Some stories just refuse to die.
Days before the NFL’s 2015 season kicked off, a federal judge vacated Roger Goodell’s suspension of Tom Brady, freeing him to play for the Patriots vs. the Steelers in the season opener. On the same day ESPN.com published a blistering story documenting the pervasive culture of cheating that Bill Belichick has woven into the fabric of the New England Patriots.
- While the story was damaging, it was clearly a case of New England losing a battle but winning a war.
Tom Brady would return to Foxborough triumphantly, lead his team to victory, and the story would finally again be about football.
- Except Bill Belichick refused to quit ahead and now we have Headsetegate.
Even before “Spygate” and “Deflategate” entered the NFL vernacular, Gillette Stadium had a reputation for being a screw place to play. Although the transcript is no longer available, when Mike Tomlin was asked about Spygate in September 2007, he confessed that it was no surprise, and that such rumors were commonly associated with “the New England family.”
- And so it was during the first half of Pittsburgh’s loss to New England that the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coaching staff found themselves listening to the Patriots radio broadcast.
Todd Haley thought he was going crazy, and asked Bruce Gradkowski to verify that he wasn’t losing his marbles. He wasn’t. Ben Roethlisberger has told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the headset issue only occurred when the Steelers offense was on the field. Mike Tomlin complained to the officials on site, and when they approached the Patriots about the problem, it mysteriously disappeared.
We know the rest of the story.
- Mike Tomlin was uncharacteristically candid in complaining about the problem.
- The Steelers however did not push a formal protest.
- The NFL has cleared the Patriots of any wrong doing, claiming the issue was caused by a stadium power issue.
Mike Tomlin has publically accepted the NFL’s verdict. Does he privately believe it? Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette doesn’t think so. The smart money says no. And there are reasons why neither Tomlin, nor Steelers Nation, nor anyone in the NFL should accept it.
A Sound Engineering Professional (and Rabid Ravens Fan) on Headsetgate
Thomas Macri has worked in the professional sound industry for over 30 years, doing everything from retails sales of professional sound equipment, to commercial sales, to sound board engineering for live events, and to producing tracks for professional musicians.
As co-owner of the firm Lienau AV Associates, Inc. knows the in’s and out’s of professional analog and digital sound as well as, if not better, than Pope Emeritus Benidict XVI knows the Catholic catechism. Macri agreed to share his professional opinion with Steel Curtain Rising on Headsetgate.
Before proceeding, there’s something else to understand about Macri. He’s not only the author’s brother-in-law, but a Rabid Ravens fan, who proudly hangs “Steelers Suck” toilet paper in his bathroom whenever fans of the Black and Gold dare to pay a visit to his home in Columbia, Maryland.
Macri, who is familiar with the procedures that NFL teams follow before games, explains that “at 4PM when they scan the stadium, and get everything where it’s supposed to be for the teams and the broadcasters, and everything is fine.”
But, Macri clarifies, the problem begins once 40,000 people arrive, all carrying cellphones, which inevitably “they then tether their phones to their iPads and tablets, effectively setting up hundreds of little networks in the stands.” Each of these networks is ripe for causing disruptions with the licensed radio frequencies in use by NFL teams.
- So theoretically, there are numerous benign explanations for Headsetgate.
“Bullshit,” is Macri’s response to the NFL’s explanation that the interference was caused by a power surge. “If you’re talking about a magnetic field generated from a power supply that interrupted the RF, then that would be an ongoing problem all the time for everyone…” explains Macri. He also points out that such a power surge would be very dangerous. Regarding the intermittent nature of the problem that the Steelers faced Macri contends, “sounds like some coordinated shenanigans more than it does coincidence.” And he clarifies, that attempting to prove or isolate the source of disruption would be like, “finding a needle in a haystack in a pile of haystacks.”
It makes perfect sense. Bill Belichick arranges this little disturbance not to disrupt the competitive balance of the game, but to thumb his nose that the rest of the world. And he does it in a way that’s hard to trace and that has at least got plausible deniability.
You can say a lot of things about Bill Belichick but you can’t deny the man is brilliant.
Tomlin Moves on From Headsetgate
In his weekly press conference, Mike Tomlin showed little interest in discussing headsetgate. He knows very well that the Steelers lost to the Patriots because he defense didn’t (and probably couldn’t) cover Rob Grownkowski, because the Antonio Brown gadget play failed, because Darrius Heyward-Bey couldn’t get both feet in bounds, and because Josh Scobee.
- Missed opportunities cost the Steelers vs. the Patriots and perfectly functioning headsets wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Tomlin prefers to focus on the future rather than make excuses for these failures and his attitude is healthy. Nonetheless, Bill Belichick’s latest escapade with HeadsetGate has been documented. He continues dabble in the Dark Arts. Even Ravens fans know it.