If You Ain’t Cheatin You Ain’t Tryin

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Athletes Look For Advantages In Facing Opposition

By John Ventola

Athletes are always looking for an edge when facing the opposition. Talent, and performance efficiency, should be what declares one team a winner, and the other a loser. If only it was that simple. Coaching, scouting, and a player’s drive to improve individual performance, all contribute to scenarios that border on dishonesty, or cheating. Any type of edge is the goal, and the line between proper and improper can get blurred at times. Therefore, rules and regulations are in place to catch offenses deemed the most flagrant. And there is nothing vaguely perceived about the New England Patriots’ SpyGate and DeflateGate NFL shenanigans.

Spying on another team’s practice, and deflating footballs to give a quarterback a better grip on the ball, are egregious acts to get an upper hand on competition.

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Patriots Did Not Have To Cheat

The fact that the Patriots have gone to six Super Bowls and walked away with four titles during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era makes any sports fan scratch their head. Why? The talent, the coach, and the quarterback are clearly in place. None of it was really necessary, the Pats would have probably won the same championships without cheating. Now everything they have achieved is open to suspicion. Tainted.

New England demolished Indianapolis in the AFC championship game where the deflated balls were used. I personally went back and watched tape of that game, and came up with a couple of questions. Officials handled the Patriots-used footballs numerous times, either throwing balls from one referee to another to get fresh, dry balls into the game, or when they put the ball down for play. How much was the pressure of the balls off? Must have not been much, as it was undetectable by men trained to recognize such things. And how much of an advantage is it for a quarterback or receiver to have a tiny PSI differential in a football?

The football still had to be thrown and caught. For all his success, Brady fell victim to greed. Much like any businessman or sales agent who cannot get enough, or

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Tom Brady Fell Victim To Greed

fails to realize what enough really is in their chosen field. “Three Super Bowls, four Super Bowls, what can I do to give me an advantage?”

Sadly, it appears that the last twenty years have brought about a “if you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t tryin” culture. PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) gave baseball some tremendous home run hitters (Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez), but the unfair advantages gained by steroid use opened up the sport for ridicule, and called for frequent drug testing. The home run statistics now reside in record books with asterisks, and the player performances did not qualify for post career honors.

Today, football players make gridiron stars of yesteryear look frail by comparison. Hard work can bring a fine tuned athlete most of the way, but there are many temptations as an athlete tries to improve their performance. That edge, that upper hand, can temporarily help a career, but more times than not, it can lead to trouble, and the shortening of a players sports life.

For years wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff used “stick’em” on his hands to guarantee a sure grip on his receptions. Biletnikoff is in both the College and NFL Hall of Fame. Football players were also known to use Vaseline and other lubricants on

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Forms Of Cheating Have Been Around For Years

their jerseys to slip away from opponents. Baseball pitchers (Gaylord Perry among them) used the same substances to help rotate and change the spin on their pitches. One pitcher, Joe Niekro, was once caught on the mound with an emery board in his back pocket, ostensibly to scuff up the baseball and help his knuckleball flutter better. Every attempt to cheat was met with enforcement, or rule changes.

Seems the sports world has evolved from prankish, almost amateurish, attempts to gain an advantage, to body enhancement (McGuire, etc.), to equipment tinkering (by Brady’s locker room buddies). A sad commentary on the importance of winning in our society.

Brady’s four game suspension to start the 2015 season, a $1 million fine on the organization,  the loss of a No. 1 draft choice next year, and a No. 4 pick in 2017, may seem somewhat strict, but the fact that this was not the Patriots first behavior blemish certainly put the pressure on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL has been faced with many domestic abuse cases, a child abuse case (Adrian Peterson), and countless player drug offenses during the past year. The league had made strict, firm rulings in those cases, so no leniency was expected as the league investigated its Super Bowl champions.

Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have a close relationship, so Goodell had his assistant Troy Vincent make the announcement on the Patriots DeflateGate punishment. While that may spare Goodell of some of the Northeast’s ire, the

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Goodell Not Consistent With Punishment

announcement did nothing but agitate and open the old wound of BountyGate for New Orleans Saints fans.

Saints Coach Sean Payton suffered a year’s suspension, and when he said he knew nothing of the “cash for hits” system implemented by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (2009-2011) and allegedly used by the Saints, he was told ignorance of the defensive system was no excuse. Makes one wonder why Belichick was not handled accordingly. He, not the team, received a $500,000 fine for SpyGate, but nothing for DeflateGate.

Curiously, Donald Yee was Sean Payton’s agent when he was suspended. Yee came to his defense somewhat meekly and late, and Payton consequently sat out the 2012 season.  Payton’s absence from the game set the Saints franchise back years. Yee now represents Brady, and a statement from him the day after Brady’s suspension was aggressive and accusatory of Goodell, Vincent, the NFL, and Ted Wells, who compiled the 243-page report, and was in charge of the investigation.

It will be interesting to see how the legal posturing and appeal process work over the next few months. Maybe the NFL could check into the water bottles used by the Patriots during the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl. Watergate, wait Richard Nixon has that cornered, so maybe we can call it GatoraidGate or PoweraidGate. That would explain how Brady’s choice was superior to the beverage consumed by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll during the Super Bowl. How else can one explain the bungling, awful goal line call by Carroll? His choice of drink must have given him brain freeze!

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