September 15, 2007

Penalizing the Patriots

Posted in NFL and other lesser sports at 6:31 pm by loolar

Even if you don’t follow football, it’s been hard not to hear how the New England Patriots were caught for reportedly using a video camera to try to spy out the defensive signals (clearly stated as against the rules, and all teams get a memo “reminder” every year). The league announced that the Pats would be sanctioned with a $250,000 fine and loss of a first round draft pick (or a 2nd and 3rd round pick if they don’t make the playoffs; most concede this is a footnote, since they are nearly a guarantee to make the playoffs compared to the rest of their lackluster division), while coach Bill Belichick will face a fine of $500,000.

A friend asked me why the fine imposed by the NFL against the Pats was so small compared to the fine levied against the McLaren racing team for allegedly stealing technical documents from the Ferrari team with the help of one of their mechanics (who has since been fired). McLaren was fined $1,000,000, and not permitted to accrue any more of a certain type of points as they compete the rest of this season. I’d say more about the points, except I’ve just told you everything I understand about car racing.

At any rate, to address my understanding of the question: they’re different sports, for one thing. Sponsorship awards to McLaren may even make that fine proportionately lower as a percentage; all I know is that the coach’s fine against Belichick is the largest ever given, and that never in NFL history has a draft pick been revoked as a punitive measure. So while dollar signs might be lower, it’s still the stiffest penalty in NFL history.

That said, many argue (and, even as a Pats fan since ’93, I actually tend to agree) that the fine against Belichick should have been lower, and he should have been suspended for 2-4 games. Commissioner Roger Goodell says this would have “hurt” the team less, but I tend to disagree; the Pats already traded for another first round draft pick from the 49ers, so they’ll still have one (and likely earlier in the round, given the hapless 49ers); leaving aside they have been masters of finding talent in later rounds anyway (Quarterback Tom Brady was a sixth round pick). And as for the cash, while it was a heavy penalty, suspending Belichick for games would have also hit him in the pocketbook while likely crippling their chances to ensure a playoff spot, which many agree they’re all but guaranteed at this point.

On a deeper level, this is bothersome because now many seem hasty to apply a Barry Bonds-style “asterisk” to the Patriots accomplishments of the last seven years, diminishing the achievements of not only incredible coaching and players, but also top line player picks by Director of Personnel Scott Pioli. The Pats have been the envy of the league in developing so-called “no name” talent (until this year, of course, when they very uncharacteristically traded for a “marquee” player in Randy Moss), and I don’t think this should detract from that.

But at a time when the NFL seemed immune to the sorts of troubles plaguing other sports (referees in NBA, doping in the Tour de France, Barry Bonds), it seems character is an issue here, too. Another reason why I would have been happy, long term, had Commissioner Goodell come down harder on my favorite team. Preserving the trust of fans has to be the paramount concern.

1 Comment »

  1. rob sama said,

    good to see you’re back!

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