The Right Response That Won’t Hurt

$500,000 taken from Bill Belichick. $250,000 and a first round pick taken from the New England Patriots, assuming they make the playoffs (which they will). If they somehow do not make the playoffs, then second and third round picks will be taken instead. This was the punishment that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave to the Patriots for allegedly videotaping the Jets’ defensive signals from the Jets’ sideline. I’m going to throw this out there: I am a die-hard Pats fan. But this punishment is exactly what they deserved. As soon as this rumor started circulating around ESPN, I knew that the NFL was going to come down hard on them. The real question is: what does this do to the pristine reputation of Belichick and the Patriots as an organization? Everywhere they go and after every game they play, there will always be the question of cheating. According to fellow Pats fan Eamon Hegarty ’08, “I think the team got what they deserved; however, it’s not as if the Patriots are the only ones who have attempted this in the past or will attempt it in the future. As for their reputation, their fans are still loyal. But on the national scale, these events have opened them up for even more scrutiny and speculation.” A perfect example of this national scrutiny is the NBC broadcast of the Patriots-Chargers game on Sunday night. A nationally televised game, which the Pats won 38-14, was commentated by Al Michaels and John Madden. As I was watching the game, I felt as though I only heard two things from the broadcast booth: “And Brady connects with Randy Moss downfield for another big gain” and “Do you think they cheated on that play, John?” It seemed a bit ridiculous to me that so much doubt has developed in the coaching abilities of Bill Belichick or the talent of the Patriots as a team. What they did was wrong, but that doesn’t mean that the Patriots cheat every time they make a big defensive stand or make an opposing defense look silly. It’s because they are one of the best teams in the NFL. Even teams that the Patriots played in the playoffs from the past few years are starting to come out with allegations and accusations of cheating against the Patriots. The Eagles are beginning to wonder how the Patriots managed to stop their fairly strong offensive so soundly. The Raiders have also come out with complaints about the 2002 Snow Bowl game, along similar lines as those of the Eagles. But I guess this is just one of those things that happen when an organization or player’s name is brought up in talks of cheating. Everything that that player or team has done, every impressive feat and every major accomplishment immediately becomes scrutinized. This is ridiculous. The Patriots have been so consistently good for so long, not because they have been videotaping every single coach that they’ve faced for the last six years, but because they have one of the best coaches in the NFL. Speaking from the point of view of a Patriots fan, you are probably going to take my opinion with a grain of salt. However, the Patriots cheated. The question is whether they got what they deserved. Andover football Co-Captain Chad Hollis ’08, says “While I think that the punishment was a bit extreme, it sets a good tone for what Roger Goodell is trying to do in the league. I think the punishment definitely could have been a lot worse though, and it doesn’t really hurt the Patriots as a team.” This is the general consensus around the sporting world. While the retraction of a first round pick was a bit surprising, it is definitely justifiable. But when you look at the Patriots organization, I’m going to ask you not to listen to some disgruntled former Raiders players. Instead, acknowledge that the Patriots made a mistake, but they have now paid their dues. They were punished appropriately for what they did, and they will now go on to resume their dominance of the National Football League.