When someone first told me that Baltimore Raven's Head Coach John Harbaugh said something about the Patriots and SpyGate and asterisks, I got pissed. How dare he? That bastard!
Then I looked past the inflammatory headlines, and actually heard what Harbaugh said. And it wasn't that bad. Here's the quote:
"In the end, everything is brought before the light of day, when it’s all said and done. What happens, even the thing in New England, no matter whether those things had any impact on whether they won their championships or not, they got asterisks now. It’s been stained.
"To me, it’s never worth it. You have to figure out ways to use the rules to your advantage, you have to figure out ways to make the most of everything. We have new work rules here as far as what we can do and what we can’t do with our players, and we're going to make the most of it. What we're finding is, man, maybe we can do some things even better than we did before, because these rules make us focus more on some things that we didn’t focus on before. You just have to make them work for you. That’s what success is in the world. You have to find a way to do things better than somebody else. But if you’re cheating, in the end, you’re going to get discredited. It’s not worth it."
To me, as a Patriots fan, the key words he said are "...whether those things had any impact on whether they won their championships or not..." That's a qualifying statement. That tells us that he's not belittling the Patriots' Super Bowl wins, he's not saying they should have asterisks attached to those wins. He's talking about the perception of those championships. How some people view those championships.
And he's right. Many people do not think the Patriots truly deserved to win those titles. I disagree with them, but I can't deny that such people exist.
And these people are not just the Arlen Specters of the world, not just whiny Jets fans. There are people inside the NFL too. And Harbaugh would know better than any of us what the perception of those titles are in the League.
Harbaugh was being asked about the Saints, he mentioned New England as another example of a team that cheated (yes, the Patriots cheated, breaking the rules is cheating. I don't think it affected the outcome of games, but it was a violation of the rules). All he talked about was perception. He didn't talk about how HE saw Belichick and the Patriots. He talked about how Belichick and the Pats are seen by OTHERS.
And he wasn't incorrect.