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Coach Belichick’s disgrace

By Pat Garofalo

Section: Sports

September 21, 2007

Forget about the monetary fine, although it is a very substantial amount. Forget about the loss of a first-round draft pick, even though it is the first time that the NFL has levied such punishment. The aftermath of the camera incident is about one word, which will now forever be attached to the legacy of Bill Belichick.

Cheater.

After one of his assistants was caught illegally videotaping the New York Jets sideline last weekend, presumably to learn the Jets defensive hand-signals, Belichick – arguably the greatest football coach of our generation – has a cloud hanging over all of his accomplishments. The Pittsburgh Steelers are already claiming that something was not right during the 2002 AFC Championship game;

somehow, the Patriots always seemed to know what was coming. Philadelphia is saying the same about its Super Bowl loss to the Pats.

Accusations of this sort, as unfounded as they are, are going to follow Belichick for the rest of his career. Did stolen defensive signals contribute to the Patriots three Super Bowl wins? Probably not. But now, will that suspicion always exist? Of course. The Pats won all of their championships by three points, and in a game that close, any illegal edge could easily be the difference.

Belichick has managed to put his name into the headlines alongside a spate of recent sports stars that are stuck with a tarnished legacy. Lance Armstrong will never escape accusations of doping. Barry Bonds will always have an asterisk next to his name in the minds of most fans. And now Belichick, the mastermind, the man who could win with anyone because his system was so perfect, has been transformed into a man without respect for the rules.

Sadly, Belichicks actions are going to pull the whole Patriots organization down. Tom Brady and co., legitimate legends in their own right, now have to be associated with the coach who needed to win, even if it meant operating outside of legality. Of course, the Pats players arent doing themselves any favors, with their lame everyone does it defense. Maybe other teams have tried the same trick, but as of right now, only one has been caught, and until another team breaks the same rule (which would be amazingly stupid, since now the NFL is on high-alert), Belichick and the Patriots stand alone, the bad example to point a finger at.

Saying everyone does it is about as useful to the Patriots as it is to a 19 year-old, busted by the police with a beer in hand. It doesnt matter what everyone else is doing when you are the one that gets nabbed.

The most ironic part of this whole fiasco is that Belichick got caught videotaping a clearly inferior opponent that the Patriots overwhelmed. The Pats have enough talent this season to walk all over the Jets, fairly, and trying to learn their signals seems an unnecessary step. Also, in an interesting subplot, Eric Mangini, head coach of the Jets, used to be one of Belichicks assistants, giving him insider information with regards to how Belichick operates. Mangini evidently sent a tip to NFL officials, letting them know exactly where to find Belichicks clandestine camera. If he was going to cheat, Belichick should have known better than to do it in a game against one of his former partners-in-crime.

We will likely never know how extensive Belichicks illegal videotaping went. Now, he is surely clearing up any other loose-ends that he has hanging about. Last week, he told the press that he just wants to move on, past this incident. And he will move on, but with a new title that he is never going to be able to shake.

Cheater.

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