What the NFL can learn from Enron.

There is one person whose opinion I’d like to hear about the New England Patriots penchant for filming the opposition’s private signals.

Barry Bonds.

Here is a man who has been vilified by obviously clean-living members of the media because he is suspected of having using steroids.

It’s not entirely dissimilar from the way policemen suspect black people can’t possibly afford nice cars.

Yet here we have Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, who has been found guilty of cheating during a game. That’s right, during a game. And his club and himself are fined a total that would amount to the weekly wage of a couple of his players.

Meanwhile, the NFL has come down very hard on employees whose crimes, and one uses the word with the looseness of a louche lounge singer, have all been confined to their life outside of the playing field.

Adam Pacman Jones of the Tennessee Titans, for example, hasn’t gouged any eyes (not even in his current role as a ‘professional wrestler’) and he hasn’t taken any drugs. He has simply been a naughty boy, according to the NFL, in his private life. He had been arrested five times and been questioned by police eleven times. Yet he has never been found guilty of anything. As if to anticipate the moment when he would finally be tossed in the clink, the NFL suspended him for a year.

For his own good, no doubt.

So a man who has never been found guilty of anything has his livelihood removed from him for a year. While one who has admitted that he cheated to try and win a game (and who knows how many other games he used to same methods to take advantage?) gets a fine that will probably be paid by the owner of his club. Out of his children’s piggy bank.

Perhaps in these times we shouldn’t concern ourselves too much with the notion of due process. We’re all guilty of knowing that O.J. Simpson is, well, guilty.

Yet are Belichick’s actions really any better than those of the world champion tag team, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling at Enron? They cheated to win. They cheated to line their own pockets. They cheated those who believed they were playing fair.

Just as the Houston boys tried to fix the market, so the New England lads tried to fix the game, by being 100% sure what play the opposition was sending in.

Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that there is any element of racism involved here. The NFL would undoubtedly have treated a black coach in the same way. Because coaches are, well, at least on the road to being one of us.

We’ll even play golf with some of them. Well, maybe not at Augusta.But Barry Bonds is a cheat, where Bill Belichick was just being competitive. PacMan Jones is a criminal, while Bill Belichick has extreme attention to detail.

As if to assuage the players, Wade Wilson, the quarterbacks coach of the Dallas Cowboys, received a five-game suspension this week. For taking steroids. Wade Wilson is 48 years old.

Clearly, by taking steroids, he would propel his little quarterback, Tony Romo, to toss the ball further. And run a little faster.

While Bill Belichick, in his own words, ‘misinterpreted the rules.’ He thought it was perfectly fine to cheat on the way to the Superbowl.

Bill Belichick will be on the sidelines this weekend as the Patriots play the singularly support-worthy San Diego Chargers.

While Wade Wilson will be lifting weights at home and PacMan Jones will be watching the wrestling from his vantage point in the ring.

Isn’t it amazing that Janet Jackson didn’t get the chair?


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