The worst day in Patriots history

by Bryan

I’m a Patriots fan, and have been back to the Hugh Millen days. Those were bad, but Saturday was the worst day in Patriots history. It’s one thing to have nothing; it’s another to lose what you’ve had at the worst possible time. I don’t want this to sound like sour grapes; if the Patriots are guilty of systematic cheating, it should be uncovered. I’m a journalist and stand by my peers doing their (incredibly difficult) jobs.

Spygate is now past the point where I can say, as a reasonable defense, that “everyone does it” — that may still be true, but it hardly matters. The Patriots being what they are, it’s only about what they have done. Sure, if it came out that Arizona and Tampa Bay and Oakland were also taping, it would look better for the Pats, but that won’t come out because no one is looking for it. The news media is a copycat business, and people are looking to bury the Pats. That’s the story. And now they have the shovels.

Last night, I lamented that Matt Walsh had copped to having inside information; today, it only got worse, with reports that the Patriots might have taped the Rams’ walk-through in 2002. Nevermind that the facts (that the Rams only practiced Red Zone plays) would indicate that the Pats didn’t gain much of an advantage from any supposed cheating (the Rams entered the Red Zone once, and scored a touchdown); perception is reality here. The Patriots have lost all credibility. In truth, they should have lost it months ago. The bad timing of this is entirely Roger Go0dell’s fault, as Gregg Easterbrook correctly notes. (Though it should be noted that Easterbrook basically congratulates himself for knowing this story months before it was broken, as if deserving credit for the non-scoop. Bravo!) The NFL had a chance to put all of this behind them, and didn’t. Now it will never go away. Not ever. Perception has a pesky habit of becoming reality, especially when feelings are so acutely involved like they are here. Try telling a Steelers fan that the Pats beat the on the up and up. See if they believe you.

The worst part is that I can do nothing about it. I just wanted my team to win, and more than anything else, wanted them to win Sunday. This was it. Now, who knows what happens? I mean, the Patriots will never be stripped of the Super Bowl wins. I know this. It would ruin the NFL to take the titles back. But I can’t be blanket proud of them any more. I know too much. I’m as realistic and pessimistic as anyone when it comes sports’ darker side, but this has shaken me. I hoped for a great Pats team for decades, nearly impaling myself on the ceiling when Drew Bledsoe orchestrated that win against Miami in 1998. Those were the days of limited potential. Our potential has changed. But at what cost?