atlanta area.

But all of that is only part of it.

I am bothered when the teams I root for either don't show up to play, or lose because of things outside their control (poor officiating, etc.). I honestly think the Patriots played as well as they could have. I think they gave the Giants everything they had left in their tank, which wasn't much.

The Giants, in spite of playing one game more just had more left.

I didn't feel that way in 1985 or in 1996. I think the Patriots could have played better in both of those games. I don't know that they could have won either, but I didn't feel like they played their best football when they most needed to.

I know when the smoke finally clears, and the filming is put to rest, I'm going to look on this season as both incredible and a little disappointing. I won't dwell on the loss - it will still be there - but I will look at a team that still broke the Dolphins record for consecutive wins in a single season (sure, it's Pyrrhic, but it's still an impressive feat), set a variety of offensive records that are just off the charts, and did these things amidst a firestorm of controversy.

Thanks for the ride. It was pretty damned incredible.


I want to send out a congratulations to the New York Giants and the team's fans.

A few quick observations -

Anyone else get the irony of a team named the Giants playing David and knocking off the Goliath that has been the Patriots for this decade?

Over the course of the week leading up to the game I had an ever worsening feeling about the game. I reasoned why the Patriots should win, why people should predict a New England victory, but there was a nagging feeling in the back of my head that kept telling be that the Patriots just didn't have enough gas left in the tank to seal the deal. I think I'm less disappointed by this loss than I would have been if I had felt strongly about the Pats winning.

Don't get me wrong - I don't mean to sound like I'm taking anything away from the Giants. They played the better game and they deserved the win...and, to some extent, I am happy for Michael Strahan. I'm glad he got himself a Super Bowl ring before the end of his career. It's just that I would have preferred it not be at the hands of the Patriots. C'est la vie.

In spite of the loss, I enjoyed the game. I'm sure there are many out there that were bored by the game, but I like the defense-heavy games.

As I said elsewhere - if somebody had told me that the Pats D would hold the Giants to 17 points, I would have been positive the Pats would win. But the Giants front four on defense won the battles in the trenches with the Pats O-line. Something that happened with less frequency in the December meeting.

Even when the line didn't get there, Tom Brady failed to make plays, often over- or under-throwing his receivers. Eli Manning, on the other hand, made plays, often times while under pressure.

It was a great defensive game. Congratulations New York, enjoy the championship.

As for the Patriots...

It was the third time this season that the team was facing the Giants in a final game of a part of the NFL season - pre, regular, and post. It's exceedingly difficult to defeat a team three times in the same season - even if one of those times is in the pre-season.

Looking forward...

The Patriots are going to feel like they have unfinished business, and they will reload again. But the question is how.

Unless Donte Stallworth renegotiates his contract, he won't be back. I expect Randy Moss will re-sign with the team. Troy Brown I would say is a toss-up, at best, to return.

I would not be surprised to see both Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau return, but I suspect they will bring in another linebacker for the rotation. As well as the linebackers played yesterday, there were times they appeared old and worn down at the end of the season.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The righteous and the wicked

As fans we are typically raised in our own particular denomination - Sox, Yankees, Colts, Penguins. Sometimes it's because of family, sometimes it's regional.

We've been raised to believe that there is something pure and good about sports.

The character of Terrence Mann in Field of Dreams concludes his keynote speech with, "And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

The fact is, people that play sports - and I'm not talking about those of us that play pick-up games of basketball on Saturdays, or in softball leagues after work - no, those that were competitive enough to be in that handful of players to ever make it to the majors, the coaches, the trainers, these people are some of the most competitive people in the world.

They look for edges, often going out of the bounds allowed by their sport, sometimes venturing into the outright illegal. And this is not limited to American athletes or coaches.

Look at Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Barry Bonds, Bjarne Riss, Roger Clemens, and Lyle Alzado to name a few. By all reports, these people are the ones who looked for shortcuts, looked for the edge that going outside the bounds of the rules of their sport, and sometimes the laws of their country.

If you doubt how competitive these people are, consider that Pete Rose ended the career of a catcher in an All-Star game. A game that didn't even count.

The history of professional sports is a history of cheating and controversy, as much as we would like to convince ourselves otherwise, as often as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, the fact remains that there is nothing clean about pro sports.

The Patriots have Spygate, the Chicago White Sox will always have the Black Sox Scandal, the Packers and Lions will always each have a highly regarded player (historically speaking) in the 1960's who were both suspended for a season for gambling on the game. The Reds will always have Pete Rose, and Rose will always carry the stigma of betting on baseball.

Questions will always dog Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong. There will always be questions regarding the timing of Martina Hingis and the timing of her retirement in regards to an alleged positive test for cocaine, violating the WTA's drug policy.

In spite of mounds of incontrivertible evidence that pro sports is rife with cheating, we, as fans, get indignant over the fact that an opposing team cheated to win. We yell cheater(!) and point fingers, and try to claim the team that is the subject of our affections in a given sport is on some sort of moral high ground.

As a Red Sox fan, I always felt, from a public standpoint, that the Sox and the fan base lost the moral high ground on the steroid issue back in the mid 1990's when they added Jose Canseco to the roster. I felt it then, I feel it now.

Owners hold cities hostage, favorite players bail in favor of better money elsewhere, officials get nailed in gambling scandals. But we keep coming back, and we defend our teams with the rabid, one-mindedness of a pitbull. We are Crusaders for the Patriots, Giants, or Eagles.

Sometimes we are misguided in our attacks, sometimes because of misrepresentation by the press, sometimes because we are going to impress our preconceived notions upon a team we don't like, and have no desire for the making a judgment based on the facts. It is a religion, like all religions, based on faith and emotion.

And like religion, the government has no place in the games, unless the governing bodies of the games turn their heads and look the other way when federal and state laws are violated. For those of you who do, think about it this way - hypothetically, you own a contracting firm and are a member of your local chamber of commerce. You cut corners by setting studs two inches farther apart in your building than you are supposed to. Arlen Specter calls for an investigation into your business practices by Congress and compares your violation of building standards to illegal practices by the CIA. Anyone else sense the incongruity?

As for the Anti-trust Exemption that people claim give him the right. Let them remove it. See how football suffers. If football looses the exemption, then the draft goes away. The exemption is what allows the NFL to tell a player coming out of college that the Bills, or the Raiders, or the Panthers own a player's rights for a year. That goes away and the teams with the best profit margins - the Patriots, the Redskins, the Cowboys, and large market teams like the Giants are the only ones that can get the best talent coming out of college. Football becomes baseball.

Teams like Buffalo, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Tennessee...they might as well kiss their collective futures goodbye.

As for Specter...this is a joke. His impartiality is questionable, at best, considering he's an Eagles fan and is pretty much tailoring his inquiry to the Eagle's Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, and his second largest contributor during the last election was Comcast, one of the companies locked in the legal dispute with the NFL over the NFL Network. He comes off more as a fan pissed about his team losing a championship than as an official trying to protect the integrity of the game.

And as a fan, he's wielding the cudgel that he he has - the Anti-trust Exemption - in a matter that was already handled in-house, as it should have been.

As for his claim that the NFL might need the evidence it destroyed at a different time, this isn't a court of law, nothing illegal was done. What need is there to hang on to evidence that had already leaked to the press to the embarrassment of the NFL? Specter is mistaking an in-house issue for something of the severity of baseball's steroid scandal, which did indeed violate federal law.

And people wonder why the Republican Party took a beating in the last election.

As fans, sometimes we need to temper our emotions. Sometimes we need to do a little footwork on our own, and not completely trust the media - they are, after all, in the business of selling papers and advertising. It behooves them to present stories in a way that will allow them the largest possible circulation. It's why the headlines were, "Pat's caught stealing signals," rather than, "Pat's caught putting together game film from forbidden location."

Presenting the story as taping from a location not allowed, but that stealing signals is...just not a sexy story.

It's why we'll never know what really happened with Terrell Owens just before the beginning of the season, but "attempted suicide" sells papers.

Sure, in our judicial system everyone is accorded the benefit of the doubt - innocent until proven guilty. But that's not the way the court of public opinion works.

For the detractors of the Patriots, this season will always be tainted - in spite of the fact that they were probably the most scrutinized team in the league this year, that the film was confiscated before the end of the first quarter of the first game and the NFL said that there was no way that the film could have been used, that nothing else untoward happened during the season. Those same people will always doubt the validity the 2001 win over the Rams due to unsubstantiated rumors that the Patriots taped the Rams' walk-through the day before. It's the nature of being a fan who doesn't like a team, or who resents a team.

But it remains the same for other teams that this happened to - the Yankees of the late 1990's will, in many people's heads, always have the taint of a large number of steroid users on that club. For some, it will always be remembered that the 1972 Dolphins were without a first round draft pick due to a penalty levied for tampering with a coach (Shula) who was still under contract with another team.

The instances of cheating and impropriety in sports are legion. And anyone who thinks they root for a team that's innocent, well they're just kidding themselves.