Never $teal Anything — $mall!

By Michael-Louis Ingram
Updated: September 15, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: In lieu of a $100 million dollar lawsuit being levied against them by several former NFL players, maybe the National Football League’s Players’ Association should have listened to an idea that BASN’s Michael-Louis Ingram suggested way back in September of 2007.

“To make it in the rackets, you’ve got to have gall. So never — ever — steal anything small!!!”

– Jimmy Cagney in “Never Steal Anything Small.”

PHILADELPHIA – The great American humorist Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies — lies, damn lies — and statistics.”

And for the NFL’s New England Patriots, those statistics are pretty damn good: a current 76-37 regular season W-L record for the decade, and a stellar three (Super Bowl) ring circus of offense, defense and special teams, led by quarterback Tom Brady and coached by the resident genius, Bill Belichick.

But the recent findings by the National Football League revealing Belichick got caught cheating by having an underling videotape the New York Jets’ signals have many wondering if the real genius with the initials B.B. plays blues guitar instead of deciphering defenses.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose investigation confirmed the Patriots were cheating, fined Belichick $500,000 and team owner Bob Kraft $250,000 plus the loss of a first-round draft choice in next year’s draft if New England makes the playoffs; if not, Pats lose a second and third round pick.

Given the image of Goodell’s moral authority, $750K is light stuff — to say the least. When it came to this ruling, Goodell seems more like Judge Wapner, attempting to define what he could do to the letter of NFL law.

But when it came to dropping the hammer on turpitude among NFL rank-and-file players, Goodell’s manner mirrored the Hon. Judge Pigmeat Markham (as in, “Everybody’s gonna do some time today.”

Especially since this was on the heels of a recent ruling where Dallas Cowboys QB coach Wade Wilson was suspended five games and fined $100,000. The extent of the Patriots’ punishment seems to fall way short of the crime.

Double Naught Spy

Patriots’ video assistant Mark Estrella, caught with camera in hand, did not take the strychnine, nor did he snitch. He held up his end as a good double naught spy should.

But Estrella should’ve been shot — on camera, that is — and video filed as a cheat by the League, just like casinos do with card counters — in spite of the fact they don’t cheat. After all, he is trying to help Belichick and his team “beat the house” by accumulating an unfair advantage.

Apparently, however, it seems the NFL thinks ethics are to be conveniently administered. In this ruling, the commissioner says to the League’s players, “Don’t do like I do — do like I say do.”

Meanwhile, the players that helped to lay the foundation for $30 billion dollars of television revenue are still treated with benign neglect. I betcha Carl Eller could use some of that $750K.

Or Paul Krause; or Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Conrad Dobler, Tom Nowatzke, Harry Carson, John Mackey, Dave Pear, Mike Mosley, Bobby Bell, Gene Hickerson, Joe DeLamielleure — shall I go on?

The very convenient truth is a solution was staring Goodell in the face that would have made him a true leader of men; and elevated him to humanitarian.

In the face of all the dialogue about not enough of a fine or too much, Goodell had a rare opportunity to make chicken salad — using real chicken.

That’s What I’m Talkin’ About!

I site as my point of reference the $100,000,000 fine levied on Formula One racing powerhouse McLaren by the World Motor Sport Council for engine espionage as McLaren’s chief designer had procured a 780-page technical dossier on racing rival Ferrari.

The designer, Mike Coughlan, was suspended, while the “spy,” Ferrari mechanic, Nigel Stepney, was fired. Prior to this, the previous largest fine enforced by WMSC was $2.5 million.

And this nice round figure is the foundation for what Goodell could have done:

First, fine the Patriots and Belichick $100 million for actions treasonous to the sense of fair play and all those other things implying impropriety. Belichick and the Patriots stole the game from the fans, other players, other teams, all of us in media who cover them, and every other team sport.

If the integrity of the game is supposed to matter above all else, then Goodell had to levy a fine that would have left no doubt — and deterred anyone else from ever cheating again. I mean if you’re gonna take some cash from someone to make a point, spank that wallet like you’re supposed to!

What Belichick did is an insult to all of the gridiron heroes we loved and emulated; whose faces we couldn’t see, but whose numbers we memorized while we watched on television, listened to on the radio and played to their rhythms outside while we were dodging cars or rolling around in the mud, dirt, rain and snow.

Players who made far less than double naught spy Mark Estrella makes now.

Suspend Belichick for the remainder of season, and allow him to reapply on or before the league meetings in March — if he’s on his best behavior (Didn’t his demeanor at the podium remind you of another would-be genius who felt betrayed by one of his officials?)

Take every Day One pick the Patriots have accumulated for next year’s draft. Short of outright forfeiting of games, that’s as close to a “death penalty” for a professional sports franchise as I can see.

Oh, yeah — I almost forgot. Take that $100 million and put it in a trust fund to provide immediate financial assistance for all of the old-timers and special needs players who didn’t get their just due by the league they helped build.

That’s the kind of bold action which would make any fan proud to be a follower of the National Football League. And that’s the kind of commissioner who would be looked up to and universally respected as a true man among men.

But, Roger Goodell missed his magic moment. So Kraft and Belichick drop their money in the tip jar. But don’t worry — they won’t skate….

“Cheaters, cheaters never win. They always get it — they always get it — in the end.