Shocking Patriots scandal news: No news

Ex-video assistant Matt Walsh meets with Goodell, who learns ... nothing.

Published May 13, 2008 7:35PM (EDT)

Matt Walsh, the former New England Patriots video assistant who has already worn out his welcome on the world stage, met with commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday to talk about the famous tapes of other teams' coaching signals, and the word from Goodell was that he learned nothing new.

Again. The main NFL headline has been "No new info in 'Spygate'" for about six weeks running, except for the minor interruption of the draft.

Goodell said that Walsh was in the stadium when the St. Louis Rams did their pre-Super Bowl walkthrough in February 2002, and that he reported what he saw, including information about how the Rams were lining up, to Patriots coaches. But there is no videotape of the walk-through, as had been known since last week. The Boston Herald reported in February that such a video exists.

Walsh was off Tuesday afternoon to talk to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., so we'll really get to the bottom of this thing now. Specter is the senior Republican on the Senate Pointless Grandstanding About NFL Issues Committee.

Here's the bottom of this thing: The Patriots cheated. They taped opposing coaches' signals so they could decipher them. It's not against the rules to steal signals, but for some strange reason it's against the rules to use video to do that. So the Patriots broke the rules. For this, they were caught, docked a first-round draft choice and fined heavily in the scheme of what you and I consider money, not so heavily in the scheme of what an NFL franchise considers money.

This was over last fall. Betty Grable didn't have legs like this.

The Patriots taping affair has to be the most overhyped "scandal" in NFL history, and this is a league that has turned pantomimed mooning into a scandal. If this had happened 25 years ago, it would be thought of as colorful chicanery, not a dastardly deed. See what you get for never smiling, Bill Belichick?

The scandal has become a religious issue. You either believe that the great Patriots teams of the past seven years were a fraud, were only as good as they were because they had stolen the other teams' signals, or you don't, and no amount of evidence or lack of same is ever going to get you to change your mind.

My religion is that I don't believe it. The Pats may have stolen some signals. I would be very disappointed in any football or baseball team I root for that never stole any signals, or at least never tried.

The Patriots broke a rule to do it, but the rule strikes me as a technicality. When the crime isn't what you do -- steal signals that are being made in front of 75,000 people -- but how you do it -- with video, rather than pen and paper -- then we're talking details, not bedrock values. If the Patriots had taped something they weren't supposed to see in the first place, that would have been a different story, a case of the team gaining a real advantage it shouldn't have had access to.

Or maybe not. The Patriots didn't exactly prove themselves adept spies. The Associated Press reports that the footage Walsh turned over included several minutes of the San Diego Chargers cheerleaders performing. The Patriots are in the same division as the Miami Dolphins, and they're taping the Chargers cheerleaders?

And just to get this out of the way because religious affiliations in this matter tend to dovetail with team fandom: I am a person with no rooting interest in the Patriots, and I have every reason to want the Patriots' success to be illegitimate. I picked the Rams in that Super Bowl, and my two favorite teams, the Rams and the Oakland Raiders, were the two most spectacular victims of the early years of the Patriots rivalry.

The Tuck Rule: Now that's a scandal.

By King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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