By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The New England Patriots are in the news. Heading to the Super Bowl and whatnot. Pretty fun.
With the added attention, of course, comes a flood of people sharing opinions about the always-controversial football team from Foxboro. It comes with the territory of making the Super Bowl, and it was just last year that a major publications in Atlanta was spreading falsehoods and inaccuracies on the inflation levels of footballs, and two years prior to that we witnessed Bill Nye The Science Guy (and The Seahawks Fan) besmirch his title by lying about science. (Et tu, Bill Nye? Et tu?) Neil DeGrasse Tyson beefed the science, too.
It's pretty entertaining to watch people and organizations ruin their reputations because the football team from New England makes them lose their minds. Sports are funny.
Anyway, as you might imagine, the folks in Philadelphia will be spewing some rhetoric in the next week-plus about cheaters and Spygate and DeflateGate and all of that fun stuff. And it kicked off in a big way with former NFL fullback-turned-Philly radio host Jon Ritchie.
In the open to his show on Wednesday, Ritchie -- who was on the 2001 Raiders that lost the Snow Bowl and was on injured reserve for the 2004 Eagles that lost Super Bowl XXXIX to the Patriots -- was asked to explain why he hates the Patriots. He started off on some shaky ground!
"We have a checkered history, me and the Patriots, my teams and the Patriots. They videotaped our practices," Ritchie said matter-of-factly (despite the absence of facts). "And Roger Goodell destroyed the tapes. They videotaped our practices, they beat us in the Super Bowl after watching those videotapes, and seemingly knew a lot of what we were doing."
Perhaps relevant to this conversation: The Patriots didn't record the Eagles' practices. They've never even been accused of recording the Eagles' practices. (It is possible that Arlen Specter, in one of his unfortunate rantings and ravings, tossed out an accusation of such an occurrence. But it was frankly difficult to keep track of all of Specter's accusations.)
The Patriots didn't actually tape any practices. What they did was film coaches on the sideline from cameras based in the wrong location. Had they shot the same footage from a different spot in the stadium, it would have been legal.
That's not just some jamoke from Boston saying that. It's the rule. See, here:
The "Game Operations Manual" states that "no video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game." The manual states that "all video shooting locations must be enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead."
Can't film from the sideline. Can film from an enclosed room with a roof overhead. That was the Patriots' violation.
Three years ago, Belichick finally broke his silence on the absurdity of the whole "scandal."
"A guy is giving signals in front of 80,000 people, OK? So we filmed them taking signals in front of 80,000 people like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too," Belichick said before flying out to Phoenix for Super Bowl XLIX. "Guy is in front of 80,000 people. ... 80,000 people saw it, everybody on the sideline saw it, everybody sees our guys in front of 80,000 people. I mean, there he is."
When it comes to actually filming a practice? Still didn't happen.
The Patriots were accused of filming the Rams' walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in a story that ran prior to Super Bowl XLII in February 2008, but the Boston Herald had to run an apology for that story being wrong. Some Rams players have held on to the belief that the Patriots knew all of their secrets, but they are generally incorrect. That includes the accusations of Marshall Faulk, who was recently suspended indefinitely from his job at NFL Network over sexual harassment allegations.
Oh, and as for Goodell destroying tapes, that did happen -- largely because Goodell is an incompetent leader and doesn't understand many things. But he also did play videos obtained from the Patriots before a press conference in 2008. They showed ... coaches ... on the sidelines ... during football games. Here's a picture of those videos playing for media members:
The media members aren't even watching because it's just footage of coaches ... on the sidelines ... making signals ... out in the open ... to players on the field.
NEVERTHELESS! Jon Ritchie is disgusted!
"It really bothers me," Ritchie said. "We'll never know exactly how much that helped them. That's disgusting to me."
If you thought Ritchie might have some inside information, he explained in a tweet that his basis for making his claims comes from ... it comes from ... uhh ... well ... it comes from believing in a "who knows?" philosophy.
Who knows?! Case closed!
Ritchie also got into the infamous tuck rule, and he displayed an equal lack of knowledge about the rules as he did about videotapes.
"The Tuck Rule Game is something that I intentionally avoid talking about, because I am so infuriated still to this day. I need to let it go; I can't let it go," Ritchie said. "That was absolute bias in every way."
One thing about rules is that they are not biased. They're just rules. And the tuck rule was certainly a rule. That's why it's called the tuck "rule" and not the tuck "opinion." It was a rule.
In fact, the Patriots themselves found themselves the victim of the vicious bias of that rule earlier in the 2001 season, if you can believe that. The Patriots lost a game to the Jets in Week 2 of the 2001 season (the Mo Lewis Game) after the tuck rule prevented a would-be Jets turnover. The 2001 Rams were saved by the tuck rule on a Monday Night Football game. The most applicable tuck rule example came from a Panthers-Saints game.
It's almost as if it was a ... rule ... which applied ... to all teams ... without bias. Strange how that works.
In expressing his lasting rage for the call that took place on that snowy night in Foxboro, Ritchie accidentally exposed why his Raiders couldn't manage to win after the fumble reversal.
"We knew it when we were standing there on the field in the snow. Why is this taking so long? We need to get up on the line, run this clock out, we won this game," Ritchie recalled. "Why are we still standing out here waiting for some decision to be made when we have no idea why it's even a decision?"
That explains so much about why the Raiders allowed the Patriots to drive 15 yards, why the Raiders couldn't block Adam Vinatieri's low 45-yard field goal, why the Raiders' kickoff team didn't prevent a return to the 34-yard line in overtime, and why the Raiders' defense got rolled for 61 yards on 14 plays in overtime. (We're still not sure why Jon Gruden called a timeout, thus allowing the Patriots to clear the snow off the ground for Vinatieri's winning field goal, though.)
(Oh, also, on the play in question, the Raiders spied on the Patriots' sideline!!!
I demand draft picks be retroactively stripped right this instant!)
The Raiders lost the game because they responded terribly after a call went against them. They weren't the first team in history to have a call go against them, but based on the way they're still mad nearly 20 years later at the rules being applied properly, you'd never know that.
A better-coached team with some actual resilience would have dealt with the call, and maybe made one stop in the 10 minutes of football that followed. The Raiders just got angry. (They also got their Super Bowl chance a year later and lost by 27 points, so the reality is that they just have an inflated sense of potential for that 2001 team.)
Ritchie's more than just mad, though. He believes a grand conspiracy was at play because of the 2001 terrorist attacks on America.
"I was convinced back then that there was a conspiracy going on. That was an awful year because that was the year of 9/11," Ritchie said Wednesday. "And after the fact, there's part of me that said, 'The powers that be wanted the Patriots to win this thing, and maybe that helped our country, and maybe this is so much bigger than a little fullback on the NFL field.'"
I'm not going to touch that one. Just going to leave it there and let it speak for itself. I don't think it's the best take, though. I will say that.
Perhaps in a nod to the absurdity of some of his claims, Ritchie offered an honest assessment of the root of his hatred for the Patriots.
"Everything about them bothers me, down to the fact that when I had to play against them," Ritchie said. "And not just in the postseason -- they were a tough team to play, man. They were tough to figure out. I hated trying to determine whether they were three-down or four-down, they would mess with your mind with the way guys lined up. And that was annoying. Everything about this team bothers me."
Well, there you go. The Patriots were good. And that's annoying.
Take that comment, add in the line about the Patriots "seemingly knew a lot of what we were doing," and it all makes sense. The Patriots have been better than most teams for 18 years, and Bill Belichick -- the most prepared coach and arguably the greatest football mind of his generation -- has been at the helm the entire time.
It has nothing to do with videotapes that head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Brad Childress went away from Terrell Owens in the second half of Super Bowl XXXIX after a dynamite first half. It likewise had nothing to do with videotapes that Donovan McNabb followed up an awful interception (negated by a Patriots penalty) by throwing an even worse interception to Rodney Harrison in the end zone. And it has nothing to do with videotapes that the Eagles took nearly four full minutes to score a touchdown after they got the ball trailing by 10 points with 5:40 to play. (The Eagles were huddling during this drive; it was inexplicable.)
The fact is, more often than not, the Patriots end up being the more prepared team. As a result, they execute better than their opponents. That's why they're playing in their eighth Super Bowl in 17 years next weekend.
Deep down, Ritchie knows that. But the other stuff plays better -- especially when it's Super Bowl week.
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