Should the Patriots get *asterisked in the record books?

It’s time for a little football blogging. Everyone knows that the Patriots were caught in sideline shenanigans during the season opener against the Jets. The Pats won that one easily, 38-14. It turned out to be one of their closer games this season so far.

But since they were caught cheating, should there be a mark of shame put in the record book on this season if they go undefeated?

I don’t think so. Say what you want about their “eff you” TDs at the ends of games, but the Patriots aren’t leaving any doubt at all that they’re the best team in the NFL right now. They’re making a very strong case that they’re the best team ever. They were caught cheating, sure, but in the first week of the season in a game that wasn’t even close (and not because of the cheating–they were caught before the game started). Does anyone out there want to make a case that they had to cheat to beat the Redskins 52-7 or the Colts in the Colts’ own house? Of the Cowboy game, we shall not speak.

But Don Shula, coach of the only NFL team to complete an undefeated season, says the asterisk may be appropriate in the Pats’ case this year.

“I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds’ home run record. I guess it will be noted that the Patriots were fined and a No.1 draft choice was taken away during that year of accomplishment. The sad thing is Tom Brady looks so good, it doesn’t look like he needs any help.”

A lot has been written about Bill Belichick’s elaborate videotaping of other team’s defensive signals since the Patriots were caught with an employee on the sidelines during the first game of the season, filming the defensive signals from the Jets’ coaching staff.

But for what it’s worth, the Patriots were never able to gain any advantage from that tape, because it was confiscated at halftime. And given that the team was severely disciplined for its behavior, it’s a relatively safe assumption that Belichick hasn’t resumed the most controversial taping program outside of the Bush administration. Which means — for those of you keeping track — the Patriots didn’t gain an unfair advantage during any of their nine wins so far this season.

Now whether Belichick and his staff may have benefited from similar tactics during New England’s three Super Bowl runs is certainly open to debate, but what the team may have done in past seasons has no bearing on what he and his players are accomplishing this season.

If this year’s Patriots go undefeated, an asterisk won’t be added to their record and it shouldn’t be. They’ll go undefeated because they were good enough to do it, week in and week out.

I respect Shula, but he sounds like a sourpuss on this.

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