By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by
September 11, 2007

Top two is how they do in the NFL draft
Guregian: With eight draft picks, Bill Belichick has choice opportunity
At motocross event, Rob Gronkowski refuses to dish dirt on his football future
Justin Reid gaining renown
Rob Gronkowski continues to dodge questions about Patriots future

There's this guy I've been working with for the last twelve years or so. He's a good guy for the most part but apparently one of the more enjoyable aspects of his life is ridiculing my affiliation with either Patriots or the Red Sox when it hits the fan as it has with this whole videotaping/cheating mess.

Usually, I'm able to defend these verbal barbs with retorts like "Oh yeah, you just wait. Pete Carroll will get the Patriots back to the Super Bowl. I guarantee it." It's a cute little game that we've been at for the last dozen years. But when he comes in tomorrow morning and starts in on me, for the first time ever when it comes to the Patriots, I won't have anything to lob back over the net at him.

Over the last eight months, the Patriots have drafted a guy in the first round mostly known for stomping on an opposing player's head during an on-field brawl; then acquired known trouble in the form of Randy Moss; had a leader of the team suspended for taking illegal substances; and most alarmingly, been judged to have knowingly cheated on perhaps a number of occasions. Just how am I supposed to feel as I put on a jersey and stride into Gillette Stadium on Sunday night?

This is no time for apologist fans to rise up and proclaim a vast right wing conspiracy against the Patriots. Sure, there's plenty of piling on taking place around the League right now against the Pats. To some extent, it's payback for a few Super Bowl wins and countless victories over the last six years. More importantly amongst the other 31 teams though, this is their chance on a golden platter to settle the score for the arrogance (perceived or real) of this franchise during this period. So in the coming days, take what you hear from a "high level executive with an NFC team" with a fairly large grain of salt.

But the reality of the matter is that Patriot fans have no where to hide on this one. Make no mistake, this is damaging stuff and it won't be going away anytime soon. Followers of the team will be taunted in opposing stadiums from now until the Bruins become a Stanley Cup contender (read: a very long time). What fans have to realize is that ultimately they are boss because in the end they are the customer. They are not subservient to the Kraft Family, Bill Belichick or the "Patriot Way." For example, the $890 or so that each season ticket holder shells out every February pays--however small--for some portion of the product delivered onto the field. Realistically, no one is going to run out and cancel their season tickets over this mess. But when all of the facts of this fiasco come to light, certainly it is within their right—and I would argue perhaps even their duty--to stand up and voice their displeasure in some capacity.

Besides fans, and far more important in the long run, the fallout of this disaster hurts the players who bought into the system over the years and put in Herculean efforts to reach their collective goals. Among their peers, League observers, and fans of other teams, the perception of their body of work will now be clouded to some degree. Undoubtedly, this has to create resentment at some level amongst these prideful players against the team's management and coaching structure.

At best, this is a Distraction with a capital D before a huge game on Sunday night against San Diego. At worst, it's a powder keg that can blow up a locker room and de-rail the ride to coronation that the 2007 season was supposed to be.

Given what's been going on lately, it's getting harder and harder to slip that Patriots jersey on with pride. But the truly difficult part is that pride was the foundation that Patriot Nation had been built on over the last six years.

And just where does Patriot Nation pride hide now?