The NFL’s worst nightmare is now coming to fruition.
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell punished the New England Patriots early in the 2007 season for spying with video cameras on the New York Jets during the opening game of the regular season, he hoped the problem would go away.
In fact, it’s growing exponentially.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Friday that Goodell confirmed to him during a special meeting about the Patriots’ spying that the team filmed coaches of the Pittsburgh Steelers on four occasions, presumable using those stolen signals against them. Included in those instances are two AFC Championship games.
The Patriots upset the Steelers in the AFC Championship in 2001 and again in 2004 en route to two of the three Super Bowl victories they’ve had this decade.
“I think Steelers fans have a lot to be concerned about this and I'm one of them,” Specter told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, adding that “maybe Steelers ownership should think about it a little.”
They should, but even if the Steelers’ ownership is privately outraged by this, they won’t take it public.
The Rooney family, if anything, has shown great loyalty to the NFL over and over again throughout the years. Dan Rooney is not Al Davis, to be sure.
Rooney realizes that a scandal involving the integrity of the league such as this can serve no purpose other than to give the league – and by extension, the Steelers – a black eye.
And the rest of the ownership in the league knows it as well. That’s why there wasn’t a greater outcry when the “Spygate” story originally broke, at least not from the powers that be in the NFL.
The NFL doesn’t want this scandal to turn into what steroids and performance-enhancing drugs have been to Major League Baseball. The league doesn’t want its owners and coaches hauled in front of a grand jury to air its dirty laundry.
So go ahead, be angry that the Steelers, Broncos, Colts – pick a team, the Patriots likely spied on them all – were perhaps cheated out of a championship.
But the NFL owners don’t want this to go any farther and they hold enough pull – for better or worse – with the rest of Specter’s cohorts in the government to likely stop this thing from getting that far.
But much like an entire generation of baseball players are now tainted by the steroid scandal, so too are the Patriots’ championships in the 2000s.
New England fans can scream about it all they want, but nothing the team has done in this decade now matters. They’ll try to call it sour grapes or whining, but nobody’s talking about taking those championships away.
The Patriots won them. They just didn’t do so fair and square.
And the only thing worse than that would be to win the first 18 games of a season and then lose in the Super Bowl. Oh wait, that already happened.