September 14, 2007

The Shine's Come Off the Halo

ALEA JACTA EST. We learn tonight that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has fined New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick $500,000, fined the Pats $250,000, and penalized them with the loss of either their first-round draft pick or their second- and third-round draft picks in 2008, depending on whether they make the playoffs or not.

Well, that seems fair enough, I guess. Half a million dollars is still half a million dollars, even if the coach makes far more than that in any given year, and losing a first-round draft pick -- because the Pats will make the playoffs this year, barring a Steelers-esque meltdown -- is quite a punishment. It is not as severe as the punishment my good friend Chris Weinkopf, a Patriots fan to his core, suggested: that the Pats be forced to forfeit their game against the Jets. That, Mr Weinkopf said, would surely deter teams from taking part in this type of foolishness.

Speaking of Mr Weinkopf, he sent me a nice note this evening complaining about my Hines Ward post. Mr Weinkopf, referring to the 2001 AFC Championship Game about which Mr Ward had aired his suspicions, wrote:

Surely a sideline cameraman had nothing to do with the Steelers' letting Troy Brown return a punt for a TD in that game. Or letting a field goal get blocked and returned for another TD. Or letting DREW FREAKING BLEDSOE torch them for yet another TD when Brady went down with an injury.

LOOO-ZER.

This is all well and good, Chris, but who am I to argue with the genius and sophistication of Mr Ward? For that matter, who are YOU to argue with the genius and sophistication of Mr Ward? Clearly, as an expert on the game of football, Mr Ward's comments are clearly correct and just.

Still, I think the real damage to the Patriots is that which has been done to their squeaky-clean reputation. As I discussed with Chris over the past couple of nights, they had such a strong image that their organization's ruthlessness was routinely overlooked, but that certainly won't be the case now. Plus, lots of people outside New England liked the Patriots because they were a good team that seemed to play above board -- there was no showboating, its players didn't get in trouble, and what have you. Those fans may well find other teams now.

However, as Chris and I discussed, there is one way the Pats can put this mini-scandal to rest pretty quickly, and that's through beating the San Diego Chargers to a pulp on Sunday night. This may be easier than it sounds -- San Diego's offense looked wretched against the Chicago Bears last week. Still, I think a defeat against a good Chargers squad would shut a lot of people up, particularly if the victory was a commanding one. On the other hand, if the Patriots lose, this tempest-in-a-teapot may continue for some time to come.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at September 14, 2007 12:01 AM | TrackBack
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