Whenever the subject of the New England Patriots comes up, someone will likely claim They cheated – they filmed other team’s practices!!

Did you know this is a bold-faced lie?

On the eve of Super Bowl XLII, John Tomase of the Boston Herald published a report that the New England Patriots had filmed a walk-through of the St Louis Rams prior to Super Bowl XXXVI.

Boston Herald, February 2nd, 2008:

According to a source close to the team during the 2001 season, here’s what happened. On Feb. 2, 2002, one day before the Patriots’ Super Bowl game against heavily favored St. Louis in New Orleans, the Patriots visited the Superdome for their final walkthrough.

After completing the walkthrough, they had their team picture taken and the Rams then took the field. According to the source, a member of the team’s video staff stayed behind after attending the team’s walkthrough and filmed St. Louis’ walkthrough.

At no point was he asked to identify himself or produce a press pass, the source said. The cameraman rode the media shuttle back to the hotel with news photographers when the Rams walkthrough was completed, the source said.

It’s not known what the cameraman did with the tape from there. It’s also not known if he made the recording on his own initiative or if he was instructed to make the recording by someone with the Patriots or anyone else.

That’s it. Pretty flimsy.

As the year went on, questions were raised about the accuracy of the report, and about Tomase’s reporting – using one anonymous source is not usually an acceptable practice in journalism.

An April statement from the NFL poured cold water on Tomase’s claims:

League spokesman Greg Aiello provided details yesterday of the league’s inquiry into the matter in the days following this year’s Super Bowl.

“The bottom line is, there is no evidence whatsoever that this walkthrough tape exists, to this point,” Aiello said. “We were following up on the rumors that circulated Super Bowl weekend, including the idea specifically that there was this Rams walkthrough tape, to see if there was any evidence whatsoever, and nothing was produced.”

The league investigated in early February by sending director of security Milt Ahlerich to Foxboro to interview coach Bill Belichick, vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, video coordinator Jimmy Dee and other members of the team’s video department, Aiello said. The NFL also spoke to members of the Rams video department, he said.

Aiello confirmed the league’s investigation revealed there was no power supply to the cameras on the afternoon of the Rams’ walkthrough and that the Patriots had left their battery packs at home, making their cameras inoperable from the sidelines.

That last paragraph was the kill shot. There was no power available to operate a camera.

Tomase and the Herald held out hope that former Patriots staffer Matt Walsh’s meeting with Commissioner Roger Goodell would finally provide the validation they were seeking.

It didn’t happen.

On May 14, 2008. The Boston Herald issued a front and back page apology:

herald-apology

On Feb. 2, 2008, the Boston Herald reported that a member of the New England Patriots [team stats]’ video staff taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. 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.

This has not stopped the notion that the “Patriots taped practices” from being restated as fact every single day since. Even ESPN has, on multiple occasions, referred to the Patriots taping practices, and on one occasion issued a late-night apology for the statements.

John Tomase’s career has continued, even flourished, unfettered from any disgrace or criticism regarding this incident. He kept his job, continued on the Patriots beat for another year before being promoted to the Red Sox beat – where he wanted to be all along. He was later hired as a columnist for WEEI.com.  Fellow media people love the guy, and will never say a bad thing about him, even though he is responsible for a lie that is retold every single day.

See also: A Reminder About John “Rollo” Tomase…