Thursday, September 13, 2007

For the first time since the Krafts bought the team back in the '90s, I'm embarrassed to be a Patriots fan.

I'm sure you have heard about the incident by now. A Patriot's videographer was caught taping the Jets sideline last week, against NFL rules with the purpose of stealing the Jets signals. Pats coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the Patriots were fined $250,000 and the Pats will lose a first round draft pick if they make the playoffs next year.

I think Belichick got off easy, personally. As much as I would have hated to see it as a Pats fan, I don't think an suspension would have been an unreasonable punishment.

I don't have a problem with stealing signs. If you can stand on the sideline, in the dugout, or on the field and pickup up on the other teams signals, more power to you. It's up to your opponent to disguise his signals from ordinary observation.

However, when you start using technological means to steal signs, you have crossed the line of good sportsmanship. I read a book recently, The Echoing Green, which described how the 1951 New York Giants placed a telescope in the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds to steal the catcher's signs and inform the batter of what pitch was coming. The cheating puts a pall on the Giants remarkable comeback to catch the Dodgers that season and Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World". Without the cheating, Thomson may never have been placed in that position even if, as he claims, he didn't know what was coming on that actual pitch.

This is no different. Rams, Panthers and Eagles fans will always wonder if the Patriots had their signals during the Super Bowls the Pats won. It casts a bit of a pall over everything Belichick has done here.

Am I going a little overboard here? Maybe. I don't know how long the Pats have been doing this, or how much it actually helps. But my feeling has is that if you can't win without cheating, the prize isn't worth the cost.


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