Chances are, NFL's secrets go far beyond Spygate story
By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
02/19/2008

For all the titillating and potentially embarrassing aspects of the NFL's latest scandal, for now, the ever-expanding Spygate controversy mostly has a parochial feel to it. Outside of the emotionally invested burgs of St. Louis and Boston, this is a whodunit that's already lost much of its scandalous national steam.

The 24-hour, nonstop cycle has moved on to another day, another scandal. Last week, Spygate was trampled under the overwhelming weight of Roger Clemens' stumbling and bumbling act before Congress. Even when Bill Belichick issued his nuanced denials in Monday's editions of the Boston Globe, it played second- and maybe third-fiddle to the NBA All-Star game and Andy Pettitte's televised news conference in which he publicly apologized for his use of human growth hormone.

Tomorrow, there will be another juicy story to take our eyes off of Spygate. That, no doubt, is what the NFL is counting on. They pray and hope this thing just goes away, withers and dies and takes pro football off the hook from having one of its biggest and best kept secrets exposed. Everyone cheats. Everyone flirts with a little rule bending. Everyone has a little skeleton in the closet that will prove that Belichick and the New England Patriots aren't the only ones who have done a little covert mischief over the years.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been lucky that Congress hasn't been climbing into every dark and dirty corner of his multibillion-dollar industry with the same obsessive zeal it's devoted to baseball's steroid scandal. But what happens if Congress does get interested? What happens if Sen. Arlen Specter's obsession with Spygate is contagious?

What happens if that class action suit by former St. Louis Rams special teamer Willie Gary gains momentum and grows from a silly little nuisance suit into a full-blown trial, complete with plenty of embarrassing videotapes and explosive transcripts? What happens if a long line of snitches eager to cut deals are willing to talk out of school to Congress and attorneys in this lawsuit?

We all know how this works now. We've seen enough crime shows, enough movies, enough defrocked sports figures in court to understand that the most basic instinct in everyone self-preservation has brought some very embarrassing truths into the light about our sports and our sports heroes.

It will begin with the spying, which has been going on for ages in the NFL. In the early 1980s, when the New York Jets were playing the Oakland Raiders, Jets coach Walt Michaels began cursing uncontrollably at a light fixture in the visitors' locker room, so convinced was he that Al Davis had bugged the place.

In the 1970s, George Allen employed an old security guard to patrol the woods around the Washington Redskins' training facility in suburban Virginia every day for fear that somebody was spying on him. NFL legend has it that the old coach was so paranoid about other teams spying on him because he was so adept at professional espionage himself.

Our old white-haired football eccentric, Mike Martz, built a giant screen to block the view of the Rams Park practice fields from the hotel across the street for fear that someone was over there peeking through the drapes and taking valuable notes. He once reportedly went into a rage when he discovered that a local reporter had taken up temporary residence in that same hotel during training camp, convinced he was up to no good.

The truth is, everyone in the NFL is paranoid, but that doesn't mean they don't have good reason to be. So it will begin with the spying, but it probably won't end there. When someone is forced under oath to tell the truth, how far will they be willing to go to get an immunity deal? MORE BURWELL
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Will it stop at Spygate or will someone be willing to expose the full scope of the NFL culture on the illegal lengths that some teams and individuals will go to for that extra edge? If somebody with subpoena power starts asking enough of the right questions to a few eager and properly motivated snitches, Spygate will be the least of pro football's worries. For all the shame that baseball has experienced for ignoring its rampant drug woes, only a fool would think that the NFL's underground pharmacy isn't better stocked and more heavily trafficked.