New England: A bunch of cheaters; Or experts at the art of pushing the boundaries

Unfortunately, the prelude to the biggest game of the year, has been ruined and dominated by the specter (or is it S.P.E.C.T.R.E. ) of the New England Patriots deflation scandal (heretofore known as either Ballghazi or Deflategate). The question though is was it really cheating that happened?

We do not know for sure, but there seems to be significant evidence to that effect. Please see this writer’s previous article about the implication of Ballghazi / Deflategate.

If the Patriots cheated during their victory in the AFC Championship, we should ask the obvious follow up question of ourselves: have they cheated before? And if so, for how long?

Cheating in sports is probably as old as sport itself. Each sport has their own set of guidelines and rules (some written, some not). In golf you have to properly record your own game, and turn in a card that is accurate, if you do not, itis considered cheating and you can be ejected from a tournament.

Super Bowl XXXVI

We know how the Patriots were caught and punished by the NFL for illegally videotaping opponents’ defensive signals (a practice that Bill Belichick and the Patriots had been doing since 2000). The were also anonymously accused of videotaping the St. Louis Ram’s Super Bowl XXXVI walkthrough the night before.

During that Super Bowl the Patriots hit Marshall Faulk [1] and the Ram’s receivers constantly.[2] Without a doubt they are convicted cheaters. But is what they did really cheating? Does it cross the proverbial line?

Gaylord Perry

In baseball, its ok to steal signs from the opposition.  If you get caught, the consequences might be a beanball, or a brushback pitch.  Also, in baseball its “OK” to scuff up a ball, a little bit, and if you get caught, you are merely a “bad boy.” The consequences for a pitcher – a warning from the umpire, very rarely an ejection- this is not really a deterrent.

In baseball, they have enshrined Gaylord Perry, a know scuffball, spitball, vasalineball, cheater into the Hall of Fame; but players that used PEDs in the 1990s -2000s are being blackballed. In soccer, you are not supposed to flop but everyone does, and the referees rarely warn players or give them a card.

Bill Walsh

In football, some cheating is shrugged off, other cheating is not.  You can break the rules and accept the penalty on the field.  You can take PEDs, get caught, serve your time, and come back onto the field like nothing ever happened.  In football its ok to hit a player, but not in the wrong spot.  It is also ok to do a “crotch grab” on another player in a pigpile, but not while you celebrate a touchdown.

Now, sometimes you have a little gamesmanship going on.  Recently, on NFL films there was an episode of “A Football Life” about Bill Walsh.  It told a story about how Bill Parcells NY Giants had come to visit the 49ers, and how the radio headsets that both teams used “mysteriously “malfunctioned.

The next time Parcells and Walsh met in San Francisco, Parcells told Walsh that the trick had been cute the first time but that if he did it again that Parcells would report the 49ers to the NFL office. Some amount of gamesmanship seems to be accepted and even grudgingly accepted.

Seattle Seahawks

Our beloved Seahawks have been accused of cheating in recent years. The most serious of the allegations have been that the Seattle coaching staff has been actively encouraging Seahawks to take PEDs. This allegation is due to the number of Seahawks that have been caught and suspended for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Other violations have included OTA practice violations, and of course the constant complaining about the “Legion of Boom” initiating too much contact downfield.

Where is the line?

Conclusion

[1] Part of the mystique of Belichick constructing a defensive game plan is the idea that he’s capable of finding the most meaningful link in an opposing offense and coming up with a way to stop it.

His famous game plan against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI bypassed Kurt Warner to hit Rams running back Marshall Faulk as frequently as possible, in the hopes of slowing down the player he saw as the fulcrum in the St. Louis attack.

It’s hard to remember what happened in that game, but I’m pretty sure the plan worked out OK. (http://grantland.com/the-triangle/super-bowl-preview-new-england-patriots-seattle-seahawks/ ).

[2] Illegal contact was made a point of emphasis after the Patriots and other top teams used contact after 5 yards to basically mug receivers. (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?id=1840261).

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Richard Michelson is an avid sports fan and the Managing Soccer Editor here at Seattle Sports Union!