The Boston Herald finally released an apology on Wednesday, with “Sorry Pats” & “Our Mistake” posted on the front and back cover of the newspaper.

Sorry guys, it’s really too little too late.

I really have to say that Herald reporter John Tomase made a bad decision to go to his editor with that report. To not realize what a damaging story he held in his hands which came before one of the most anticipated games in NFL history (not to mention the chance for the newspaper’s home team to finish off a perfect season) was a big mistake, especially without the necessary facts to back it up.

I understand the sensationalism that surrounds the media, as well as this type of story being a “make or break” opportunity for the career of a reporter like Mr. Tomase. I will say that all the blame can’t fall on his shoulders, as it was up to his editor to look at the facts surrounding this accusation and make an educated decision on whether or not to run the article in the first place.

Unfortunately they decided to run it anyway. And now Mr. Tomase will be forever linked to one of the biggest sports stories that will live on in infamy for fans in New England. Let’s face it, other than the controversy that took place last year and that weekend, the 2007 season will become a forgotten year due to that one loss that destroyed what could have been one of the greatest seasons in team & NFL history. Instead it’s a season that fans have already swept under the rug in hopes of having something better to remember in 2008.

For Belichick and the team, that one day must have been a complete nightmare. While the Patriots may say it had no outcome on their preparations, I’m guessing having every journalist from here to Antarctica converged in one city with that one headline to run had to have some negative effect. There are many reporters whom I’m sure have some contacts inside the organization, whether it be a player, assistant coach, or someone else. Stacy James (the team’s spokesperson) must have gotten very little sleep that weekend. I would have to believe even Bill Belichick had to deal with a lot of ill-timed phone calls and interruptions of some form that may have made his life far more difficult than it needed to be.

Yet when it was over, all of those same reporters have now all been left with egg on their face. The witch hunt for Belichick is over, and all of those same people now have nothing left to talk about after even Matt Walsh corroborated Belichick’s explanation of the team’s video useage to the commissioner during Tuesday’s meeting. It appears that Belichick indeed came clean, much to the dismay of those were looking for some new revelation to crucify him.

You can see the disappointment and frustration watching TV & listening to the media. While many of them have all been anxiously awaiting a tape of the famous “walkthrough video”, they’re all left with a “nothing new to see here”, which gives them nothing to publish. It leaves them all turning now and looking at Mr. Tomase who went from someone who gave them all a big story to run with, to a person that has embarrassed them all. But even moreso he has embarrassed his employer, which is a newspaper that is already in financial trouble.

Owner Robert Kraft, who appeared on CNBC on Wednesday, was amazingly reserved during a television appearance on CNBC on Wednesday. Mr. Kraft called the original story “very damaging” and said he was glad the Herald admitted it’s mistake.

The apology is laughable, with the paper saying, “While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed.”

“Prior to the publication of its Feb. 2, 2008, article, the Boston Herald neither possessed nor viewed a tape of the Rams’ walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI, nor did we speak to anyone who had. We should not have published the allegation in the absence of firmer verification.”

“The Boston Herald regrets the damage done to the team by publication of the allegation, and sincerely apologizes to its readers and to the New England Patriots’ owners, players, employees and fans for our error.”

Sorry guys. You don’t get to say “Oops” on something like this.

Many wonder now if the Patriots will sue the newspaper in light of this apology. I would have to believe that someone high up within the newspaper would have had to have made a personal phone call to Mr. Kraft since it’s hard for me to believe that just running a published apology on an accusation of that magnitude would be enough. It would have been fun to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. I mean the team suffered a major hit to its’ reputation which was coupled with a loss that likely cost them millions upon millions of dollars in merchandising. Quite honestly the question of whether or not they have enough to successfully succeed in a lawsuit is hard to say. Considering the reported current financial state of the newspaper, even if they did win it would probably be like trying to get blood from a rock.

Personally, I really don’t expect to see the team pursue any legal recourse. I’m sure Mr. Kraft knows that a lawsuit like that would only draw more attention to an issue that I’m sure he’s ready to see finally go away. If nothing else there are some who have poked fun at the notion of cutting the Herald reporters off completely from media access to Gillette and the team altogether. After all, they snubbed ESPN during the NFL Draft…wouldn’t they do the same to a publication that caused them great angst?

Time will tell. But at least the madness appears to be over. But the damage has been done, and it’s going to take more than a “Sorry Pats” to make up for it.