Monday, September 10, 2007

Boos and Illegal Cameras

Two more quick notes about the game yesterday:

-Many people have noted that the Giants Stadium crowd booed Chad Pennington when he limped off the field, including the ol' Wacky Chinaman. It's pretty embarrassing. While this is expected in a city like Philadelphia, it's not expected in New York. Perhaps it should be. New York fans, while considered to be educated, passionate, use whatever adjectives you want, have recently shown that they have a very short memory. The phenomenon has gotten worse and worse over time. At first I thought it started with the Mets fans, who had two recent cycles of big spending and underperforming. Most notably, Mike Piazza was getting booed towards the end of his Met career (despite being basically the best Met ever aside from Tom Seaver) and Carlos Beltran getting booed on opening day at home in his second year as a Met. But Yankee fans showed they are not immune to this sort of stupidity, booing Derek Jeter a few years back after his slow start. A-Rod heard the jeers from the crowd regularly last year despite winning the MVP the year before. Like I said, I don't know if this is something new or if it's just something I am noticing more often, but booing Chad Pennington isn't a huge surprise. However, just because it's not a surprise doesn't make it right. I have a theory that sports radio may be to blame, because it is the source of all kinds of outrageous opinions, but for now it's just a theory.

-Apparently the Patriots had some sort of camera on the sidelines that might have been used to steal the defensive signals of the Jets. Apparently this isn't the first time they've run into this sort of problem. As much as I would love to believe that this is why the Patriots beat the Jets so easily, I have a lot of trouble with this accusation. If it were true it would make the Patriots seem unbelievably insecure. Too unbelievably. They've beaten the Jets repeatedly in recent years and are on paper a better team. Why would they feel the need to cheat? There's also no way they could have maintained the sort of success that they have had even if they had stolen signs or whatever. Why were they doing something similar in Green Bay last year? Who knows, but I also don't think that the Green Bay people should have said anything until the investigation was complete. Was there something fishy going on? Perhaps, but I doubt it is as serious as it sounds in the news stories.

-Apparently the penalty for a team that does something like use an illegal camera to take photos during a game is loss of a draft pick or a fine. That doesn't seem like much to me. If it's such a big deal, the offending team should be forced to forfeit the game. However, I don't really know how a team could benefit significantly from this sort of gamesmanship. Who cares about fines and draft picks? Even the loss of one first round pick isn't the end of the world.


Wacky Chinaman said...

Oh, I think the Pats are probably guilty of stealing signals, though I think the importance of such things will be overblown.

I don't know if I would classify this as being insecure...the Pats are definitely looking for any edge they can get, even a small one like this. I suspect they push the line like this on a number of rules.

The rules don't say that you can't steal signals, only that you are not allowed to videotape the opposing sideline for this purpose. So basically, you can have a guy with a sharp memory who watches the sidelines and steals the signals, but he just can't use a camera. So if the rule was broken, it doesn't seem like a terribly serious infraction.

The NFL is littered with stories of teams trying to get an edge. In Next Man Up,", one Ravens player details how his playbook mysteriously disappeared, then the next week the Titans knew all their plays. In this week's MMQB, Peyton Manning tells a story of how a former backup QB tried to anticipate the playcalls. None of this stuff should be a surprise to anyone in the sports media; nevertheless, we'll be treated to a few opinions on this matter.

Wacky Chinaman said...

Oh, I totally forgot about last year's non-story about Miami shutting out the Pats due to some of their own signal stealing.

Wacky Chinaman said...

So many different things coming out about the possibility of the Patriots stealing signals. Sports media seems to be tripping over itself trying to get the scoop, when in reality, there doesn't seem to be much happening.

Still don't know what exactly happened--only that a cameraman without the correct credentials was on the sideline. Again, I wouldn't put it past the Pats to bend the rules to steal signals, but it's hard to believe that they would choose to do it in such an obvious way.

An interesting tidbit on the subject:

Blogman said...

I don't doubt that teams will try and get every advantage they want. But what the Patriots did (ESPN is reporting that Goodell will say they broke the rules) is pretty blatant. Basically they had a cameraman taping the Jets' signals despite a warning not to do so in the off-season.

I'm going to first put aside whether or not a) the Patriots even needed to steal the Jets' signs and b) stealing signs is even of any use.

Stealing signs in the NFL has been likened to stealing signs in MLB (which happens all the time as well). It's not against the rules in either sport but in MLB this is controlled by a pitcher drilling the snooping player with a pitch. There's no player police like this in the NFL.

As for taping, there's not really an analogous situation in baseball as there are 10 times as many games and many fewer signs. Thus, it's easier for someone to remember and decode signs but there are so many more games as well.

In the NFL it's not as easy - there are more plays, players, etc and I don't think it's as easy as just having a guy watch the other team with binoculars and try to remember things (because then that's what teams would do). There's also no player enforcement (hitting someone unnecessarily to enforce things would mean a penalty or suspension.

Again - no doubt that teams would try to get every edge possible. Your other examples all seem plausible to me - a backup QB "trying to anticipate" Peyton Manning's playcalls, the Dolphins watching old TV tapes of the Patriots and "supposedly" hearing what Brady says at the snap, and the Patriots video coordinator who "filmed teams at warmups" - but these are still different from taping actively taping during the game. The coordinator's claim that teams actively watch their opponents is well-known as every team has their coaches covering their mouths before every playcall for fear of lipreading.

Stealing a playbook is probably a worse infraction than stealing signs during the game, as this is theft! I have no idea how common this is. Also, isn't it possible the player who said his playbook was "stolen" actually misplaced it? I agree, it is also possible someone stole it.

The funny thing is, if I found out a pro sports team was somehow off the record helping its players to acquire steroids or HGH to gain an edge, it wouldn't surprise me.

The combination of organized sign stealing by a successful team, in a relatively low stakes game is what strikes me. Like I said, sign stealing seems low yield to begin with. If the game were higher stakes (Super Bowl) or the team were worse (ie Cleveland Browns), I wouldn't be as surprised.

Wacky Chinaman said...

My point isn't that the Patriots didn't break the rules--they clearly did. But we're likely to see a lot of moralizing in the next few days, and I think it's easy to lose perspective this guy seems to have done.

The Patriots broke the rules, and they will deserve the punishment they get. But if the rule is that you can't use a camera to steal signs, but the actual act of stealing signs (with a more coordinated, technology-less effort) is perfectly acceptable, then it seems silly to start labeling the Patriots as a classless, honorless team. Those who do need to rethink their perception of the NFL (and pro sports in general), which is hardly a group of boy scouts.

The media outrage we are likely to see is what I find irritating. Would the reaction be as bad if one team were found to have somehow gotten a hold of another teams' playbook? Supposedly, Mangini brought a copy of Pennington's tendencies to the Jets when he was hired as the coach--Phil Simms actually mentioned it in a telecast! Belichick said in a press conference last year that it would be naive to think that the Browns or Jets (coached by former Patriot coordinators) didn't have a copy of the Patriots playbook in one form or another. In the incident I mentioned before, Dolphins players bragged that they bought tapes of Brady's audibles from a 3rd party, which I believe IS a violation of the rules (players later backed off and claimed that they had actually been watching telecasts). To me, this is an incident of a team breaking the rules and getting caught, not an incident where one rogue team breaks the sacred trust that the league holds dear.

I can understand being bewildered by the use in what you termed a relatively low-stakes game, but I think that the ultra-competitiveness of the NFL means that you don't leave any stone unturned when trying to get an edge, even if the effectiveness/importance of such a tactic is questionable.

Now exactly why they would do it in a way that was easily detected...I don't really have an answer to that. Seems strange for a team with a reputation of being "smart."