The New England Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady, won Super Bowl LI earlier this month. The victory marked Brady’s fifth Super Bowl victory and added onto what is already a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. That said, a recent comment by former St. Louis Rams Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk caused controversy. Faulk claimed that Brady should have an “asterisk” next to his name in a statement he made while on NFL.com’s “GameDay Morning” show. Does he have a point?
Many fans are accusing Faulk of still being bitter over the Rams’ loss to the Patriots during Super Bowl XXXVI. It’s true that Faulk isn’t over that defeat, but it’s because of the alleged “Walkthrough” incident. This refers to when the Patriots were accused of videotaping the Rams’ walkthrough practice during Super Bowl XXXVI from an anonymous source. The Patriots had been caught videotaping the New York Jets’ coaching signals in a regular season game in 2007 in an incident referred to as “Spygate.”
The league did punish the Patriots for Spygate by fining the team $250,000, head coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team lost their first round pick during the 2008 NFL Draft. Still, there will always be questions looming about the legitimacy of the Patriot’s victory over the Rams because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell destroyed the tapes from the Spygate scandal. Goodell mentioned that none of the tapes that were destroyed had anything to do with Super Bowl XXXVI. However, because he destroyed them, there is no proof that they didn’t have anything to do with the Patriots’ win over the Rams.
The question has been and always will be “why destroy the tapes?” At this point, it’s already been proven that the Patriots cheated in at least one game during that season. Any casual fan can tell you that every game matters in the NFL. Also, why did the Patriots feel the need to do this? Did they lack so much faith in the team that they resorted to cheating? Don’t get me wrong, every team will try to gain an advantage somehow, but shouldn’t there be a line?
During Super Bowl XXXVI, the Rams lost by a field goal. “The Greatest Show on Turf,” one of the best offenses ever assembled, was limited to just 17 points. The accusation isn’t out of line and isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. The potential proof was destroyed for some unknown reason. However, official NFL history will always see that the Patriots defeated the Rams and the Patriots were the best team that season.
Another incident where the Patriots were punished by the NFL was the “Deflategate” scandal. Brady and the Patriots were accused that someone from the organization intentionally deflated footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots dominated the entire game, but officials found that 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game footballs were underinflated. As a result, the league suspended Brady for failing to cooperate and cut the Patriots’ first round pick during the 2016 NFL Draft and a fourth round pick during the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
After being caught cheating twice (officially), shouldn’t Brady have an asterisk next to his name? And not just Brady for that matter, Belichick should have an asterisk too. It’s not a question of if these two are qualified, because as much talent as they both have, they should be a lock. This past Super Bowl victory alone is enough evidence of their talent. However, this is a moral issue over a talent issue.
Major League Baseball suffers from the same question of inducting players that take performance enhancing drugs. Players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens have been excluded from the Hall of Fame for essentially cheating. Even the lines of morality are becoming blurred since Ivan Rodriguez was recently inducted into the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame despite being one of the prominent names mentioned in Jose Canseco’s 2005 book.
Therefore, the question is now what exactly is the selection process of the Hall of Fame? Is it based on stats alone? Should accolades be considered? Should players that have taken PEDs, violated substance abuse or have been arrested for any reason be placed on the ballot? It’s a dicey situation that needs to be addressed by league officials and the Hall of Fame Committee. Clear and concise rules need to be put in place, and if ethics are a non-issue, then both Brady and Belichick shouldn’t require an asterisk. Until then, I can’t help but agree with Faulk.