No, Virginia, The Patriots Are Not Cheaters

“It was hard to swallow because I always felt something happened but I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t prove it anyway. Even to this day, I think something happened.” – former St Louis Rams head coach, Mike Martz

“There isn’t a day that goes by since 2003 that I haven’t questioned … that there were some things done that might have been beyond the rules that may have given them a three-point advantage,” – former Carolina Panthers GM Marty Hurney.

“Do your job. Maybe the one word that isn’t in that’s implied is ‘Do your job … well.  It could be enough to make the difference.” – Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach

Not sure when you’ll be reading this but I’m typing this a few hours before the kickoff of the 2019 NFL Season. There’s a lot to object to about the NFL. As an organization, they still not remotely take domestic violence seriously. They have a commissioner, Roger Goodell, who does not understand the basic difference between right and wrong. The participating athletes sometimes suffer debilitating injuries that even the millions they make doesn’t always make up for. If you’re a consumer who chooses not to watch football, quite frankly – I don’t have a counterargument for you.

I still like football. For all of its flaws, many of the participating athletes will tell you it’s an amazing game with incredible rewards not often found elsewhere. I’ve also found the game of football to be an incredibly accurate metaphor for the game of life. Whatever one does for a living, or even in personal relationships, we’re all engaged in game of inches. We’re all fighting and clawing through bombarding obstacles just to move forward be it one yard, fifty yards or one inch. I see so many parallels between football and life when it comes to missed catches, punching it through to the end zone, even embracing our rivals. So I remain a fan. And as one who learned to love football in the fair city of Boston, I remain a fan of the New England Patriots.

In February of 2019, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady lead the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl win. I actually had to stop and count for a second (wait is it five or six?) Their Super Bowl record as a coach and quarterback combo is 6 wins, 3 losses. There are some combos wishing for that playoff record or a similar ratio for their regular season. That particular Super Bowl stat is kind of unheard of. And there’s a good chance they’re not done. Entering this season, Belichick and Brady are both widely recognized as the greatest coach and greatest quarterback of all time. Sure, that’s some that disagree and those are some hella fun barstool debates that will happen every Sunday between now and next February.

But there still remains a large portion of the population that think the Patriots are cheaters. That their success can be summed up with stealing some defensive signals on video tape or even more ridiculous – deflating footballs. Not only is this a false narrative, it’s an unhealthy one that actually does more hope to the people crying “CHEATER” than it does the Patriots.

Even as a Patriots fan, I’m going to be as objective as possible here. And I ask you, dear reader, to do the same. I ask you set that piping hot hatred aside for these pages because as you’ll my point here is not to get you to love or even forgive the Patriots. Because many people hate the Patriots, not for any kind of cheating, but for their success.

I don’t want to go down to deep a rabbit hole – this is actually still a post about screenwriting – but it’s easy to point out how flawed the accusations are.

In 2007, Eric Mangini famously reported the Patriots for videotaping defensive signals on the sideline. No getting around it – Patriots broke the rules. When confronted, Bill Belichick offered an explanation that he misinterpreted the rules as to mean videotaping signals was fine as long as the video was not used during said game. Commissioner Goodell didn’t buy it so fines were levied.

But the stigma was created by many fans everywhere because it offered a great comfort. It offered the sigh of relief, “SEE! The Patriots aren’t really that good” They had something they could use as an excuse should their team lose – are having already been defeated by – the Patriots.

Now, here’s the thing in the NFL. It’s not really great defense to say “everyone does it.” But everyone does it. There are probably about 32 teams that videotape signals in the NFL. They will be videotaping signals this weekend. You know who else videotapes signals – NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN. Hell in 2006, when the Miami Dolphins tried to buy a bootleg videotape of Tom Brady in practice, ESPN’s John Clayton dismissed it because videotaping your opponent is just part of the game. He was much harsher when the Patriots were busted, of course, because the Dolphins are established NFL winners while the Patriots were decades-long losers. They just can’t be that good, right?

Rulebreaking is not an anomaly in the NFL. It is a woven part of the game. Teams use violations every game to their advantage. Some of those false starts and off sides calls that get a flag thrown? Strategy to throw off the other team or move the chess pieces around.

The Patriots broke the rules and they got punished for it.

But if one is to be honest – people aren’t mad the Patriots cheated. They’re mad the Patriots won. The St Louis Rams Greatest Show On Turf was supposed to cement their place in NFL history as perhaps the greatest offense to ever play the game. They were supposed to roll over the Patriots like the Bears did way back in the Rock-N-Wrestling days. This is something numerous longer fans of football told me. Instead, the Patriots pulled off an upset over the Rams shifting the paradigm and changing the balance of power in the NFL.

What happen next is actually heartbreaking. The St Louis Rams were back on the field the next season. Did they compete in the  Super Bowl? Not until this year would they return. That’s a 17 year gap. 17 chances they had to return. 17 chances to get that second ring. 17 years later, they were back in LA. In the meantime, the Rams suffered a collapse that was hard to watch. They were consumed by the bitterness of the loss. They never got over it and as result, that team never even came close to touching that greatness again.

Kurt Warner has said on NFL’s “A Football Life” that the loss changed their culture and an atmosphere of negativity poisoned the team. Running Back Marshall Faulk continues to preach that the Patriots cheated and videotaped their practice. But that has long been debunked with no shred of truth. Marshall Faulk is one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. He defines elite athlete but he clings to this accusation in a way that’s maybe more validating than the wins he accumulated.

Most sad of all – it’s not easy to recite this but – former Rams head coach Mike Martz gave damning testimony that the NFL pressured him into not accusing the Patriots of cheating. Where was Mike Martz? In a cabin in Idaho. Why? Because ever since that Super Bowl ever single coaching gig he got ended in miserable failure. In one of Martz’s final stints as offensive coordinator, NFL cameras caught his quarterback Jay Cutler scream “Tell Martz I said ‘fuck him.’”

Bill Belichick is competing for his seventh Super Bowl win as a Head Coach this year. Mike Martz, unemployable in the game, told ESPN this “It was hard to swallow because I always felt something happened but I didn’t know what it was and I couldn’t prove it anyway. Even to this day, I think something happened.”

One can’t blame Mr Martz really. It’s comforting to say, “they cheated” or the even more pathetic “I don’t know what they did but they did something.” That’s a lot easier to say then “I lost. I failed. I wasn’t good enough, not that day.” But quite frankly, everyone has to say that on those terrible days. That’s not limited to football and failure is something no one is immune to.

But let’s just say for the sake of argument, the Patriots are dirty low-life cheaters. They stole that game from the Rams.

 Here’s the rub.

What happened to the Rams after that game – that’s still not the Patriots fault. 32 teams are going to face heartbreaking losses this year. How they respond is not the responsibility of their opponents.

Martz’s Rams had several more seasons to compete for a title. They became a shell of themselves. Kurt Warner returned to the Super Bowl in a valiant but losing effort to the Steelers. He’s admitted it took years from him to get over the first Rams loss but now has embraced a much healthier attitude about looking at life. In other words, instead of sour grapes, drink the fine wine.

The best answer – and quite frankly, best defense – for the spygate allegations came from one of their fiercest opponents, then-Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher. Mr Cowher knows more about football than you & I combined. The idea that his team, his dominant, kick-ass steel curtain Pittsburgh Steelers would lose a game because of stolen signals on videotape was an idea he found insulting to himself and his players. He’s gone on the record several times dismissing the idea: https://www.espn.com/blog/pittsburgh-steelers/post/_/id/4294/cowher-dismisses-impact-of-spygate

It’s a great summation of this problem. If one thinks their team is being beat by deflated footballs and stolen signals – one’s team has much bigger problems than the Patriots.

“But, Tim, you’re rationalizing their cheating.” Nope. I’m arguing that speeding tickets should not be treated like committing murder.

I don’t have to turn to the Patriots or any Boston propaganda. I actually can turn to one of their most hated opponents for this defense because they understand what competition is all about – adapt and overcome.

This is a phrase I’ve heard from several professional athletes I’ve worked with. Adapt and overcome. Adapt and overcome. Adapt and overcome. Great advice that works on and off the field.

Here’s the reality of football people don’t want to talk about – it’s not a fair game. “But it’s supposed to be!!!” Sure, but it’s not. Without even pointing to the numerous 60 – 10 scores that liter college football let me ask this question – let’s pit the Kansas City Chiefs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Know what’s fair about that game? Nothing. Not one Goddamn thing. Oh wait, both teams wear red.

“But it’s supposed to be an even playing field!” That’s the ideal sure and the NFL introduces a lot of parity into the league. But barring major injury – anyone really think the Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks, Chiefs and Rams are missing the playoffs this year? Also, the NFL does not care about an even playing field. Google NFL Winnipeg for more.

“Saying other teams cheat is no defense for the Patriots!!” It sure isn’t. Just because other teams steal signals doesn’t mean the Patriots should be forgiven or overlooked for videotaping signals from the sidelines. However, in the context of the NFL where the Jets were caught deflating footballs, where the Vikings were caught heating footballs, where Bill Parcells would open stadium doors to effect the wind during field goals, where players are fined every single week for dirty hits and suspended for banned substances – please don’t insult my intelligence by telling me the NFL is some pure wonderland of innocence. It is good & evil, right & wrong, man’s  strength & flaws, angels & demons, all vying for every inch between the 20s.

Also, want to call the Patriots out for Spygate. Fine. But there’s a looooooong list of teams who committed similar crimes that received no such outrage. That’s the very definition of double standard. 10 teams break a certain – “it’s all part of the game.” The Patriots break the same rule – “THEY’VE ALWAYS BEEN CHEATERS AND THEIR SUPER BOWLS DON’T COUNT!!!!”

No. That’s not how it goes.

There was a Super Bowl between the Ravens and the Niners a few years back. The refs let the players play hard to the part where certain rules were neglected all game. So the Niners were constantly holding illegally – but no calls from the refs. In the end, when one of the Ravens was seen holding one of the Niners illegally there was mass outrage from the Bay Area. But that’s not how it works – you can’t accept an overlooking of the rules that benefits your team, then cry foul when it doesn’t. That’s truly not fair.

“But the Patriots look for any competitive advantage and bend the rules as much as they can!!!”

Read that last sentence again. People have said that like it’s bad. Quite frankly, if your team is not doing that, the Patriots aren’t the ones you should be mad at. There are self help seminars all over the country teaching people these lessons. There are corporate meetings all over the world right now employing this strategy. This is something I see in the entertainment business all the freaking time.

Look for every competitive advantage and use the rules – even bend them – to your favor. Yes. All the time do that. That’s great. That’s how many great things have been achieved across all walks of life. 

And this is probably one of my biggest grips with the bitching about the Patriots. Want to be mad at them for Spy Gate? Fine. I get that. I mean, again, if you’re going to mad teams for that kind of infraction, there’s another 31 other suspects but OK. But to mad at the Patriots for doing what they need to do to be successful – that’s the very height of bitterness. That’s completely irrational. It makes no sense and it sums up on the unhealthiest philosophies out there – “In order to lift myself up, I’m going to pull you down.”

Only it just doesn’t work that way.

Playoffs. January 2015. The Ravens accuse the Patriots of using an illegal formation to get certain players open as receivers. One problem – it was not remotely illegal. Just wasn’t used that often but perfectly legal.

The Ravens lost the game. They would not return to the playoffs until 2019.The less said about those 4 years for the Ravens the better. Well, it is worth mentioning they’re a team which publicly said Ray Rice only backhand slapped not punched his fiancé.

None of that is the Patriots’ fault.

The very next game, the Indianapolis Colts GM Ryan Grigson -tipped by the Ravens who were mad they lost the previous week – complained to the NFL about a deflated football. Everyone heard about this one. Deflategate.

I won’t spend a lot of time debunking this because I really don’t have to. A simple google search does it since the New York Times, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and even high school science fairs have alllllll debunked deflategate. Wired magazine even debunked the Tom Brady cell phone smashing because without destroying the server, destroying a cell phone is pretty meaningless. Even the Indianapolis beat reporters demanding Belichick & Brady’s heads have printed mea culpas regretting they even touched this story.

“But Brady was suspended” Sure was and an NFL even said it was because they wanted the Patriots punished more for Spygate so this was a make good.

The Colts went on to win 3 or the next 4 Super Bowls. Correction – they collapsed in historic fashion. Instead of trying to improve, they clung to the false notion “if only the Patriots didn’t cheat, we’d be Super Bowl Champions.”  No, they didn’t and no you wouldn’t be, Colts. GM Ryan Grigson & Head Coach Chuck Pagano (who would never back the deflategage allegations) were embroiled in a bitter power struggle which saw both lose their jobs. They work on other teams and both in a lower capacity. The Colts mismanaged their talent so bad, they placed the incredibly talented Andrew Luck behind a porous offensive line which saw Luck accumulate years of injuries. He just retired from the sport.

None of that is the Patriots’ fault.

So while everyone else was crying cheater, while the NFL actually changed certain rules like the eligible receiver play they used against the Ravens or revisiting the catch rule because it cost the Steelers a win over the Patriots, while everyone else was screaming, yelling & moaning – the Patriots just went to work.

The Patriots won in 2015 after Belichick stared down Pete Carroll and spooked him into throwing. (I’m not convinced Lynch punches it through anyway, was 0-5 from the goal line that season but still)

The Patriots won in 2017 wearing down an explosive Atlanta Falcons team to mount the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.

The Patriots won in 2019 in a defensive slugfest that saw them make just a few better plays than the resurgent Rams.

Since 2015, they appeared in 4 Super Bowls. They lost 1 of them.

From 2002 to 2012, they appeared in 5 Super Bowls. They lost 2 of them.

To think that is because of stolen signals (something that is super common even without videotape) or deflated footballs is at best, completely misinformed and at worst, total madness.

The Patriots lost some of those Super Bowls. You will hear no accusations of cheating from them about Tom Coughlin’s Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, who won with a quarterback considered a backup.

After losing an upset to the Eagles, the Patriots took the offseason, got some rest and got to work. They won the next Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Rams averaged 30+ points a game in the regular season. The Patriots held them to 3 points.

I listen a lot sports radio. I hear it all the time. “How do they do it?” “This has to be the year they collapse.” “They can’t be this good year after year.” “How are they still around?”

There’s no secret. There’s no mystery. It’s on the walls of their locker-room. Hell, it’s on T-Shirts they market to the general public. It’s the mantra and motto of the entire organization:

“Do Your Job.”

And as Coach Belichick’s quote at the top clarifies – do your job well. As well as you can. Every day. Strive to improve. Do Better. Whether you win or lose. Do Your Job. Do it well.

This another reason why I’m a damn proud Patriots fan. This philosophy has done so much for me and my accomplishments. Do your job.

In the screenwriting world, there’s a lot of snake-oil out there for sale. Writing is a difficult task to not only engage it but to even wrap one’s head around. I have an aptitude for it. I enjoy it. I love sitting at my desk. I’ve had a ball writing this!

One thing I’ve learned being a writer of numerous projects that have gotten off the ground and enjoyed by millions of people – is there is no magic bullet to make it easier. There is no “do this on this page” cheat map. There is no trick. There is one magic formula – sit down and get to work. Put one word after the other in the best voice you possibly can. Then put one page after another. One scene after another. One script after another. Keep putting the words down.

In other words: Do Your Job.

But what if the words aren’t good enough. There’s answer for that too – adapt and overcome.

That’s the secret. That’s the magic formula. Do Your Job.

The Entertainment business is probably even more unfair than pro sports. I see and hear it too much – “they’re not THAT good a writer, they just happen to know the right people.” “Oh the only reason so-and-so got that gig is because they slept together.” “if I was a different color and different orientation, I would have gotten that job,”

And it is all BULLSHIT. Time spent complaining about that should be time spent doing one’s job, honing one’s craft, arming oneself against the unfair obstacles that will be thrown your way. I’ve been in entertainment since 2003. I’ve been screwed over and given rotten deals many times. It’s part of the game. These pages aren’t filled with complaint about that. Instead, my laptop is filled with screenplays. Doing My Job.

“But, Tim,  there IS cheating that happens out there. It must be called out and punished.”

That’s right. There is. And it should be. As I said about the Patriots have been punished (falsely in the case of deflategate) so it’s long past time to move on.

And that cheating in life is not going to go away. Vent to your partner. Bitch to your friends. Go ahead, get it out of your system. But then – adapt and overcome. Do the one thing you can do in the face of life’s unfairness – Your Job.

Because if you don’t, if you let it eat you, if you let it color your lens, if you continue to scream at phantoms and bitter false narratives, it will poison your progress. There will be failures. Defeats. Hearbreak. Hell, rejection is practically the currency of a screenwriter. Get up. Shake it off. Move on to second down.

Bill Cowher stuck up for the Patriots. He didn’t get caught up in the cheating accusations. He’s a proud Super Bowl winner & one of the most respected coaches in Super Bowl history. He did his job.

Tom Coughlin stuck up for the Patriots when they were accused by Mike Tomlin of messing with in stadium communications. Tom Coughlin beat the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Twice. He did his job.

Bill Belichick’s Patriots have been called cheaters, frauds, fakes, every name in the book. Hell, I’ve been harassed publicly for wearing Patriots T-Shirts. They heard it all. And they did their job. They’re 6 and 3 in the Super Bowl.

So as we begin this Season, the Stairway to Seven. I present the 2019 New England Patriots.

Tom “Tom Brady” Brady

“Double J Jeff” Jarrett Stidham

Brandon “Fortune Favors The” Bolden

Rex Burkhead-ing “To The End Zone”

Damien “The Omen” Harris

“My First” Sony Michel

“King” James White

James Develin “Eggs”

“Lucky” Philip Dorsett

Julian “Ladies And” Edelman

Josh “Flash” Gordon

“Better Call” Jakobi “And” Myers

Gunner “Run All Over Youski” Olszewski

Matthew “Saved By The Bell” Slater

“Nefarious” Demariyus Thomas

“The Carney” Ryan Izzo

Matt “Belichick’s Other Favorite Sport” LaCrosse

Jermaine “Eliminator” Eluemunor

“Bill And” Ted Karras

“Love” Shaq Mason

Joe “Me So” Thuney

Marcus “Laser” Cannon

Korey “Ritchie” Cunningham

Isiah “Doesn’t Lose He” Wynn

Michael “First And” Bennett

John Simon “And Simon”

Chase “Better Get The Catch” Winovich

Deatrich “Word To The” Wise

Adam “Don’t Call Me Malcolm” Butler

Byron “Colin” Cowart

Lawrence “What A” Guy

Danny “Give “Em Hell-ton” Shelton

“Money In The Bank Champion” Jamie Collins

Dont’a “Inferno” Hightower

Elandon “On Ya” Roberts

Kyle “He’s Van Nuys” Van Noy

Ja’Whaun “Yes, I Do Drive A” Bentley

“The Clique” Shilique Calhoun

Stephon “Not Gil Less” Gilmore

Jason “No, I’m Devin” McCourty

Devin “No, I’m Jason” McCourty

“Mighty” Joejuan Williams

Terrence Brooks “No Quarter”

Nate “Siskel And” Ebner

JC “Just Catchin’” Jackson

Jonathan “Break Your Bones” Jones

Obi “Wan Kenobi” Melifonwu

Patrick “Everybody Wang” Chung “Tonight”

“Big Ben’s Favorite Target” Duron Harmon

Stephen “Gotstokicksi” Gostkowski

Jake “Beetle” Bailey

Joe “Find Your Beach” Cardona

 

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