Take Away the Super Bowl Trophies!
OK, not really. We don’t mean to say that people are getting hysterical over the camera guy or anything, but when New York tabloid mascot Steve “The Jets should get a do-over” Serby, is treated like some sort of a serious analyst, it’s time for the media to cool it a little. The whole story is fascinating in a certain context: Bill Belichick, having every advantage possible, still felt the need to cheat.
But it’s becoming clear that what this is really all about is that the press, having been fed up with Belichick and his draconian media flacks for some years now, wants blood and the blood they want is his.
There is an email exchange between Bill Simmons and Aaron Schatz on ESPN that is supposed to read like the old point, counter-point, but instead is just point-point. It’s still worth a read though mainly because Schatz offers his usual dead-on sober and cerebral commentary. The key points Schatz brings up are these:
Hey, remember a couple years ago when the Steelers accused the Colts of piping in crowd noise at the RCA Dome?
Remember when the Broncos broke salary-cap rules in order to build the 1997-98 championship team?
Remember when Jim Haslett admitted to using steroids when he was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their dynasty years of the ’70s?
Remember when Herm Edwards admitted to breaking NFL rules by using Stick-Um even after it was banned in 1980?
But here’s the deal, and anyone who doesn’t understand this is missing the point. It’s not about right and wrong. Rick Ankiel gets his name dropped in the HGH investigation and people want to believe that there was a perfectly good reason. They want to believe him because he made their summer a little better and he seemed like such a good story.
(Self-indulgent aside: I covered Ankiel in his first professional season as a 19-year-old sensation in the Carolina League. We had an epic screaming match after one game and the next day all the other players went out of their way to be nice to me. Anyone who has ever been around a professional locker room will recognize this as code for “We can’t stand him either.” Professional locker rooms would make a great sociological study. Digression over.)
So, Belichick pulls this stunt and he becomes the single biggest threat to the Union since Bucko Kilory climbed a tree. Tony Mazz blames it on the club’s sense of entitlement, which leads to a question: What sense of entitlement?
All summer long the press has been crowning the Patriots as the greatest team since the early 1990s Cowboys, and all summer long the Patriots have been saying that the hype means nothing.
And ever since that wild 2001 season, columnists and pundits have held the Patriots up as the model of all that is right and good. Have the Patriots bought into the myth-makers? Perhaps. Bob Kraft seems to enjoy his role as Owner of the Smartest Team on the Planet, but when reporters say “entitlement” what they really mean is, “they make it hard for us to do our jobs.” If the Pats were 4-12 instead of 12-4 every year, Belichick wouldn’t be “entitled,” he’d be that crazy loon who couldn’t get along with the press and would now be in his third decade coordinating Bill Parcells’ defenses.
This too shall pass. The Patriots will get a hefty penalty in the form of draft picks and money. Maybe Belichick will even get suspended for a game. There will be no “do-over,” but thanks for playing Serby. There will be no forfeiture of Super Bowl trophies, and there damn sure won’t be a handshake between Belichick and Eric Mangini anytime soon.
And then a baseball player will get a package in the mail with HGH in it, or a star quarterback will go to jail, or perhaps a well-known president of a flagship NBA franchise will have his dirty laundry exposed in a nasty sexual harassment trial and there will be another story.
Give the Patriots credit for one thing. They managed to keep the Red Sox off the front page after a night when David Ortiz hit the biggest home run of the year. This is what they always wanted, right?