The Patriots expect to be punished for Spygate 2: Stupid Spygate, but if it’s true that severe sanctions aren’t expected for the comedy of errors that resulted in a Patriots videographer capturing several minutes of footage from the Bengals’ sideline in clear violation of league rules, it means that common sense will have prevailed.
Which is good news, because common sense doesn’t always win the day. For clear proof of that, look no farther than #DeflateGate, a cart-before-the-horse controversy in which the league ignored basic principles of science in rushing to judgment against the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, and working backward to justify the conclusion.
In that case, forces within the league seized on an opportunity to rectify what some believed to be too light of a punishment for the original Spygate. This time around, those same forces don’t seem inclined to trump up the facts to justify clobbering the Patriots.
If that happens, it’s the right outcome. There’s no reason to believe that the taping of the Bengals sideline by a videographer who was trying to show what an advance scout does was anything other than a boneheaded mistake. If it were a deliberate act of espionage, it would have been audacious; the taping occurred in plain sight, with no effort to conceal the activity by a person with a camera in his possession and a Patriots logo on his polo shirt.
That said, it would be prudent for the league to confirm that no digital trail exists from the individuals on the video crew to any members of the football operations. It’s possible, in theory, that back channels exist for using such information in a way that would transpire with coach Bill Belichick knowing nothing about it.
The Patriots should welcome that effort, if (as it appears) this entire situation was an honest mistake. A ridiculous dumb and borderline inexplicable mistake, but an honest mistake nonetheless.