One thing that "Spygate" has in common with the alleged ball deflation scandal is that, in both instances, ESPN misreported the facts. During "Spygate," ESPN repeated a never verified--and since debunked--allegation that the New England Patriots illegally recorded the St. Louis Rams' walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. Not content to misreport the facts during the immediate aftermath of "Spygate," ESPN resurrected that debunked story this year and had to issue a public--albeit buried--apology. Fast forward to this year's alleged ball deflation scandal, when ESPN--specifically Chris Mortensen--incorrectly reported that 11 of New England's 12 footballs were measured at 2 p.s.i. below the minimum permitted levels at halftime of the 2015 AFC Championship Game. ESPN's motto should be "Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Story That Can Garner Ratings and Revenue."
The new ESPN article contains no new facts but plenty of salacious allegations and quotes from unnamed sources. It would be shocking if it does not contain factual errors, since that is a staple of ESPN reporting, particularly concerning the Patriots. The gist of the story is that a lot of teams that have lost to the Patriots suspect deeply in their hearts that the Patriots cheat in some way. These teams cannot actually prove this but they are pretty sure it is true. Supposedly, Goodell saved the NFL from doom by burying the truth about the Patriots' cheating but promising that if anyone ever cheats again then he will throw the book at them. Thus, after Mortensen made his erroneous report about the Patriots' alleged ball deflation, Goodell jumped in quickly with his "make up call" for supposedly not dealing with "Spygate" harshly enough.
Since Goodell, via ESPN, is determined to retry "Spygate" in the court of public opinion after getting trounced in an actual court regarding the alleged ball deflation scandal, it is worth revisiting the truth about what actually did--and did not--happen during "Spygate." YourTeamCheats is an excellent guide and I will quote from some of that site's research:
The announced reason that the Patriots were punished was for filming their 2007 regular season game against the Jets from a sideline location instead of from an approved filming location (e.g. a press or media box). The actual reason was because they were told to do something by Goodell and didn't do it...
The Patriots were not punished for filming the Jets defensive signals, as that has never been forbidden by the NFL. As of 2006, however, where you film the game and signals is limited to approved locations. Coincidentally, the Jets had done nearly the exact same thing a year earlier but were not punished, even a little bit, by NFL commissioner and former Jets public relations intern Roger Goodell...
Filming your opponents' signals is--and always has been--completely legal, even today. After a league memo to all clubs in 2006, however, you can't do it from a location where the team could potentially use it during the same game.
As Coach Bill Belichick noted in 2015, 80,000 people can see his team's defensive signals: millions more if a TV camera pans by them. The signals are not meant to be hidden, just as in baseball a third-base coach's signals are not meant to be hidden. They should, however, be properly encrypted, but that is the signaling team's responsibility.
Every single NFL team films every single game they play from multiple angles. As they do this, are they supposed to locate and black out the one part of the stadium where the defensive coach is? Should it be a roaming dot if he moves? Obviously not, because the sidelines are just another part of the larger football field and game.
- 10% about where they were filming from
- 90% about Belichick stupidly thumbing his nose at Goodell's new rule, and
- 0% about what was being filmed
It should have been called WrongLocationgate or F*ckYouRogergate, because there was absolutely no element of spying involved.