Spy reply

The Baltimore Sun

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is floating a handful of anti-cheating measures past the league's competition committee that have this simple message written all over them:

"Get that stinkin' Arlen Specter off my back!"

Because other than providing some window dressing that Goodell is cracking down on Spygate-type shenanigans and appeasing the U.S. senator who has been harping on the Patriots video taping scandal, I don't see much of a point to some of these notions.

Here's what Goodell reportedly wants the competition committee to consider:

Surprise inspections of locker rooms, press-level areas where coaches presumably work and in-game communications equipment. OK, that part makes sense.

Requiring club employees to provide reports of even suspected violations. Hmm.

Top-level organization members (owners, chief executives, head coaches) stipulating that they're in compliance with rules under the threat of some sort of discipline.

The surprise inspections are fine, I suppose.

But does the commissioner really think he can get team employees to be whistleblowers in the event that they have suspicions that the boss is cheating? Some franchises might consider such stuff high treason. (Imagine an Oakland Raiders employee suspected of ratting out Al Davis' team.)

And this business about the guys at the top of the organizational food chain stipulating that they have been playing according to the rules under the threat of some sort of discipline ...

What does that even mean?

Does Goodell plan to have owners, team presidents and head coaches sign an annual noncheating pledge at the league meeting every March?

One suspects that the real purpose of even committing such ideas to paper is simply theater for the edification of the public - particularly Specter, who believes Goodell's handling of Spygate was a little sloppy.

Honestly, even if Goodell's arm-waving and finger-wagging is all for show, I'm not particularly offended.

The commissioner has to do something, and this is what business executives in crisis do these days - make earnest declarations to show that they're being proactive, even if it is just a sham.

But think about it. No one around the league was making a big deal about team-on-team espionage before Spygate.

To me, it's all pretty simple.

Whatever the NFL wants to permit or prohibit in terms of teams going to school on each other, make the rules crystal clear.

Update the rules yearly to stay current with available technology. Make sure the rules are enforceable. Have mechanisms in place to accomplish that enforcement and an internal due process to adjudicate alleged violations.

And here's the meaningful part: Make the penalties for wayward coaches and the team officials above them unambiguous - meaning draft picks, suspensions and, for repeat offenders, even expulsion.


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