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The much-anticipated meeting between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and former Patriots employee Matt Walsh is being held today and afterward, Goodell is scheduled to hold a press conference in New York apparently to disclose what he learned.

The widespread belief is that the NFL wants to put the matter behind it with the conclusion that Goodell had previously arrived at -- that the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick (left) derived negligible advantage from the practice of taping opponents' signals. And no wonder.  To conclude the opposite puts a virtual asterisk next to those Patriots' Super Bowls, which make up a significant portion of the league's legacy.

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In a column today, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio suggests that Goodell's questioning of Walsh should focus on understanding something about Belichick's intentions and before-the-fact knowledge of wrong-doing (the New England coach's defense is that he didn't realize what he was doing was against NFL rules and the whole episode was merely an unfortunate result of misinterpreting the regulations).

It's an interesting point made by Paolantonio, a former news reporter and the author of a book on former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo.  However, I'm not sure that Walsh's recollections -- after all, he left the Patriots in an unhappy parting more than five years ago -- and Wash's own interpretations of events and second-party motivations will represent definitive evidence of further Patriots' guilt.  Raise suspicions, perhaps, but not necessarily present Goodell with a smoking gun. Unless the league wants to continue peeling this onion by bringing in more people for more depositions (which could mean more grants of indemnification from civil liability).  And, of course, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter is still out there certainly available to stir the pot.  He gets his crack at Walsh, as well.

See, this is the difference between real life and sports.  Sports has nice neat endings called final scores with the issue settled in a couple of hours.  Real life is not nearly so accommodating.

Photo: Julie Jacobson/AP

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