Mayer, who asked the appeals court to revive the suit, said he hopes to learn the extent of the Patriots' taping, dubbed "Spygate," through discovery.
[ For more on all 32 NFL teams, check out the latest from our bloggers.
» ](http://blogblitz.nfl.com)Blog Blitz
"The game will become more and more corrupt if there is no remedy," said Mayer's lawyer, Bruce Afran. "The NFL will degenerate into the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)."
NFL lawyers insist the Patriots violated only league rules -- not any civil or criminal laws. They fear that disappointed fans will sue over myriad game-day complaints if the case is upheld.
"It will become unmanageable," lawyer Shepard Goldfein argued to the three-judge panel, which included a Pittsburgh Steelers season-ticket holder and a judge who confessed to knowing little about NFL lingo.
U.S. District Judge Garrett Brown Jr. tossed Mayer's suit last year, concluding that tickets entitle fans to see nothing more than the game that unfolds.
However, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals judges peppered lawyers about the issues for more than an hour Wednesday. Their ruling could hinge on whether they see the purchase of a Jets ticket as a contract between fans and the league and whether consumer protection laws apply.
The NFL argued that a ticket carries only the right to sit in a certain seat and see a game.
Belichick, the league lawyers said, defended the videotaping to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell by saying he misunderstood the rules. Mayer challenged that assertion, alleging the Patriots turned off the light on the videocamera and used other sleuth tactics to avoid detection at the game, which they won 38-14.
Senior Judge Robert Cowen seemed perhaps most perturbed about the videotaping and noted Goodell handed down "a whopper" of a fine.
"Anyone who's competed knows there's a big difference in knowing what's coming across the plate," said Cowen, using a baseball analogy. "It's a horrendous violation. No question about that."
Goldfein, in questioning, said rabid NFL fans likely would buy tickets even if they knew the Patriots were stealing signals.
Other types of intelligence gathering are allowed in the NFL, from using binoculars to look for signals to debriefing new players and coaches about their last team's playbooks, co-counsel Daniel Goldberg argued.
"Where the NFL decided to draw the line was at videotaping the sideline," Goldberg said, adding the rules are subject to change each year.
The judges didn't indicate when they would rule.
Judge Gene E.K. Pratter asked how the Patriots had fared during the seasons in question. The Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2002, 2004 and 2005 and reached the title game in 2008, while the Jets endured several seasons of mediocrity before making a surprising run to the AFC Championship Game last season.
"Prior to that (the start of the videotaping), their record was as woeful as the Jets," Mayer replied. "After that, they were the best team in football."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press