The NFL has a new cheating scandal on its hands, thanks to an ESPN report based on unnamed sources about whom the rest of us know nothing.
What we do know is that the information regarding alleged espionage by G.M. Mickey Loomis has come to light eight years after the fact, and on the heels of a bounty/pay-for-performance scandal that has left the franchise reeling.
Which means there’s no better time than right now for a disgruntled former employee to serve up an ice-cold plate of revenge.
The ESPN-driven report also comes several months after the media giant clumsily compensated for its failure to contribute anything meaningful to the Penn State scandal by stirring up a mess at Syracuse that, to date, has failed to stick. (On that point, Jason Whitlock recently “did the damn thang.”) ESPN and its army of reporters also whiffed on the Saints’ bounty scandal, which may have given one or more of the folks who are on the payroll to find stuff like this out an extra incentive to dig up something/anything to suggest that the Saints were doing something/anything else that they shouldn’t have been doing.
Indeed, Donald “Chick” Foret, legal analyst at WWL-TV in New Orleans, claims that ESPN reporter John Barr “had a mission” to find something negative to report about the Saints in the wake of the bounty scandal. “John Barr, the reporter on April 5 called me asking a lot of questions about the Saints,” Foret said. “Obviously, everyone is piling on as a result of the bounty scandal. He called me on April 5 and he asked me some really crazy questions, and it was obvious to me that he was looking for dirt on the Saints. I felt terribly uncomfortable with the conversation. I reported it to the Saints.”
And so there are many fair questions presented by ESPN’s carefully-worded report, which relies on an unnamed source who may or may not be grinding an axe and who may or may not be factually accurate. At a time when most fans will be inclined to assume that any negative report about the Saints is true, ESPN has an obligation to do more than drop on the audience the notion that Loomis had the ability to monitor conversations among opposing coaches. ESPN also needs to explain how that information turned into a tangible strategic edge for the Saints.
Instead, at one point on Tuesday an on-air appearance from John Barr was chased by ESPN’s Bill Polian, who persuasively dismissed the notion that Loomis could in real time transform the things he was hearing to an on-field advantage.
ESPN is now pumping up its story via a column from Mark Kreidler, who claims that the information has value by virtue of the fact that Loomis was in position to capture it. But Kreidler is badly missing the point. The gap in logic between Loomis eavesdropping on opposing coaches and those conversations helping the Saints win football games tends to show that the allegations of wiretapping may be entirely false.
Kreidler also grossly overstates the impact of these new allegations, claiming that if the report is true Commissioner Roger Goodell “will be facing the greatest crisis of his tenure.”
Yes, after Spygate and multiple years of labor strife and the potential impact of concussions on the future of the game, 10-year-old allegations of eavesdropping will cause Goodell to lose sleep.
That’s not to say the league should ignore the situation. The NFL, or someone, needs to investigate the situation, because everyone involved deserves the truth. If it happened, that needs to be known and publicized, and appropriate consequences should arise. If it didn’t happen, that needs to be known and publicized, and appropriate consequences should arise.
And so our hope is that, ultimately, we get to the truth. We think we can handle it.