SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Patriots' Games

We all liked the hippie chick teacher in high school.  She was cool, she was cute, she drove a VW bus.  One day in tenth grade she walked in with her arm in a sling, had a shiner in one eye and looked pretty banged up.  She offered up a car accident the reason.  Fast forward to the middle of twelfth grade, and she had told us that she had been in three more car accidents.  Each time, she looked pretty banged up. 

My father offered the following advice.  "Son, if you have one car accident, chances are you had an accident.  But if you have four in two years, you have a driving problem." 

If the New England Patriots hadn't had all the noise surrounding them -- Spygate (which just got uglier thanks to reports in both SI and ESPN the Magazine), Deflategate (prediction is that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn the District Court's ruling) and now the headphones in the game versus the Steelers' last night -- we could chalk up what happened to last night to a combination of bad systems and bad weather.  But, because of all the other incidents, it looks very suspicious. 

Right now, the New England Patriots do not deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to character matters.  Right now, everything funny that happens in that stadium or with that team must be fully scrutinized.  As Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin said in last night's post-game news conference, something always happens when they play New England. 

And you don't hear that about every other team.  You hear it about New England.

Many refuse to believe it, of course.  The Patriots are the gold standard, they're too good to have cheated, they're too well-run and well-coached.  (These fans also thought that Lance Armstrong was winning all of those Tour de France races without using performance enhancing drugs).  Patriots' supports adopt classic bullying tactics -- their owner fires before aiming at Commissioner Goodell and the Wells Report, and their star -- their version of Lance Armstrong before the fall -- goes on the attack (and, look, I will be the first one to say that the team and the player are entitled to a defense).  Then their fans mock the commissioner.  Some might call it rightful, others aggressive, others bullying.  But at the end of the day, it's hard to convince anyone that the Colts and the Steelers are joining forces to bring down the Patriots.  It seems like the Patriots are doing that to the Patriots.

The Patriots have a culture problem and a credibility problem.  It will get worse if those recent magazine reports get legs, too.  I hope for the NFL's sake that Spygate does not descend into a hellish Armstrong-like story.  But with the Patriots, it seems like we never know just what to believe.

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