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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

Sports Illustrated's Patriots Takedown is a Conspiracy-Laden Guffaw

ilbur_trickeryatgillette_0120.jpg
AP Photo


In Michael Rosenberg’s defense, it isn’t only the enormous television at CBS Scene that should give opponents of the New England Patriots some pause in a litany of shady advantages at Patriot Place.

There’s actually a private screening room at Showcase Cinema de Lux, where Patriots personnel are screening the game from a secret camera lodged into the visiting sideline at Gillette Stadium, allowing them to call New England head coach Bill Belichick with the plays that the opposing coach is running at any given moment.

Nobody has really caught onto the fact that Tavolino Gourmet Pizza offers a pie called, “The HGH Supreme?”

And the 5 Wits interactive experience, adjacent to the north end zone, is actually where the Krafts house the subterranean goblins, ready to unleash beneath the playing surface should the Patriots require a doomsday scenario in order to secure victory.

You thought this was all about inadvertently deflating footballs? Please. If anything, the NFL’s “deflategate” has only opened the wounds of a nation with its radar on Belichick and the Patriots in perpetuity. It’s been seven years since we’ve had the pleasure of blowing Spygate out of the water, so it’s high time we ludicrously pushed the limits of another controversy as it pertains to them cheatin’ Pats.

But it’s Sports Illustrated’s Rosenberg who wins the gold star today for his reaction to the accusation that the Patriots were altering the weight of game balls used in their 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s AFC Championship game. In what speaks like a conspiracy theorist writing a dossier about a love once new, now grown old, Rosenberg attempts to get the reader to believe just how realistic the possibility of Patriots trickery is in this latest, highly-documented incident, grasping at incoherent straws in the process.

Hence, his dubious take on the parking lot TV.

How ingrained is the culture? On one end of Gillette Stadium is a lighthouse, the stadium’s signature architectural feature. But if you sit behind the opposite end zone and look at the lighthouse, you will notice something else: An enormous television beyond the lighthouse, in the parking lot.
Officially, this allows people in the parking lot to watch TV. Is it a coincidence that you can see that TV from the Patriots’ sideline, but not from the opposing sideline, making it easier for the Patriots to watch replays and decide whether to throw the challenge flag?

Let’s disregard the fact that, while I’ve gotten a pretty clear view of the monitor in question from my buddy’s seats in Section 321, I’m not so sure that the angle is that distinct from the Patriots’ sideline.

Case in point:

That image though discounts the notion that Belichick likely has a drone hovering in front of the television, sending images to the high-tech contact lenses that he wears during games.

Rosenberg details the resentment that exists around the league toward Belichick, known to push the limits of what’s acceptable behavior in a competitive environment, and the Patriots, whose owner is buddy-buddy with a commissioner under fire. Does Bob Kraft’s relationship with Sumner Redstone, chairman of the board at CBS, secure the team more preferable start times, as Rosenberg questions? Um, the network does have a restaurant bearing its name on the franchise’s grounds, so it’s not like this is exactly a relationship in hiding. So, sure, there is likely resentment from other teams across America that don’t exactly have the resources to build their own shopping mall empire to surround their stadium and question whether Kraft is a little too close with CBS and Roger Goodell.

But Rosenberg merely skims this topic without giving it its full due in order to focus on his unabashed farce. Here he is debunking the defense that what Belichick and the Patriots pulled on the Baltimore Ravens last week was, as the NFL deemed, totally legal:

It is customary for coaches to run usual trick plays past the league office during the week, to make sure everything is on the up-and-up. Belichick didn’t do that. Right before the game, he told referee Bill Vinovich he would declare certain players as ineligible receivers. This put Vinovich in the difficult position of deciding, with no notice, if he should tell the great Bill Belichick he was trying something illegal.
Technically, what Belichick suggested is legal. Vinovich OK’d it. But the key to the plan was what Belichick did not say. He did not say he would hurry up his offense when he declared certain receivers ineligible, giving the Ravens no time to adjust to the tactic. The Ravens barely had time to see who was eligible before the ball was snapped. The officials couldn’t even get into proper position. They allowed the ball to be snapped too quickly.
That was the whole point of the tactic. It was a circumvention of the rules. Look at it this way: Sometimes an offense goes to a no-huddle, hurry-up offense, hoping to wear out defensive players. But if the offense substitutes, the offense can’t hurry so much. The defense gets a chance to substitute, too. It’s only fair, right?

So, totally legal, but…wait, what the hell is the point here?

And so, here we are, at the doorstep to another Super Bowl, a game that the Patriots have returned to by going back to roots that have nothing to do with their best defense in 10 years, or the most-creative play-calling since Charlie Weis wore a headset in New England.

Nope. Cheating.

Just think of it as better than the alternative. The goblins are getting hungry.

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