If you're a Pats fan, and you were hoping that the closer we got to the Super Bowl, the more we'd forget about SpyGate, then you'd probably like to throw something heavy at Senator Arlen Specter right now.
Specter, two days before the game, for some reason felt the need to bring up the SpyGate incident, and to wonder publicly why the NFL destroyed the tapes. Honestly, I'm curious about that, too ... but I think the Senator's timing is a little strange.
It's as if he's like any other Patriots hater out there, but he just happens to have a pretty big soap box, and he decided to use it to say, "Hey, guess what? You're still cheaters, and we haven't forgotten about it."
Goodell, who will probably be called in front of Congress to answer it again later, (sort of) addressed the issue today at a Super Bowl press conference. Now, I wouldn't do this on my own ... personally, I was willing to move on to Super Bowl XLII without giving another thought to SpyGate until after the game. But since someone else brought it up, and since Goodell addressed it, too, we might as well talk about it.
I'm going to go through Goodell's response, line by line.
"The reason I destroyed the tapes is they were totally consistent with what the team told me."
I don't get it. What's on the tape is exactly what the Patriots said was on the tape, so the tapes don't need to exist? We can just take the Patriots' word for it?
I'm pretty sure the NFL is going to keep a tape of Super Bowl XLII, even if Bill Belichick is willing to call Roger Goodell up after the game and give him an accurate verbal history of how things went down. I didn't know that the NFL had replaced the video archiving of history with the ancient method of relaying history through storytelling. It's a bold move, but I think it's the wrong one.
"It was the appropriate thing to do and I think it sent a message."
Destroying the tapes sent a message? What message is that, exactly? "If you cheat, we're going to see it, and then we're going to make sure that no one else sees it"?
It's a message, I guess.
"The actual effectiveness of taping and taking of signals from opponents -- it is something done widely in many sports. I think it probably had limited, if any effect, on the outcome of games."
Oh. Well, if it didn't have any effect, then why was Bill Belichick fined $500,000, and why were the Patriots stripped of draft picks?
I'm just not down with the "everyone does it" defense. If everyone does it, then why isn't everyone being fined and stripped of draft picks? The NFL's going to single out the Patriots, their golden ratings-magnet of a franchise, for something that everyone does? I can't buy that.
There are a lot of other ins and outs to the issue, obviously. And there are reasons to wonder if Senator Specter's motives are truly about the purity of the game here.
But, unfortunately, the Spygate thing isn't going away. I don't say that because I have any particular sympathy for the Patriots, rather, it's sad for the entire NFL that their biggest game can't be played without this thing hovering above it like an ominous storm cloud. Even the question of taint takes a little bit of the shine off of the NFL's special day, and that's not good for anyone.
• Specter wants NFL to explain why it destroyed New England Spygate videotapes / Yahoo! Sports
• Goodell Explains Why the NFL Destroyed Evidence, Specter Probably Doesn't Care / FanHouse
• N.F.L. Commissioner Defends Destruction of Tapes / New York Times