|Fans at Patriots home opener criticize coach's spying|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 16 September 2007 16:15|
A New England season ticket holder since 1986, he was troubled by the hit the team's reputation had taken from its spying on New York Jets coaches that brought a severe penalty from the NFL.
``As a Patriots fan, it's embarrassing,'' said Dantone, 49, who works in computer support. ``If I wore this to another stadium, I'd have to kind of cower a little bit.''
Other fans were more charitable toward coach Bill Belichick - an extremely detail-oriented leader who was fined $500,000, the maximum allowable - after the NFL determined the team had violated league rules by using a video camera trained on the Jets sideline during the Patriots 38-14 season-opening win on Sept. 9.
A huge cheer arose from the full house when Belichick was introduced before Sunday night's home opener against the San Diego Chargers.
The usually dour coach waved once with his right hand - a rare scene captured by a camera that projected it onto the scoreboard video screen.
``It's much ado about nothing,'' said Dave Kassay, a fan in the upper level of Gillette Stadium who also wore a Patriots jersey. ``The Patriots are targeted because they are one of the top teams. I thought this was a witch hunt.''
The club was fined $250,000, although NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he didn't think owner Robert Kraft knew about the camera. The Patriots also will lose a first-round draft choice next year, if they make the playoffs as expected, or a second- and third-rounder if they don't.
``I don't think it was severe enough,'' said a Chargers fan from Washington, who was wearing a LaDainian Tomlinson jersey and identified himself only as Brian. ``They should have to forfeit a game.''
Becky Blososky, a Maryland resident wearing a Tom Brady jersey, disagreed.
``They should have been punished, but $500,000 was a little steep,'' she said. ``It shouldn't have been on just Belichick. I thought it was a consensus decision on the part of all the coaches as well as Kraft.''
There were no visible posters or other signs in the stands referring to the videotaping. Belichick and several of his players insisted during the week that their focus was on the Chargers and they wouldn't be distracted.
The Patriots scored on their seventh play from scrimmage, a 7-yard pass from Tom Brady to Benjamin Watson.
Dantone and his friend Rich Chiulli, a software engineer, said the team's reputation was hurt by the videotaping, which fans of other teams suggested might have helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls.
``Belichick's reputation is tarnished,'' Dantone said.
``Yeah,'' said Chiulli, ``but if he continues to win ...''
During the first quarter Sunday night, a fan watching the Red Sox play the New York Yankees in the first inning at Fenway Park still believed in Belichick.
``It doesn't make it OK, but Belichick just got caught,'' said Aron Tenenholtz, 34, from Attleboro. ``You still have to go out and play the game, though. He's been a phenomenal coach since he's come into the league.''
At Gillette Stadium, several fans thought other teams have used the same method to try to get an edge.
So why did Jets coach Eric Mangini, the Patriots former defensive coordinator who has had a cool relationship with Belichick, turn him in? After all, the camera was confiscated in the first quarter and Goodell said it had no impact on the outcome of the game.
``He did it to spite Belichick,'' said Jessica Carrasquillo of Cumberland, R.I. ``He would do anything to attack the dynasty. They want to do anything to make a hole in the legacy that will be there.''
AP freelance writer Bob Schron contributed to this report.