Cheaters.

There are rules set into place that we are all to follow. When an individual or group ventures outside of–or runs afoul of–these rules, there is a term often used for this individual or group.

Cheater.

It can be something simple or complex–perhaps the offender or offenders were not aware of the violated rule or rules. Or, perhaps there was a deliberate attempt made to circumvent or disregard the same.

It’s a little easier to accept the first example; much harder to forgive the second.

BUT–what if an individual or team cheated TWICE?

In 1919 the Chicago White Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. It later came out that eight players from the Sox had accepted money from professional gamblers in exchange for essentially playing poorly enough to lose World Series games, “fixing” the games so those gamblers could place bets on the Reds and win what was now a sure thing.

The Commissioner of Major League Baseball banned these players forever from the Hall of Fame.

Former baseball great Pete Rose holds the record for the most hits in MLB history. In August of 1989, without admitting guilt, Rose agreed to a permanent ban from the HOF after he was accused of betting on games while manager of the Reds. (In 2008 Rose finally confirmed this activity, but said he did not bet on those games involving his own team.)

Baseball takes cheating very seriously. Witness how hard it has come down on players that have tried to gain a competitive edge–Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, etc.–through the use of performance-enhancing drugs or altered equipment (“corked bats”).

There is a difference between seeking a competitive edge and going over the line by deliberately breaking the rules. (Just ask Richard Nixon, if he were still with us and would actually answer truthfully.)

In early 2008 the New England Patriots were found guilty of secretly videotaping opponent’s practices, going back perhaps many years. There’s too much to that story to go into here–check the link–but let’s just say that, apparently in order to gain a competitive edge, the team secretly and clandestinely recorded the practices of opposing teams for study later.

There’s no way around this–they cheated. They broke the rules. That activity is NOT ALLOWED, and the activity itself raises serious moral and ethical questions as to the violator’s intent.

On January 10, 2015, the Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Playoff Divisional game. Near the end of the game, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh became visibly upset and even drew an Unsportsmanlike penalty for coming onto the field after the Patriots had run several plays using different players in unusual scrimmage positions. (Basically, the Ravens had players covering Patriots that were lined up in a receivers position but had no intentions on catching the ball, but the ones that did catch passes were not in the established position to do so, and were not covered.)

Again–attempting to gain a competitive edge. But, this time it was legal. But barely.

So, you see the pattern here: a team that will stop at almost nothing to gain another Super Bowl ring. While it’s one thing to paint the visiting team’s locker room pink in an effort to gain the competitive edge, it’s another to go over the line…

…like say, tampering with equipment–like, under-inflating footballs.

It’s not a big deal if, say, the Jets did it. The Jets finished 4-12, hardly did them any good.

Oh, it’s the PATRIOTS that did that? Wait…isn’t that team in the Super Bowl?

Ah.

EXACTLY.

The St. Louis Rams’ Marshall Faulk STILL BELIEVES that Spygate–the videotaping–cost his team Super Bowl XXXVI.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is, it’s a team that HAS ALREADY BEEN CAUGHT CHEATING ONCE. A team, remember, that found a way around the rules by–not illegally, mind you–reading between the lines and confounding another team, the Ravens, with little-used positional tricks. (Here’s some more history.)

And–get this–the Ravens actually tipped off the Indianapolis Colts–the team the Pats faced in the AFC Championship game–about the improperly inflated balls.

There is a Bleacher Report article that is almost required reading on this matter:

“Cheating Scandals Will Forever Tarnish Brady-Belichick Legacy” .

Last time, Belichick was fined $500K; the team was fined $250, 000 and lost a first round draft pick.

Belichick claims no knowledge of the improperly-inflated footballs.

Seriously, Bill? Didn’t you also claim no knowledge of the videotaping, as well?

Oh that’s right. YOU DID.

Baseball has dealt with its scandals in its own way. Now, Roger Goodell must deal with the NFL’s latest. Considering his past failings, the commissioner has to feel he must get this one right.

I think there’s only one acceptable solution: Belichick must be suspended for the Super Bowl. Seem too harsh? Remember Bountygate, and that New Orleans head coach Sean Peyton was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the subsequent coverup of the evidence. (Bountygate involved Saints players playing for an “injury pool” to deliberately cause injury to certain opposing players). Consider that the head coach, ESPECIALLY after Spygate and Bountygate, MUST be held accountable for ALL that his team does. He must know all. Considering that, there’s actually quite a bit of support for this argument. He must pay the price. Maybe even suspend him for a few games next season.

If he’s still the Patriots head coach, that is. Reporter Tom E. Curran of CSNNE isn’t so sure he’ll be back, thinks owner Robert Kraft might actually consider firing him, per the video included in the piece and this quote:

The Patriots cannot comport themselves with a “do business as business is being done” mentality. They forfeited the right to that mentality in 2007 when they got pinched for filming defensive signals and the 72 miles of fire and sharp glass the team got dragged through as a result should have convinced them.

If it didn’t, in March of 2008 should have. That’s when Belichick and Robert Kraft had to stand up at the NFL Owner’s Meetings in West Palm Beach and apologize to the assembled owners, head coaches and general managers of the other 31 franchises for the Spygate scandal.

At those meetings, owners unanimously approved a policy proposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell titled “Integrity of the Game and Fair Competition.” It required all owners, executives and head coaches to certify annually that they have complied with league rules and policies and have reported any violations they know.

Real big deal was made of it. It was Goodell’s baby. Goodell is Kraft’s boy, probably more so than Belichick.

Spygate caused the league embarrassment. It caused Kraft humiliation. In Gary Myers’ 2012 book called Coaching Confidential Kraft recounted this exchange

“How much did this help us on a scale of 1 to 100?” Kraft reportedly asked Belichick.

“One,” Belichick replied.

“Then you’re a real schmuck,” Kraft said he told Belichick.

Even if Belichick had no clue this was being done (if it was being done), it will be painted as a lack of institutional control. It will also be implausible because Bill could be on another floor and know within 20 seconds if somebody misses a trash can with an apple core in that place.

….

Like it or not, the clock may start ticking on arguably the greatest coach in NFL history.

Nothing personal. Just business.

So there you have it. Scenario: Belichick is suspended from Super Bowl; Patriots lose game. Kraft summarily fires him (or they agree to “a parting of the ways”)…Belichick goes on to coach, say, the Oakland Raiders and is effectively removed from any more championships (personnel needs, etc.–and no Tom Brady).

How about that for a legacy?

Go ahead. Making a great legacy into an eventual tragedy? Ask Richard Nixon about it.

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