Sunday, February 3, 2008

The NFL needs a Mitchell Report

The NFL needs a Mitchell Report
If you like sportswriters screaming at each other, Monday's shaping up to be a very, very, big day for you. It could be the biggest and most important day in the history of sportswriters screaming at each other.

It's setting up as the perfect storm for sportswriter screaming. It's the most high profile event in sports, and the subject at hand is an unfair competitive advantage, which makes everyone go ape-excrement crazy. If the Patriots win, you might see Jay Mariotti have an aneurysm live on Around the Horn (which could be a ratings bonanza).

Just hours before the Super Bowl, we've got new allegations of Patriot cheating, including an unnamed source close to the Patriots who says the Pats filmed a Rams walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI, and a former Patriots video assistant who hints that he has further damning evidence of devious Patriot videotaping activities. And then you've got Senator Arlen Specter, standing there and trying to hold a huge spotlight over the whole thing.

So if the Patriots win, talks of asterisks and tainted victories is going to get very, very loud.

I hate this. If someone has evidence, obviously, I want them to come forward with it, but the current state of uncertainty is maddening. If they did it, let's dig until we can prove it. If they didn't, let's prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they're innocent. Anything in-between (and that includes Roger Goodell's Officer Barbrady "Move along, there's nothing to see here!" routine) is as aggravating as gobs of sand in the man-thong.

Assuming a Patriots victory, it's going to keep alive the loathsome recent trend of post-championship complaining by whoever didn't win. The Heat beat the Mavericks in the NBA Finals, and it's because Dwyane Wade got countless phantom calls. The Steelers beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and it's because the referees handed the game to them. The Spurs win the NBA Finals, and it's because the Suns were screwed over with a bad call in the Western Conference Championship.

I'd just like a champion to be crowned, and for everyone to say, "Alright, they're the best. They earned it."

If the Patriots win today, there's absolutely zero chance of that happening.

And since Roger Goodell doesn't appear to have any interest in doing anything about it himself, it's time to take a page out of the Bud Selig playbook and hire an independent investigator to find out exactly what happened, when it started, and how the Patriots might have benefited from it.

To do anything other than that is unfair, both to the Patriots and the general public. If the Pats have done things legitimately, they don't deserve this scorn and uncertainty from NFL fans. And if they haven't, then people need to know about that, too, including the general football-watching public, the 01/02 Rams, the 03/04 Panthers, and the 04/05 Eagles.

The investigation already has its McNamee/Radomski in Matt Walsh, the former Patriots video assistant who says he's got the goods (and Walsh is obviously willing to talk; if he wasn't, we'd have never heard his name). Now it just needs a George Mitchell to squeeze him for information.

9 arrested on suspicion of selling forged tickets
Nine people were arrested in Scottsdale on suspicion of selling forged Super Bowl tickets for thousands of dollars. The investigation into the forged tickets began when a Massachusetts couple reported unwittingly buying forged tickets for $2,500 from a man on a Scottsdale street Saturday, Sgt. Mark Clark said in a news release Sunday. Bicycle officers responded to the area and spotted a potential suspect. Clark said the man lied about his name and was arrested.

The extremely reluctant prediction: Giants in a squeaker
I've got a little bit of a dilemma when it comes to making a prediction for today's professional football contest.

See, back when the playoffs first started and I was writing somewhere else, I said I didn't think the Patriots were going to win it all. In my mind, they were clearly and plainly the best team in the league, but I felt like everyone soils their drawers at some point, and that it would be the Pats misfortune that they made a #2 in their pants during the playoffs.

But the problem with picking them to lose today is that I thought it would be the Colts, Chargers, or Jaguars who jumped up and stole one from them. Obviously, that didn't happen ... and I have way less faith in the Giants to do the same thing.

But I feel obligated to honor the original pick of a non-Patriots Super Bowl XLII champion. I don't actually think they're going to win, but my official pick of record has to be the Giants ... let's say 31-30.

And yes, I realize that this is a weasel-y thing to do, because no matter what happens, I can say "Yeah, I knew the Patriots would win," or "Hey, look at me, I predicted the Giants would win." But please know that I've never taken a great deal or pride in making quality predictions, or felt particularly bad about making incorrect ones, since predicting the outcome of NFL games with any kind of consistency is near impossible.

I hope everyone enjoys the game, though, and I also hope that between now and kickoff, no one comes forward with evidence that Bill Belichick has been secretly videotaping Eli Manning in the shower all week.

Stick with me here, as I should be posting a few times through the course of the contest. Enjoy, and feel free to drop your own game predictions in the comments here.

Athletic Supporter Bowl XLII: Declaring a winner ...
Athletic Supporter Bowl XLII Update: Athletic Supporter Bowl XLII was a grand disappointment.

If the Super Bowl is this disappointing, then it'll be 0-0 through 11 overtimes, at which point Roger Goodell decides to just declare a winner by having a Double Stuf Racing League Lick-Off between Tony Eason and Dave Meggett.

It was a good idea on paper, it just didn't work out that well in practice. Patriots and Giants fans were pretty scarce around town all week long ... it wasn't until yesterday that they became really visible everywhere you went.

And yesterday, I saw way more Patriots fans than Giants fans, and asked at a couple of sports merchandise shops if they were selling more Patriots gear or Giants gear, and the answer was always Patriots. So they're getting on the board with a touchdown, making it 10-6 Giants.

They missed the extra point, though, because I keep seeing people around town wearing Red Sox gear. We get it, pal ... New England is good at two sports. Put your precious Papelbon jersey in the closet for a few days, pretend like you care about the Patriots as much as you do you beloved Sox, and support the team that's actually playing this week.

And with that, I'm going to declare it final ...

Giants 10, Patriots 6.

LIVE: Giants-Pats in Super Bowl XLII
The Giants were up early, but Laurence Maroney's TD run put the Pats ahead. Can New England add to its lead before halftime? Follow Super Bowl XLII LIVE on FOX.

Phoenix Randomness...
Things I've noticed this week that didn't get a post of their own ...

• Mike Ditka smells like a french whore on Bastille Day. I was hanging out at the media center early on Thursday, and he walked by twice, and both times, it was like someone blasted a firehose of Drakkar directly up my nose. Every time I see him on ESPN now, my nose hairs begin to smoke.

• That's a giant sculpture/mirror in the convention center in downtown Phoenix. It's 90 feet tall, and is by famous sculptor (sculptress?) Louise Bourgeois. I thought it was interesting.

• If there's one thing the people of Phoenix were going to make clear this week, it's that if you drive drunk, you will be treated with all the respect given to Jeffrey Lebowski by the chief of police of Malibu. Signs are everywhere: "Drive Drunk, and Expect the Max." In this case, "the max" means pink underwear, a military tent, and working on a chain gang. In a related story, I've had a lot of club soda this week. I wouldn't drink an O'Douls while playing Gran Turismo in he jurisdiction of a sheriff that insane.

• Speaking of driving, this would be a much more effective tidbit if I had a picture, but I've instituted a strict "no taking pictures while driving" policy this week. But on the way into Phoenix, there's a giant billboard that says "SUPER BOWEL WINNER," and underneath that, "" I was hoping it would be the website for some zany local proctologist, but it's for some damn pill that's supposed to make your colon happy. This week isn't a giant celebration of football so much as it's a giant beacon of advertising opportunities.

• The area is so thoroughly saturated with the NFL that Lance Briggs and Adrian Peterson have both done appearances at local Wal-Marts. I think they should both have some questions to ask of their agents.

• I followed Adam Sandler around Radio Row for a while, listening to him do interviews with various people. He had the largest group of handlers/entourage of anyone I saw all week. And with the exceptions of Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, he's playing himself in every movie he's ever done.

Matt Leinart is not just the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals, Matt Leinart is the Emperor of Arizona. He's listed on the program of nearly every single event in town this weekend, was at the media center all week long, and was always, always, meeting or about to meet someone. The people here are so emotionally invested in Matt Leinart ... if he doesn't go on to become a great quarterback, I'm not sure anyone here would even notice.

'Skins plan to interview Spagnuolo Tuesday
The Washington Redskins, entering the final stage of their coaching search, tentatively plan to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Tuesday, a person familiar with the selection process said. The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Redskins have not publicly released the names of any candidates, also said Sunday that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is no longer in the running for the job.

Report: Specter to speak with Goodell
Sen. Arlen Specter isn't satisfied with the NFL's answers about its Spygate investigation and said it's still possible the New England Patriots cheating scandal could result in Senate hearings. Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sunday reiterated comments he made Friday in which he questioned NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's investigation into the spying allegations and his decision to destroy video evidence uncovered by the league earlier this season.

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