Friday, May 16, 2008

Cheating from a different perspective

We've heard the names -




The list goes on. And it will.

As I have noted numerous times, there's a certain sanctimony that comes from the fans - a righteous indignation that pretty much can be summed up by, "our team is better than yours 'cause ours doesn't cheat." Unfortunately, that's just not true.

Every team cheats in some way, on some level. Was I surprised by Spygate? No. Disappointed? Yes.

When Arlen Specter came forward with his press conference he revealed that his crusade had little to do with a concern for NFL fans or the integrity of the game. It had to do with the teams of his own home state. Pure and simple.

Consider -

"I have a different perspective," Specter said. "I'm elected by 12 million people., and a lot of them are Steeler fans. ... Frankly I'm incensed about what happened with the Steelers, and I'm incensed about the notes being destroyed. I really am."
So this is about the Steelers?

Not about the fans in Tampa, San Fran, Seattle, or Chicago. It's about his voters.

For all his bluster, he doesn't appear to listen to his constituents. The most important person in relation to the Steelers, Dan Rooney, doesn't think the issue deserves to go any further -
"We consider the tapes of our coaching staff during our games against the New England Patriots to be a non-issue," Rooney said in a statement. "In our opinion, they had no impact on the results of those games."
If the tapes had serious impact, why wouldn't Rooney want a deeper investigation?

Is he concerned what might be turned up that his coaching staff was involved in? Or is he concerned that the Cheatriot nicknames would stop in favor of "Steroid" City instead of Steel City.

For anyone that thinks I'm unjustifiably attacking the Steelers, mind you, it's not because I have a dislike of the team, or that I believe they're engaging in any tactics that other teams aren't already engaged in.

I do think Specter, however, should take a look at the fact that their sideline doctor from their recent Super Bowl was dismissed after linked to the federal HGH investigation in Albany, or that Steve Courson, an offensive lineman from the Steelers last two Super Bowl titles of the 1970's admitted steroid use before his death at the age of 50 giving a lot of credence to the rumors that there was rampant steroid use on the 1970's championship teams.

And let's face it, the mid-1980's Pirates cocaine drug scandal (one of the funnier ones I've read about), just more deeply embroils the city's teams in the rumors of a massive drug culture surrounding the franchises.

As I noted before - I don't think it's anymore rampant than on other teams and in other cities. But the investigation Specter wants, if its for the "fans of the NFL," rather than just for his purposes, needs to look into all cheating in the NFL if the investigation is to be unbiased (the Red Sox did not get left off the hook in Mitchell's investigation with 14 individuals who played for the team at some point and 37 mentions of the team in the report) it needs to be all-inclusive of the NFL. Not just the team Specter wants looked at.

What I think most people don't want to face with professional sports is that cheating is a part of the culture - endemic to the individuals that compete at the highest levels. Doping has historically been a part of cycling. When was the last Olympics anyone remembers that athletes weren't expelled from the games for cheating of some sort? Baseball was ripped apart by the Mitchell Report, and I'm guessing that was the tip of the ice-berg. And football? Performance enhancing drugs, signal stealing (both with and against the rules), and god only knows what else.

Yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, people believe that these people competing over millions of dollars aren't willing to risk a slap on the wrist and a $30,000 fine. Let's face it...that's just naive.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Righteous and the Wicked...and other thoughts

"They are enormous role models for everybody," Arlen Specter (R. - Pennsylvania) said. "If you can cheat in the NFL, you can cheat in college, you can cheat in high school, you can cheat on your grade school math test. There's no limit as to what you can do. I think they owe the public a lot more candor and a lot more credibility."

Not like, say politics, where an entire administration and its party falls in lockstep in lying to the American people about reasons we should send citizens to die in a foreign country, a party owned by Big Oil, a party that has tried to distract the American people from real problems like the economy, war, human rights violations, and has disregarded the Bill of Rights.

No, politicians cheating the American people aren't going to send the message that, "you can cheat in college, you can cheat in high school, you can cheat on your grade school math test. There's no limit as to what you can do. I think they owe the public a lot more candor and a lot more credibility." Although if you do all of that, you might be qualified to be a Republican legislator.

No way what the NFL has done is worse than what Specter has done - ignored our President's illegal and un-Constitutional actions, ignored the questionable actions of the former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and then has hoped that the citizenry would buy the fact that he has never met with Comcast and assured them that he would look out for their interests, despite being his biggest campaign contributors. It's less believable than Bill Belichick's "misinterpretation" excuse.

The would-be stopper

The Red Sox entered the final game against Baltimore on a three game skid and lost five of the last seven. The reasons ranged from a lack of clutch hitting, to struggling starters - including ace Josh Beckett and wunderkind Clay Buchholz - to bullpen meltdowns (generally from closer Jonathan Paplebon).

Jon Lester did in the last game against Baltimore what everyone expected Beckett to do. He stopped the bleeding. He left the game after six innings, five hits, two runs, and only 86 pitches. He left with the lead - 3-2.

The bullpen, Javy Lopez, Craig Hansen, and Hideki Okajima, conspired to give up twice as many runs in two innings as Lester did in six.

As responsible as the starting pitching has been for some of these losses, the bullpen was just as culpable yesterday (just as side note - this in no way absolves the Sox line-up which hit into four double-plays, left five men on base, three of which were left in scoring position with two outs. However, the offense had produced enough to have the lead when it was turned over to the pen).

Lester did his job. Unfortunately, the bullpen didn't - for the third time in the seven games.


Comic book fans know the Batman character of Harvey Dent as Two-face - the one-time Gotham City district attorney turned villain due to an attack that resulted in a split personality. The character is, in essence, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

And it is evidently the playoff Celtics.

The most dominant team in the league during the regular season, and road warriors who dominated teams in the west in their own stadiums is winless on the road in five games this post-season and unbeaten at home.

Watching this team play on the road against Atlanta and Cleveland, it's obvious this is a different team than the one that shows up at the Gahden.

They appear flat and sometimes lost when they're in an opponent's arena. At home they dominate, and force the other teams into errors. But how long can a team survive playing all seven games in best-of-seven series after series?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Specter of intelligence




Call it what you will, but Arlen Specter appears to be rattling a blunt saber and armed with minimal wits. According to the Associated Press, Specter...well, read it for yourself -

Specter, from Pennsylvania, cited the fact a Patriots attorney sat in on Walsh’s meeting with Goodell as proof the investigation has not been impartial.
I can't wait to hear how he'll be changing the judicial system because it's lack of impartiality due to the fact that attorneys for the accused parties are in the room when the accusers are testifying.

Dave over at the Coffin Corner has a great take on this.

Specter seems to think that a Mitchell-type investigation of the NFL over a rules violation is in order. Mind you, not something illegal like buying and taking banned substances, but over something that merely broke the NFL's rules.

He appears to imply that the investigation should be of the Patriots and how deep Spygate really went.

What I want is transparency on his part. We know what Goodell learned from Walsh. I want to know if Specter actually asked Walsh about his part in Spygate, or just how the NFL questioned Walsh. If it's the latter, then I have to conclude that Specter doesn't actually care about Spygate, but does care about doing everything in his power to make the NFL look bad and his biggest financial backer, Comcast, happy.

Here's the funny thing about Specter's request - he wants transparency? He wants fairness? Then a Mitchell-like investigation is going to blow the lid open.

No sweeping the accusations of "sound issues" in the RCA Dome under the rug with a cursory investigation.

No dismissal by the Steelers of a sideline doctor implicated in the Albany HGH investigation being the end of that issue.

No absolving and forgetting about the Jets and Broncos filming opponents - no matter how many years (Shanahan) the filming violation might be - or the Dolphins use of film, for which they were patted on their back.

Teams would need to get ready for every dirty little secret to be dragged screaming in the daylight - to see what rumors are correct, and which are just rumors. To see every little accusation of doping, sound enhancement, electronic espionage, and god only know what else, exposed to the public.

Specter's beloved Eagles wouldn't be spared. Nor would the league's "infallible" team, the Colts.

It will need to be all encompassing, and it will be brutal to the sanctimonious fans out there that believe they're rooting for teams full of saints.

No team, no team's fans are going to want this.

And from what I can tell, no senators have Specter's back regarding this issue.

Ultimately, all Specter is engaging in here is a distraction technique in an election year - a placebo to pull the minds of voters off an unpopular war entered into under false premises sold to the American people by his party, gas prices spiraling out of control, a housing market that's gone to hell in a hand-basket, and increasing unemployment numbers. It's what Bush did during the last election with the Swift Boats, it's what Specter is doing now.

It's despicable and he needs to be held accountable the way that he is saying the NFL needs to.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pundits' Double Standards

After the Goodell-Walsh meeting on Tuesday regarding Spy-Gate, ESPN went on the offensive...full bunker mentality.

Their NFL Today program went off full-bore talking to Chris Carter and Mark Schlereth about whether or not the punishment of the Patriots was severe enough. Both went on a tirade about how the punishment wasn't enough given what the film showed.

What the film showed was nothing more than standard coach footage inter-spliced with the coaches signals and time on the clock.

I could put that together based on television broadcasts.

Not quite the same angles, but I could still get formations, personnel packages, clock time, and coaching signals from the various networks. If I wanted end-zone angles, I could easily create a computer generated model for that would show me the same play from other angles.

Carter and Schlereth both condescended to the fans, saying that the untrained eye wouldn't understand the advantage a team could gain from this.

I watched.

What I saw, like I said, was film that would give me pretty much what i would get from a standard coach's film combined with the notes that are typically garnered from the non-electronic spying that the teams engage in all the time.

As for Schlereth's rhetoric - Noted at

Indeed, let’s consider this quote from Schlereth, which he offered up on ESPN Radio on Tuesday afternoon: “This besmirches to the organization to the point where regardless of how you look at these three championships that they’ve won over the last seven, eight years you will still always look at them and say ‘Yeah, but . . . they had this Spygate thing, how much of it was inappropriate, how much cheating went on, and how much did it help them during the course of some of those games?”
I thought him talking about how the Patriots' dynasty would always be tainted was a bit disingenuous considering he earned two of his Super Bowl rings for a Broncos squad that was not only caught filming opponents, but was in violation of the salary cap by close to $30 million in both of the Super Bowl seasons. If he thinks the Pats' punishment wasn't severe enough for filming, I'd love to hear what he thinks the penalty should be for his Broncos that were guilty of the same violation and an additional one that was meant to give the team a competitive edge.

Considering the cap in 1998 was $52.4 million in 1998, that means that the Broncos were over the cap by almost 60 percent. SIXTY PERCENT! What buys you a bigger advantage? A coaching tape with hand signals, or the fact that you don't have to cut players that know the system inside and out and replace them with younger players unfamiliar with the system because your team is paying 157 percent of what every other team is paying their players? The Broncos claimed that there was no competitive advantage in the $29 million "accounting gaffe" that largely involved John Elway and Terrell Davis' contracts. But the league fined them $950 thousand and a third round draft pick back in 2004 for the violations in the late 1990's.

As I rant here, I think it's important to note that ESPN has worked hard to destroy its own journalistic credibility with things like the Barry Bonds love-in last season. Right now the ESPN pundits are putting forth the "if it didn't give the team that much of an advantage then why did they do it" line in their attacks on the Patriots. Why then did the Broncos put forth contracts with hidden deferred monies to their stars in the years in question if it didn't help them?

On ESPN's second face, last year the likes of Buster Olney and Jayson Stark repeatedly fawned over Bonds, argued that they would vote for him first ballot because, "it was just the era, and everyone else was doing it." Supporters like to point out that he hasn't failed a test, the cheating is alleged. They don't like to be countered with the fact that Bonds hasn't disputed a single fact in Game of Shadows. The man's a cheater, admitted to a grand jury. Get over it now.

Today, the station that was ramming Barry Bonds down our throats all last year, calling Roger Clemens the best pitcher ever, and pretty much exonerated Andy Pettitte because he came clean after getting caught, is expressing moral outrage at the actions of the Patriots. Actions that, anyone that can do a little Internet research can find, were perpetrated by Eric Mangini's Jets, the aforementioned Broncos, and even the Miami Dolphins (does it not count if they purchased the tape? It ends up as the same result).

Are the reporters being told by the producers not to dig?

It would make sense, given the moral outrage at the Patriots 52-7 pasting of the Redskins last season. Everybody was talking about winning games like that demanded payback, and that losing teams, losing coaches don't forget about losses like that. It was funny how none of the network or newspaper research departments turned up the one previous meeting between teams coached by Bill Belichick and Joe Gibbs. The Redskins put a 42-17 thrashing on Belichick's Browns in 1991. Yeah, the loser of a blowout remembered. And yeah, payback was a bitch.

I could be wrong, but it certainly seems like the the national outlets are going out of their way to demonize the Patriots. They did something wrong. They got caught. They were punished. Get over it people.

Was it worse than the salary cap violations of the Broncos? No, but there was nowhere near this much outrage. Maybe because by the time it hit for the Broncos, they were six years removed from being any good.

Was it worse than Zach Thomas admitting the 'Phins got the Pats' O-line calls and audibles from a tape the team "bought"? No. But the Dolphins were patted on their back for their ingenuity...maybe because it was one of only six wins Miami had all season.

Was it worse than the Jets taping from the Gillette end zone? No, but the Jets were off to one of the worst starts in football, which developed into a grim season, when they copped to their actions.

Only the Patriots were winning when it happened.

Only the Patriots continue to get vitriol.

But they're not alone in their actions.

For a good read on the subject, check out the commentary at PFT.

Brutal Youth

When I was in college at Emerson in Boston, I played baseball for my college team.

We weren't good.

We played only fall baseball and in the two seasons I played we won two games. We were 2-18. To really put it into perspective, we lost to teams like the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. Yes. That's right. We lost to would-be pharmacists.

Like I said...we weren't good.

Through the years I have been on dominant teams and doormats.

In high school I ran on a track team that won the league championship in seven of eight possible seasons. As a youth I played on a soccer team that won one game.

But I've never been on a team like the Rosemont College's softball team. I have to tip my hat to these women. Game after game was brutal on their way to an 0-25 record. This is how bad the season was -

Thanks to the so-called mercy rule, none of the Ramblers' games were allowed to go past the fifth inning.
Many of the games were lost by scores of 33-0, 19-0, and so on.

Like my experience at Emerson, these young ladies play for a Division III school with no scholarships to attract the high end athletes, they suffered through some rough seasons. In the last two the team is a combined 1-48.

The bottom line - they might not be the most talented team, but they approach the game right, as does the coach:

"Quit? No, I never felt like quitting at all," said Tammy Do, 21, a junior from Philadelphia who was 0-11 as one of two pitchers on the squad. "I couldn't be more proud."

Karen Boyle, 19, a freshman infielder from Swarthmore, feels the same way. "It's hard to explain," Boyle said. "It has definitely made me stronger, and it helped make me realize that winning isn't everything."

None of the players, however, is more proud of the team than Long, in his third year as head coach.

"This was by far the best group of girls I've ever coached," Long said. "They stuck up for each other, and they never once got down on each other. I have never had a team bond like this. These kids have character."

I feel for this team.

When I was still teaching, I was the head coach of a middle school football team. We had a total of 21 players on the team (at any given time) during my two year tenure (ended because I moved out of the area). We went 2-13 those two years. We were undersized, we couldn't run an 11 on 11 scrimmage, we had a lot of players who had never played before.

In spite of all that, the kids gave up less than five points per game. I believe the average was 4.7.

Unfortunately we had trouble on the offensive side of the ball.

But the kids were like the women at Rosemont. Not a single kid quit. I was proud of them, still am.

Sometimes sports can be brutal when a youth. That doesn't mean that we can't learn from being on a bad team.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Everybody Loves a Winner

Is a crock.

The fans of a winner? Yeah. Bandwagon jumpers? Yeah. Fans of other teams? Not so much.

The more a team wins, the more others hate the team. Dominant teams get singled out for their faults, often in spite of the fact that there are things they do, or did, that are little different than the actions of the other teams.

Red Sox fans don't have a monopoly on loathing the Yankees. When the Mitchell Report hit there were a number of fans that were quick to point out that the Yankees Dynasty of the late Nineties was peppered from top to bottom with individuals named in the report. In the mid-1990's people reveled in the legal troubles of the various Dallas Cowboys.

That is precisely the reason why the Patriots are being singled out - and make no mistake about it - they are being singled out. Try to find out from Arlen Specter why he's making a big deal out of Spygate? Why he's continuing to do so, when everyone else seems to feel that it's a dead issue? Why the Patriots (who beat his Eagles in a Super Bowl) when no one has heard word one from him over -

  • Allegations in recent years that both the Colts and the Redskins artificially enhance the crowd noise at their stadiums - a violation of NFL rules, if they are indeed doing so?
  • An admission by the Dolphins' then middle linebacker Zack Thomas, after a 2006 21-0 victory over the Patriots, that the 'Phins stole the Patriots' offensive signals from tape?
  • Why a team (the Broncos) that won the Super Bowl twice while in violation of the salary cap by almost $30 million over the two seasons, wasn't more severely sanctioned?
  • Why that same team, caught taping an opponent's practice mid-week, once again, wasn't more severely sanctioned?
  • Why the Jets admitted to taping the Patriots, but received no punishment for doing so?
  • The 49ers weren't sanctioned more severely for their salary cap violations of the late 1990's?
  • Why more teams aren't sanctioned for tampering when signing players from other teams mere minutes after free-agency begins? Who manages to negotiate and agree to terms in mere minutes with contracts that often exceed 100 pages?
And all of this is just the recent history stuff. An article in the San Diego newspaper from when Spygate hit, outlines some of the things that went on in the 1960's and 70's with the Raiders and somethings even more recently with the Bucs in regards to stealing plays and signals.

All told, the Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, and Broncos have been caught or copped to taping, or having tape of opponent's signals. The Raiders, and Buccaneers have either stolen signals, been suspected of it. And all teams must suspect other teams of doing so, or coaches wouldn't cover their mouths when relaying in signals. That's almost 20 percent of the league. Yet the Patriots are singled out by Specter..why? Because he wants to clean up the game? No.

Because of two things and two things only. It makes him feel better about the fact his team lost to be able to call the other team cheaters, and his biggest campaign contributor is Comcast, currently locked in a legal battle with the NFL in regards to the NFL network.

The Patriots cheated. But they did no more than any one of a number of teams.

And anyone that believes otherwise is being willfully ignorant of what goes on in the NFL.