by Jordy McElroy
The New England Patriots have once again shown why they’re the most polarizing team in all of sports with the latest throwback to the infamous Spygate allegations. Of course, the NFL could nip everything in the bud by coming to a swift conclusion in their investigation, but the past has shown time has no relevance when going down that endless rabbit hole.
The dreaded “the NFL is investigating” is the new code phrase for eternity. So grab a cup of coffee, college degree, career, spouse, kids and a comfy chair at a local retirement home—this one might take a while.
According to the Patriots, nothing nefarious was afoot when their camera crew was caught in Cleveland aiming at the Cincinnati Bengals sideline. They claim the crew was there to shoot a documentary for Patriots.com on a scout watching the game in preparation for the team’s upcoming Week 15 match-up with the Bengals.
The job of any scout is to attend games and take notes of the happenings on the opposing team’s sideline. It’s more than grabbing a Sunday hotdog and kicking back to watch some football. They’re studying the tendencies of the opponent—signals, plays, personnel groupings. All of that is fine and dandy in the NFL rulebook.
Pulling out a video camera and taping the opposing sideline, however—not so much.
The Patriots know this better than most teams after getting busted for a similar incident in 2007 that cost coach Bill Belichick $500,000, the team $250,000 and a 2008 first-round draft pick. There’s no way Belichick would put his hand back into that cookie jar again, right?
“We’re competitive and we’ll try to be competitive in every area,” Belichick said in a conference call, via ESPN’s Ben Baby. “But we don’t knowingly, intentionally want to do anything that’s across the line.”
There are those out there that probably laughed as they read through that statement. Not everyone is willing to give the Patriots the benefit of the doubt after the first incident. Some will see them as liars and cheaters until their dying day.
Then there’s the skeptical group.
It’s hard to imagine Belichick being boneheaded enough to stoop to taping video signals again, especially after the falling out he had the first time. More importantly, do the Patriots really need to risk something like that to beat a 1-12 Bengals team?
People from both sides of the aisle are coming out of the woodwork delivering hot takes on the incident before the facts come out. A sluggish investigation by the NFL would only lead to further guesswork and an ugly, swirling narrative entering the playoffs.
The league can’t afford to drag their feet on this one.
According to the Washington Post, they are hopeful to come to a resolution by the end of the week, and it is unlikely any severe punishment will be doled out. Here’s to hoping that’s the case because the league can ill-afford to let another controversial incident hang overhead with a ridiculously long and drawn out investigation. This isn’t the Mueller probe.
It’s a reported eight minutes of sideline video footage that could be reviewed over a Sunday hotdog. There’s no sense in making a circus of it.