(Ed. Note: A version of this story originally appeared on Super Bowl Sunday. Naturally, there were bigger events that day ... we vaguely remember something about a great catch and an upset or something. We updated the piece in wake of current events. Generally speaking, the story proves in no uncertain terms that the sports media is filled with frauds with an agenda. Just be thankful you have the power of the Cold, Hard Football Facts on your side.)
The never-ending "Spygate" saga passes a new milestone today with the much-anticipated meeting between the Gridiron Godfather, Roger Goodell, and former Patriots employee Matt Walsh, who allegedly filmed Rams practice on behalf of New England before Super Bowl XXXVI.
The stakes are high: Walsh may have evidence that brings down the mighty Bill Belichick and perhaps the New England dynasty itself. Or it may prove much ado about nothing, which seems the most likely scenario at this point.
In either case, one element of the story remains strangely absent from the discussion. On Feb. 2, 2002, on the eve of Super Bowl XXXVI, on the very same day Walsh was allegedly filming Rams practice, the New York Times reported that somebody was seen spying on the Patriots as they prepared for the big game.
The most interesting aspect of the story? League officials themselves saw the spy, at least according to the Times story filed by Judy Battista.
The key passage from her 2002 report:
"Club and league officials (our emphasis) said a telescope was clearly visible in the window, according to a pool report, and that 15 minutes later, a person appeared at the window, and then vanished."
(You can read the report here. It was first brought to our attention by Cold, Hard Football Facts Forum member GodInAGreyHoodie. As the name indicates, this is clearly a guy with an agenda. But he was merely the messenger. We can assume Battista and the original pool reporter had no such agenda.)
Battista identified the source as a pool report, but we don't have access to that original item. But, as a pool report, it was probably published in countless newspapers and wire services around the country (if anyone has it, email it to us here).
Of course, spying on opponents, a practice older than the leather helmet, never raised eyebrows until the least popular man in football, Bill Belichick, was caught in the act.
After all, it seems that somebody was spying on the Patriots before Super Bowl XXXVI - according to no less an authority than representatives of the almighty NFL itself. This report of a spy (is it a stretch to assume it was someone acting on behalf of the Rams?) was published in major media outlets, such as The New York Times.
This act of espionage on the eve of the big game was quickly forgotten.
It seems hunting down Mike Martz is not nearly as titillating as hunting down Dr. Evil himself, Bill Belichick. Hence, no media frenzy over the spy the NFL witnessed at Patriots practice on the eve of the Super Bowl.
Any legitimate news source seeking the truth would look at all accusations of spying, especially those witnessed by NFL officials. The failure to do so tells us that these sources are nothing more than rag peddlers of pigskin conspiracies.
As far as we know, the NFL itself did not report any spies at Rams practice before Super Bowl XXXVI. Instead, those allegations, which we will probably know more about following today's meeting, came from other sources - sources the NFL would surely agree are less credible than the league itself. But the NFL did report a spy at Patriots practice before Super Bowl XXXVI.
We're not holding our breath though, folks, expecting equal treatment of these stories in the media. Obviously, that ship slipped over the horizon long ago. And we're sure as hell not expecting the NFL to demand cooperation from the Rams and levy huge fines against the organization if they were in fact cheating, as league officials seemed to indicate.
What we are expecting is more of the same: a media hurricane that breaches the levies of hackery and floods the airwaves with our mortal enemies: opinion, rumor and hype. We've already seen those forces in action for the past several months.
As Tony Kornheiser said on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" last week, "foaming at the mouth" is what sports reporters do best. Spygate is a classic example.
The bottom line is that the Patriots deserved to be punished for breaking the rules. But we know "Spygate" is a witch hunt because the media ignores the eyewitness accounts of possible spying by other teams, even when the eyewitness accounts come from no less a source than NFL officials.