In any sport there are unwritten rules of etiquette for players, coaches and fans. Sports are introduced to us at a young age to teach the concepts of fair play, sportsmanship and personal character. Each player, coach and official who engages in activities that violate the ethical and moral standards of the game hurt the public’s perception of professional athletics and the game itself. But in our world where increasingly winning is everything there is little keeping all those involved in sports from lying and cheating their way to the top. The New England Patriots, with all the reports of foul play surrounding them, came close to giving the values of morality and sportsmanship the middle finger with the first undefeated season since 1972. But what the team, and the world of sports, forgot is what goes around comes around and it all came right back at the New England Patriots.
The Patriots suffered a monumental collapse in their historic season with a loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII; ending their quest for a perfect season and bid as the greatest team of all time. Sports fans, writers and commentators all have their own opinion on how the mighty fell, blaming everything from injuries to the officiating. There are as many reasons the Patriots lost as there were people watching the big game but all those reasons align to one major theme; the Karma Police finally caught up with New England.
Don't embarrass your opponent: Running up the score, making insane play calls just to show off and over-celebrating a touchdown when the score is already 52-0 is unnecessary and classless. Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the rest of the team have forgotten how to be good winners; they all need little rubber bracelets with WWLD, What Would Lombardi Do, as a reminder to take success graciously.
Remove starters in the fourth quarter when you have a commanding lead: It is not only good to remove your starters to keep them healthy and to give your second line some much needed playing time, it also allows the opposing team to survive a difficult game with their pride intact. The Patriots were penny wise and pound foolish with their starters; they broke records but with some rest they might have more hardware on their fingers.
Never call for an onside kick with a big lead: I cannot find an example of the Patriots engaging in this heinous play call, but honestly wouldn’t put it past them.
Punt: Going for it on fourth and 2 with a 38 point lead does nothing but rub salt in the wounds of players and fans alike and is unnecessarily greedy.
Always take a knee at the end of a game that is already decided: Even if you have a team that is on the verge of breaking scoring records and has the ability to score a 76 yard touchdown in the final seconds of the game it is a mark of class and maturity to take the knee if you are already pummeling your opponents.
Never steal another team's signs or plays: There are many accusations against the Patriots for taping their opponents practices and play calls. The Patriots were fined (albeit barely) for this cheating behavior and many in the league brushed off the practice as something all teams engage in and the real crime was getting caught. As our mother’s used to say if all your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you do it too? Just because “everyone does it” doesn’t make it right. To further insult fans the NFL commissioner had all evidence destroyed.
Deliver a firm and sincere handshake: Anyone who has participated in team sports knows the end of every game requires a receiving line where opposing teams congratulate each other for a “good game.” Sometimes this practice is hard but it is always done. One major complaint about the Patriots and their head coach is how they come off as pompous and arrogant during and after the game and are poor winners. After the Super Bowl Bill Belichick showed that he is a poor loser as well, walking off the field prior to the game actually ending, the most classless thing a team or coach can do at the end of the biggest game in sports.
Always remember your humble beginnings: It is amazing how quickly history is forgotten, and how often it repeats itself. It was only six years ago that the Patriots shocked the world of sports by beating the St. Louis Rams in a huge Super Bowl upset. No one gave the Patriots and their young starting quarterback Tom Brady a chance. Sound familiar?
Dress to Impress: The Karma Police are often assisted by another member of the force; The Fashion Police. If the old saying “clothes make the man” has any validity then Bill Belichick is a bum. Even with the NFL rules dictating that all attire must be from Reebok there has to be options dressier then the baggy, sleeveless sweatshirt Belichick wears week after badly dressed week. An NFL head coach is a highly paid professional and their clothes should reflect this high ranking status. Imagine if your head bosses dressed more casually then the rest of their staff. Good clothes command greater respect and managers should always dress better then their employees and the red dress hoodie he donned in the Super Bowl does not count as dressing up.
The Patriots learned how cruel the Karma Police can be in their loss to Giant underdogs. Their “perfect” season will now be remembered for the single loss that happened in the biggest game of the year, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving team.