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Why Do We Do This To Ourselves?

July 10, 2008 - John Whittaker

First it was Spygate.

Then, it was Spygate II, starring Matt Walsh.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, or be excited for training camp, the New England Patriots get hit with Drug-gate.

Nick Kaczur, a starting offensive lineman, was recently arrested on drug charges and then helped federal authorities in a sting operation that led to the indictment of a supplier. So, first, a starting offensive lineman is a drug addict. As if that wasn’t' bad enough, he's a snitch, too. Remember what your mom said about tattle-tales? Apparently, Nick forgot. Bet he's really popular in the locker room right now.

Rodney Harrison, a hard-hitting safety who is the heart and soul of the defensive secondary, gets suspended for the first four games last season for having human growth hormone in his system during a drug test.

Kevin Faulk, the plucky third-down running back who always seems to make a big play when we need it, pleads guilty to marijuana possession.

What's next?

Tom Brady's at the center of an illegal prostitution ring? Bill Belichick was illegally taping plays for five years?

Nah, that's too crazy.

The next thing you'll tell me is that Tedy Bruschi had a stroke, or that Randy Moss doesn't play hard all the time.

When did my beloved Patriots turn into the 1970s Oakland Raiders? How can a team that is so good be so dirty? How can a team that prides itself on doing things the right way on the field do everything so wrong off the field? Was that ESPN series Playmakers based on the Pats - all the characters fit, by the way, except for having a homosexual wide receiver. Don't I sound like a whiny, self-righteous prick right now? Make me a bicycle, clown!

You'd think, at 31, I'd be too old to be this let-down when something in the realm of sports goes wrong. Seriously, there are much bigger fish for me to fry for this to tick me off so much.

But, that's the beautiful thing about sports. The same things that we love about sports, that make rooms a little dusty when a favorite player retires (see yours truly when the Yankees lost Don Mattingly's last game) or that cause someone to pound on their desk when their team scores a goal (BUSSMAN during any Sabres game!) are the same things that disappoint us when athletes on our favorite teams let us down.

Over the course of a six-month season, fans get attached - maybe a little too attached, sometimes, but attached nonetheless -- to teams and players. You root for them to do well. You speak in terms of we when you know better.

You get goosebumps when your guy comes through in a clutch situation during a tough year - look no further than Jason Giambi's game-winning home run in the ninth inning against Toronto on June 5 for proof of that.

Since it was an afternoon game, I had the Yahoo Gametrack up on my computer, and was e-mailing the News Gal off and on throughout the day to let her know if she should watch the replay that night while I was working. In the sixth, with the Yankees down by five runs, I told her she should just plan on watching a DVD I bought her. I got home for dinner just in time to see Giambi pinch-hitting in the ninth, and to start screaming when the ball left the yard before I called the News Gal at work to tell her to make sure she caught the ninth inning and Giambi's post-game interview on the field afterward during the YESNetwork encore later that night.

It's why the News Gal and I spent the last three days voting some 200 times a day so Giambi gets into the All-Star game -- because, the family that stuffs ballot boxes together stays together.

It wasn't always this way - for the most part, back in the golden days of sports, athletes didn't let fans down this way. But, in the age of 24-7 coverage and packs of reporters who aren't beholden to athletes for their livelihoods, these stories are bound to happen.

I'd like to think, though, that it's worth it - that the ninth-inning home runs or the perfect touchdown passes arching through the autumn sky are worth waking up to see that your starting left tackle is a druggie and a snitch, or that your coach has been cheating for the last five years.

While I ponder that, I'll let you return to As The Pats Turn….. starring the druggie, the cheater and out-of-wedlock father.

At least it's never boring, though I think I just gave ESPN a programming suggestion for ESPN2. BLAST!


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"Hey Tom, I just want to say nice pass, and I'm a snitch druggie. See you in the locker room!"