NFL proving it needs oversight

By Kevin Wilson

Once upon a time, in a far, far away land called New England, a group called the Patriots played the game of football very well. They won championship after championship in the National Football League, and almost seemed to anticipate their opponents’ actions in the biggest games.

But maybe, opponents wondered, the Patriots knew what was coming next because they were spying on their opponents. Evidence was found to such ends. It was a big deal, and some even nicknamed it SpyGate. Then the ruler of all the land, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, said, “Nothing to see here, folks,” and destroyed all the evidence.

And everybody believed him, and claimed the story was either completed or too boring to see through. Even when a former Patriots video assistant, Matt Walsh, said he knew of things the NFL hadn’t looked at, NFL pundits and fans alike said, “Didn’t you hear Goodell? Nothing to see here.”

Even if Walsh had something new, Sports Illustrated columnist Don Evans said, “I am glad that the end finally appears to be in sight.”

Everybody, that is, except Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. He’s out there floating this crazy idea that the NFL has a vested interest in not letting damaging information about the Patriots and the league get out, and that only an independent government investigation would clear matters up for fans.

Some call him a grandstander. Some question his priorities, since he’s more concerned with NFL teams illegally spying than the federal government doing the same. I call him correct.

I’m not a big fan of government intervention, but it’s sometimes necessary in the case of professional sports leagues, which make a lot of money through anti-trust exemptions from the government. That allows the teams to operate as one collective entity and secure higher broadcasting rights for every team, not just the recent championship squads. It’s a bare minimum that businesses given a governmental advantage allow governmental oversight.

That was the same public trust we wanted when fans wondered about the impact of steroids on baseball. Back when Jose Canseco wrote, “Juiced,” and claimed a majority of baseball players were on steroids, he was ridiculed and cast aside as a washed-up athlete trying to score extra money.

Then the government had a hearing on baseball players and steroids, and the legislators were accused of grandstanding.

But then, something happened. Federal investigators pressed on laboratories accused of providing steroids. Public and governmental pressure forced Major League Baseball to implement a tough steroid policy. Soon, Rafael Palmeiro, who had testified he had never used steroids, was suspended for using steroids.

Without the pressure for those steroid policies, Palmeiro and others would have finished their careers with fans thinking every statistic was legitimate, and Barry Bonds would still be slugging his way to 800 home runs.

The NFL and the Patriots should be subjected to that same degree of public trust. If the Patriots did nothing wrong, why did Goodell destroy the evidence? That alone shows the NFL is too vested in the Patriots not cheating to ever prove the Patriots did cheat.

The Patriots are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but they shouldn’t be presumed so innocent we’ll disregard anything that proves their guilt. Hopefully, an independent investigation, whatever it does or doesn’t turn up, isn’t just a fairy tale.


Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail:

kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com