Tom Brady, above, arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, has led the Patriots since 2001. Since then, the organization has seen four championship wins and two major scandals.
Tom Brady, above, a three-time Super Bowl MVP, has led the Patriots since 2001. Since then, the organization has won four championships wins and been through two major scandals. PHOTO CREDIT: KEITH ALLISON

I’ve never been anywhere near Boston, but I’ve been a diehard New England Patriots fan for over a decade.

I was born into a New York Giants family, but that all changed in 2001.

“Root for the Patriots, they’re the underdogs,” I faintly remember someone telling me as I watched them defeat the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Well alright then, I thought. And that was it. That was how it all started.

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Last Tuesday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” released a thorough, damning report  in which every Patriot-hater was given the greatest amount of ammunition behind the accusations. But with the start of another glorious football season two days away, who had time to pay attention to that?

I felt bewildered. Betrayed. Bewitched.

Now, after three more glorious championship wins and two heartbreaking losses to Eli Manning’s resting clueless face, I don’t know what to do.

I read the whole report, and then read it again. It included: a “library” of opponents’ material, including play signal information from as far back as 2001, Patriots staff stealing play sheets from locker rooms and swiping playbooks from team hotels, the jamming radio headsets and hiring ex-players from upcoming opponents to translate
play signals.

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But cheating isn’t the problem. Every team in the NFL cheats or has cheated before. Just go to yourteamcheats.com; you’ll find that the Patriots are “a touch below average” cheaters while the Jets are ranked second in cheating since the NFL’s inception (“Elite NFL cheaters.” Clearly they need to start working on that again).

The problem is getting caught and what ensues after the fact.

The whole Spygate issue, in which the Pats were caught filming opponents’ practices, heightened concerns but was resolved within a week. Reporters found that punishments to the organization were dealt even before league investigators arrived at Foxborough, Massachusetts to look for tapes.

After the library was discovered, and under Commissioner Roger Goodell’s own orders, most of the information was destroyed, leaving only little information for the rest of the league and the media to chew on.

This is not surprising, considering the long friendship of Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft and Goodell.

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“I was wrong to put my faith in the league,” Kraft said years later during the Deflategate paranoia. But what he actually meant was, “Roger, I thought we had something. I thought we were bros, but what you’re really doing is making up for past mistakes. I thought we pushed this under the rug, bro.”

It seems to me that the grand scheme of NFL corruption in this case goes something like this: Kraft and Goodell have been bros for a while. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a loophole-finding mad scientist who found the perfect environment to let his successful experiment roam free, unpunished.

That is until Spygate, when Kraft and Goodell kissed and made up within a week. But Belichick’s experiment, like Frankenstein’s monster, evolved on its own, as the Patriots’ “cheater” label followed them everywhere. Deflategate was Goodell’s chance to finally do some right by the rest of the NFL and go after those pesky Pats.

In court, the battle has seemingly ended. For the NFL, a professional itself in dodging bullets, this situation will be forgotten in decades.

For me, well, I don’t know what to make of it.

The evidence remains, and as much as I love my team, my journalistic instincts cannot
be ignored.

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What I know is that the Patriots have cheated along with every other team. They have been good enough at it for at least four awesome Super Bowl wins. They have succeeded even after the Spygate scandal.

To me, if you’re an NFL fan, you need to be able to live with rampant cheating, corruption, player safety indifference and an overall money-hungry American machine. I don’t think I can live with that. Maybe I’m just
too righteous.

I still think Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, and Belichick is one of the greatest coaches. I still love my team, even though half-man, half-horse Eli Manning stole a perfect season from them.

But I would be compromising my own philosophical views if I continue to root for a cheating team in a harmful game run by an organization teeming with corruption. It would mean supporting a “money over everything” doctrine.

So my dear Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr., and my love William Stephen Belichick, I shall only enjoy you for so
much longer. When your success has come to an end and you both leave the New England Patriots organization, I think our time together will be over.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Just kidding, it’s you. It’s all you.

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