Maybe you noticed it too. The scandal over the New England Patriots’ cheating lacked the one inevitable ingredient of every sports scandal, and I, for one, am sort of offended by the omission.
You’ll recall that the Patriots were caught trying to steal the New York Jets sideline play calling signals by surreptitiously and illegally videotaping them from within the stadium.
The way the Jets played in that 38-14 game the Patriots were doing them a courtesy by pretending their signals were worth stealing, but the league takes this stuff seriously and fined head coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 and docked it one of their two first-round draft picks (if the team makes the playoffs, second and third round picks if somehow New England doesn’t).
Belichick’s salary this year is $4 million, so the fine isn’t going to have him moving into his office because he can’t make his rent. The loss of the draft picks could hurt, however.
In eloquent coach speak, Belichick admitted the videotaping but denied any attempt at cheating. Then why bother? If he was collecting Jets highlights he was wasting his time. He took “full responsibility” but said it was because “my interpretation of a rule . . . was incorrect.” This is like a politician admitting taking the money but denying any wrongdoing.
The league, it should be noted, did not suspend Belichick, the inevitable fate of players who fall afoul of the rules — Tank Johnson of the Chicago Bears, Pacman Jones of the Tennessee Titans and whichever Cincinnati Bengal is in trouble with the law this weekend.
And the usual reason for coming down hard on the players is that they are “role models.” And that’s what’s missing from this scandal — the role model.
When a player acts badly the fear is that impressionable youngsters might emulate the conduct of their presumed hero.
I think this is a bit of a stretch. I don’t think many 12-year-olds think to themselves, “Oh, wow, I’m going to be an outstanding wide receiver so I can attend a diploma mill, leave school short of a degree, have my own line of footwear, accumulate a posse of no good, freeloading hangers on and get arrested outside a nightclub at 4 a.m. and get charged with drunk and disorderly conduct, assault and resisting arrest and have the cops impound my Escalade. That is just so cool!”
It’s good that the league worries about the youngsters’ role models. But what about the rest of us? What about aging males? What about our role models?
College is long past us. And we don’t have no-good, freeloading hangers on unless you count our college-age children. No one is asking us to endorse a line of orthopedic footwear. Escalades are too hard to get in and out of and we would only use one to haul mulch anyway. We can’t stay up late enough — or get up early enough — to be out at 4 a.m. And we haven’t been in a nightclub since the ’70s and even then it was too loud.
Belichick is 55, divorced, surly and uncommunicative, has an attitude, and is disliked by many of his peers. But he’s bulletproof; he’ll never be downsized or outsourced. He’s won three Super Bowls. In the improbable event he got fired, one of the teams badmouthing him now would hire him in a second.
You think he’s not a hero, a role model, for every 55-year-old corporate middle manager who’s beginning to hear footsteps? Think again. Oh, and great job against the Chargers, Bill. It’s almost like you knew what they were going to do.
(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com.)