This is all based on current speculation. So insert the word "allegedly" where appropriate. If the Patriots are exonerated I will be the first person to post a retraction.
If current reports are to be believed, the New England Patriots have committed a crime that calls their entire run (and Tom Brady's career) into question.
NFL security officials detained a Patriots employ during Sunday's game with the NY Jets and confiscated a tape and video camera, under the suspicion that he was video taping the defensive signals sent in by the Jets. There is also word about potential issues with the radio signals used to send plays into the QB, but that's fodder for another post.
I am all for pushing the limit of the rules. I'm also all for attempting to steal signals. But there's a fair way to do it, and a cheating way to do it. A fair way to do it is to have someone watch with their eyes and try to discern what's happening. To use video is cheating, and is against both the spirit of and the actual written rule.
Football is more about technology than the other 2 major sports (baseball and basketball). Plenty of money is spent on the safest equipment. Pictures are taken just before and just after every snap, and delivered to the field after every drive for the players to look at. Coaches are allowed to radio the plays into the field (although this has more to do with increasing the speed of the game than anything.)
However, the one constant is when you take the field, it is up to you as a player to look across the line of scrimmage and figure out, based on your memory, what the opposition is up to.
I liken this to taking a test. As a technical trainer, I am constantly taking new certification exams, which come with a series of rules you are to follow. The one thing the rules allow is that once you walk into the exam, you are allowed your brain, a pencil and paper. You can write whatever you want on that paper, but it has to be blank when you walk in. Want to stand outside, memorize a table real quick, walk in, start the exam and write it down? That's completely legal. Again, I'm only using the information in my brain. You'll notice I don't get is someone telling me what questions I'm going to see on the exam.
Anyone who knows Karin and I knows we're Chargers fans. And if you follow the NFL in the least, you of course know that Shawne Merriman was busted for violating the substance abuse policy. Why is this act by the Patriots worse than what Merriman did?
Cheating is cheating, and cheating is despicable. But like any set of rules, there are some that are more damaging than others when broken. Here's the difference:
Having one player juiced up improves the performance of that one player.
If the offense knows what the defense is about to throw at them, that helps the offense to an immeasurable level. If you know the defense is about to blitz, zone blitz, or drop back into zone coverage you can call a play specifically designed to break that defense.
I'd say that's a monumental difference. A consistent game-changing difference.
Reportedly, this is not the first time the Patriots have done this; there are reports they did the same thing in Green Bay. I'd also argue that those two cases are not the only times they cheated - I can't imagine the NFL is that acute at stopping this, or the Patriots are that inept at cheating.
That brings into question every game the Patriots have played. Which ones did they cheat during? Which ones did they win simply because they knew what was coming?
Brian Belichick, Tom Brady and his five layers of protection, and the entire organization cannot be looked at with the same respect.