The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Separation of sport and state

Lyssa Beyer

Not only did the New England Patriots’ season end on Feb. 3 at the Super Bowl while on the cusp of perfection, but their past achievements are being questioned as well. The Patriots dream to become the first team to go undefeated, 19-0, throughout an entire season, ended after falling to the New York Giants, 17-14. After 1,139 minutes of perfect football, the Patriots’ hopes and dreams were ruined approximately 30 seconds before they would have become reality. Now, their successes in previous seasons are coming under fire. The “Spygate” scandal from the first weeks of the season has resurfaced and the Patriots, as well as the National Football League, could face legal ramifications.

Congress is going to investigate the “Spygate” taping scandal and determine whether or not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s destroying of the infamous tapes was legal. Congress has already intervened into Major League Baseball and is helping put an end to the steroid era. The “Spygate” scandal will probably be resolved and the NFL will be better off thanks to the decisions that Congress will make. However, should Congress be concerned with professional sports instead of issues affecting the entire country? With such pressing matters as the war in Iraq and the nation’s struggling economy, our government should not be spending its time and money trying to correct the wrongs within our national sports.

In their week one victory over the New York Jets, the Patriots were caught videotaping the Jets’ defensive signals. Knowing the signals of the opposing team would give a team a huge advantage; but the Patriots in all likelihood had not had a chance to decipher the signals and use them to their advantage during the game. The information obtained in the tapes probably would have been used for the rematch the teams would have later in the season.

Even if the Patriots had not yet gained a competitive edge in the game against the Jets, the NFL still levied a strict punishment to the Patriots and their coach, Bill Belichick. The Patriots were forced to forfeit their first round draft pick, as well as fined $250,000; Belichick was fined $500,000 as well. The tapes were confiscated by the NFL and eventually destroyed.

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As the weeks passed and the Patriots continued to dominate, the “Spygate” scandal began to fade away. In the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, reports began surfacing that the Patriots taped the St. Louis Rams’ practice before Super Bowl XXXVI, which the Patriots won 20-17. These accusations are the cause for Congress’ recent involvement in the NFL. Congress will question Goodell in regards to his destruction of the tapes obtained from the Patriots without allowing the media or others to review them.

This is not the first time Congress has intervened with professional sports. Major League Baseball and Congress have been enthralled in the ongoing steroid controversy. It was not until the mid-2000s that MLB developed a steroid testing policy worth noting. For years, players had been “juicing” despite the fact that the government had deemed steroids illegal. Steroids are taken to help build muscles and decrease recovery time for pitchers following strenuous performances. As stats synonymous with power and longevity such as home runs, hits, and saves began to boom to record levels, suspicion began to grow. Home runs were flying out of the ballparks at alarming rates, and more and more pitchers continued pitching at effective levels well into their 40s, an age at which most players normally retire. Congress, however, applied pressure on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who then helped create better tests for steroids and increased punishments for players caught using the banned substances.

The pressure Congress applied on MLB has ultimately helped make great strides towards a clean league; however, should Congress be worried about whether or not baseball players are taking steroids or if football teams are deciphering signals of opposing teams to gain a competitive advantage? No, they should not.

Congress has the right to do what they have done and will continue to do it in the future in regards to MLB, the NFL, and other sports, but that is not the question. Why should Congress be allocating time and resources to sports controversies when there are issues that are much more important to the well-being of this country? We are fighting a war, there are numerous other controversies and scandals involving the government, and the U.S. dollar is falling behind more and more countries. Congress should focus their energy on bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, or at least providing them with better equipment.

It’s baffling to think Congress is more concerned with whether or not Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens took steroids than whether or not President George W. Bush and his administration violated laws when placing taps on the phones of countless numbers of citizens’ phones to allow them to eavesdrop into their conversations; however, the speed at which charges are being made and actions are being taken would lead one to believe those are Congress’ priorities. If the accusations are true, and the Patriots have been cheating for years, should that be more important than the health and welfare of our troops, or legality of actions taken by members of the government? No. I would rather live in a country with corrupt professional sports than one with a corrupt government.

Congressmen may be so concerned with being re-elected that they take action on these less-worthy topics because they know they will receive publicity for doing so. Publicity leads to greater name recognition which, in turn, plays a big role in getting re-elected.

Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Democracy is the reason this country is great, but it is also the reason that important issues may be overlooked for more popular ones.

Gourdoux is a freshman French and print journalism major and sports editor of The Spectator.

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Separation of sport and state