Last month, Eric Gillin, editor of Esquire.com and a founding editor of The Black Table, previewed the New England Patriots by comparing them to Communist China. As you might expect, he had plenty to say about these whole videotaping allegations. After the jump, enjoy the continuation of the metaphor.
A couple weeks back, in my preview of the New England Patriots' upcoming season, I jokingly compared them to the People's Republic of China, another mysterious nation with incredible resources and potential entering this football season. After this most recent spying scandal and the backlash from players across the league, those parallels are even clearer now.
As with football, every single first world country spies on each other — it's part of the proverbial game, right? (Heck, America even spies on our own allies!) (Ed. Note: And its own citizens.) But China, like New England, really gets under America's skin when it does it. People forget, but just seven years ago, before 9/11, America was obsessed with the fact that China was stealing our nuclear secrets. There was the Cox Report in 1999, then news that China was retrofitting passenger airliners into spy planes, and finally, poor Wen Ho Lee, who was falsely accused of spying on America. Last year, China even pulled a Mangina and retaliated against America's attempts to spy — firing laser beams at U.S. spy satellites, effectively blinding them.
It's only fitting that the New England Patriots were hit with $750,000 in fines — $500,000 for Belichick and $250,000 for the team — and lost a high-draft pick. These are the exact same economic sanctions that a country like China gets slapped with when they break the rules — it's not like the U.N. can suspend Chinese leader Hu Jintao for a few games.
Right now, fans of the Patriots are feeling pretty beat up. The hyperbolic national media are dog-piling on, adding asterisks to all those Super Bowl wins. Rival coaches and players are blaming their devastating losses on underhanded tactics, instead of the fact they choked. All perspective is lost at how much, if at all, that cheating led to wins in favor of a convenient, one-size-fits-all excuse to cover past failures.
But keep in mind — all that China scandal shit was seven years ago — and no one even remembered any of it until I just brought it up. Now, when Americans think of China, it's: I like their food. They're hosting the Olympics. Yao Ming. What about that poisonous dog food, huh? And maybe, if you've been to Chinatown on a hot summer day: I wonder if the whole country smells that terrible. No one thinks about spy scandals.
With these sanctions, the Patriots Republic of New England has truly become the NFL's version of China, feared and loathed by the rest of the league. Bill Belichick is Chairman Mao, an utterly disgraced visionary, a controversial figure whose good deeds (three Super Bowl rings, the transformation of a backwards, rural country into a world power) are balanced off by a litany of bad deeds (cheating at football, killing tens of millions of innocent Chinese in the name of "progress").
And with a leader like Belichick, a man compulsively unable to stop himself from seeking every possible advantage, no matter the consequence, I like the Patriots' chances against San Diego even more now. After all, there's nothing more dangerous than a disgraced tyrant with an arsenal of wide receivers and a pissed-off defense playing at home.