Manly House of Football: The ugly truth

Moral twilight

From everything I hear, stealing signals is an accepted practice in baseball.

The pros do it openly. Heck, one of the prop masters on my show told me they even do it in his son's Little League games. According to him, they plant someone out in the stands to break the code, and then yell the kid's last name when it's a breaking ball. As I cocked an eyebrow in disdain, he assured me that he was great with it. Me? I think it's kinda cheesy. I guess I come from a more Darwinian kind o' place, but my attitude is ...

If your kid can't hit the curve, then deal with it!

Seriously, why postpone the inevitable? Buy him a violin.

So it may come as no surprise to you that I feel incredibly naive for not assuming that the UBER-competitive mindset required to rise through the ranks all the way to one of 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL might include a few "win at any price" individuals.

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Tampa Bay, Houston and even Cleveland, for the moment, all feel as if someone is in the process of rescuing them from the ugly dark side of football. For these three teams, the coaches got a good night sleep, the coffee tasted better Monday morning, the game tapes will be fun to watch and there is chatter in the halls and weight rooms. Full story ...

But surely there's a price to pay. Right?

Even the most talented individuals harbor a deep, dark recess of doubt that a scandal like this will inevitably agitate ...

I mean, Belichick looked even more uncomfortable than usual at that press conference, right?

When you live in moral twilight, you pay with a part of your soul ... right?

Wrong again! How did the Patriots deal with the unfamiliar glare of negative scrutiny? They go out before the entire nation and crush the Chargers with such authority they reduced them to the 1976 Buccaneers.

Even as owner Robert Kraft was forced to suffer the ignominy of sitting in the booth and offering up his regrets, his team was chewing lightning bolts and spitting chunks on them all over the field, and word sneaks out he may have extended Belichick's contract through 2013.

Who can blame him?

The ugly truth

After Sunday night, there is no escaping our fate: The Pats have already put their stink on the 2007 Lombardi Trophy.

Stolen signals or not, the Chargers are the one team who were supposed to at least give them a game! This wasn't an elite NFC team once again being served the harsh wake up call that is a drubbing by the superior conference.

No, this was the crème de la AFC crème, 1-b.

Somewhere Marty Schottenheimer is either laughing or crying, 'cuz Y.T.D., there ain't no gleam men.

Of course, the Spanos' helped -- Norv Turner remains a dicey proposition as a head coach, meanwhile Wade Phillips, who should have inherited the job, has the Cowboys undefeated. But who am I kidding? None of that matters! I can name you 31 teams that are out of it right now.

The Pats didn't even blink as the storm of shame geysered all over them. They quietly went out and proved their vast superiority. If this were a film noir, some guy in a fedora would be suckin' on a Lucky Strike and saying, "Barring injuries ... it's over, Johnny!"

Just one more reason it ain't easy being Roger Goodell. The league's ugliest off-season on record finally comes to an end, and now it looks like the Commish is going to be handing the Lombardi Trophy to ... proven cheaters.

By then, of course, more teams may be implicated. We hear so much talk of the coaching "Tree," and while Belichick may be a descendent of Parcells, he also brought us Eric Mangini and Romeo Crennel.

Despite last weekend's shocking win over the Bengals, Romeo's body of work as a hapless head coach suggests he hasn't been stealing anything. If he has, he might want to fire his video team.

Now Mangini? That gets a little more interesting. He may have started this Patriot ball rolling, but guilt by association leads any thinking fan to wonder just how the kid pulled off that unexpected Jet playoff season in '06.

You also have to wonder if it's pure coincidence that it's his team that proves the case against his former mentor. All of a sudden, we keep hearing about numerous complaints and suspicions that the Pats stole lots of signals over the years, from the Packers to the Steelers. Some on Mangini's watch? I can't help being curious, after all those official complaints, how the Jets finally presented the case that stuck to the wall. Inside knowledge?

See, this is what happens when one guy plays dirty -- everyone gets scrutinized a whole lot closer, and all that glory starts to smell like a fixed election.

As any fantasy football owner with a dinged-up Pats player on their roster knows, the NFL is going to have a very rough time getting Belichick to comply and fork over the requested film and materials. This is a guy who would list his second team long snapper as "doubtful" all season if he could. No straight answers exit the Kremlin.

P.S.: Anyone else kicking yourself for letting Randy Moss slide right past you in your fantasy drafts? I'm getting the feeling all Moss has to do is get open by one centimeter and Brady will laser one to him, right on the fingertips.

Somewhere, there is someone reading this who passed Moss up for Lee Evans! (YTD: Four receptions for a total of 22 yards and 0 TD's!) ...

Okay, it's me!

Oh, it stinks right now, but is there time for a Bills fan to gloat? Nooooo! Not when O.J. picks the same week to drop into Sin City and tack even more shame on the disturbing legacy of our original Hall of Famer.

Nope, there are no breaks in the foreseeable future for any of us, my friends.

Somebody wake me when it's 2014.

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