Monday, September 17, 2007

What have you wrought, Washington?

Given the endless blather that's been in the sports press all week, it was especially gratifying to see the New England Patriots collectively rip San Diego's star squad fifty-three new assholes last night. I don't know if I buy the whole Belichick genius thing--I don't really have enough of a football mind to say--but he sure looks smarter with this year's surplus of talent, and I've a natural aversion to managers claiming credit for that. It's certainly safe to call Belichick obsessive though, and that's the most logical reason I can think of for his videotaping efforts.

(Parenthetically, it's the claim of every middling performer alive if the people around him were better, he'd be super. Tom Brady has been making decent receivers look brilliant for years, and now he has brilliant receivers. And damn if he's not living up to the hype.)

It kills me to have anything suffixed "gate" to be within a mile of my attention (and certainly not in sports) because it's a sure sign that the alleged scandal isn't going to be important enough to explain in any rational manner. This broke the seal however. Listen to this guy's cause for offense:

  • "The arrogance of the organization, the smugness.
  • The fact that this is nothing new. Stories are now coming out of the woodwork that cheating has been a normal modus operandi with this club.
  • Good old street crime is one thing. It goes with the history of sports. But this video thing lifts it to a new level of electronic surveillance and into the realm of the hi-tech, white collar crime that we all hate. Put these guys on the business page, for God's sake. There's no place for them in sports"
What a tool. Let me do the courtesy of interpretation:
  • "I hate that they win all the time." (I understand this of course. I live to see Peyton Manning put a disappointed frown on his ugly shilling mug.)
  • "They were, like, doing it all the time, everyone says." (Do we really doubt that everyone's hand ain't in the cookie jar here? Of course they'll point to the guy who's not them. I mean, football organizations try to steal signals? Next you'll tell me that politicians sometimes compromise my best interests.)
  • "Yeeha! I wanna coach I can done have a beer with. I don't trust me dem quiet nerds."
He goes on to call Goodell a "sheriff," and salute the NFL's authoritarian crackdown. I mean, you want to talk smug? This guy, along with every second announcer on the teevee and the sports pages is drooling to elevate their views to some position of moral football sanctity. Look, Belichick broke the rules and deserves punishment for it, but slavering at his demise makes big fat with crocodile tears is a sure way to reveal yourself as an overemotional, sanctimonious twit, unwilling to call Goodell's public chest-puffing for what it is. And hey, maybe there's a point to the serious principal routine--a lot of questionable activity seems to have skirted under the radar in the past and I don't doubt that the Patriots were the most obvious rulebreakers in this category--but I've got an aversion to example-makers too, and it's not like the NFL lacks for irritating pedantry. And any sportswriter alive is as invested in notions of ideological game purity as any pol is against the business as usual in Washington, and the language is just as stomach-turning. (And all the whining in the world can no more unbeat St. Louis in the '01 season than it can unelect George Bush in the '04 one.)

King Kaufman (via The Editors*) makes a good contrarian case:
Why does the league have that rule? For the same reason it has a rule governing the length of players' socks. The NFL likes rules.

[…]Punish the Patriots if that's what it takes to keep the suits -- and various Pats haters around the world -- happy. Then get rid of that rule.

What the Pats are accused of doing is "spying" on the Jets coaches as they sent signals to the defense. My understanding of spying must be different from the NFL's. Watching a guy flapping his arms while standing in the middle of 70,000 people and in front of a national TV audience doesn't qualify. Even if you point a camera at him. I mean another camera, aside from all the legal cameras that can be pointed at him.

[…]The Patriots may have been trying to steal the Jets' signals for immediate or future use, but there's nothing wrong with stealing signals. It's a fine and respectable art. If it weren't, teams wouldn't need signals that are coded.

The sports press is grooving on an anti-Pats vibe just now, suspecting that the evil masterminds at New England engineered some illegal audio as well, but that second accusation flies in the face of Goodell's example-making, crossing the line into unreasonable vendetta. The punishment was fairly severe for the infraction, and if the unavoidably loud message to the league was the goal--and I suspect it was--then overinvestigating a single team counters it. I have a hard time accepting that New England is uniquely blameworthy in borderline corporate espionage.

Sportswriters and citizens everywhere: when you suck up to authority, it only becomes more obnoxious.


*Mean commenters there call the Pats the Little Cowboys (and the Red Sox the Junior Yankees). It hurts cuz it's true.