Are the Patriots Cheaters?

There’s hope for Western civilization after all. The voting public appears ready to support politicians with ethical substance, and the betting public has likewise turned its back on the New England Patriots.

The Pats have become the NFL’s version of the Evil Empire, joining the New York Yankees and the Duke Blue Devils among the most hated teams in North American sports. An Empire because of all those championships; Evil because of the controversy surrounding Spygate, which the New York Times recently dealt with in a refreshingly intelligent manner.

The problem isn’t that the Patriots apparently stole signals from the New York Jets last September. That’s legal. The problem is that they did it effectively, using video technology to record activity on the Jets sideline for further analysis. This falls into what ethicists call a “gray area,” doing something that is technically allowable yet violates the spirit of the rules. It’s not illegal, but it’s cheating just the same.