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For record, punishment needs to send clear signal to Patriots

The local forecast doesn’t change much today. Hot. Clear skies. Temperatures close enough to double digits that you can again park your car in the sun and not worry about being rushed to the nearest burn center for touching your steering wheel.

It’s a lot gloomier in Massachusetts, where the NFL’s most dominating franchise in the last six years apparently has been found guilty of breaking league rules that prohibit taping an opponent’s signals on the sideline during games.

It’s not the deliberately unethical act I find most surprising about the Patriots going Oliver Stone on the Jets and possibly others in recent seasons. Sports have been touched by dishonest ways for thousands of years, ever since Pelops replaced those metal wheels of King Oenomaus’ chariot with wax in stifling heat and the old geezer was thrown from his ride and dragged to his death.

The Olympic Games were born, and Pelops got the girl by cheating to gain a competitive advantage. It’s an old but popular method, only now the wax is HGH and the girl is a multiyear contract worth millions of dollars, which in turn gets you the girl.

The discouraging thing about New England’s voyage into the dark side of deceit is that the Patriots apparently have traveled there before and weren’t smart enough to stay away. In other words, we now have tangible evidence Bill Belichick is not only a marvelous coach and bona fide creep but also somewhat of a dimly lit bulb in the world of underhanded trickery.

Green Bay officials removed the same crooked Patriots cameraman from Lambeau Field in November. (Note to that genius, who is reportedly video assistant Matt Estrella: If you’re going to cheat, at least wear the proper sideline credentials so as not to stand out among legitimate photographers.)

The league is also investigating possible violations into the number of radio frequencies New England used during Sunday’s game, though I suspect any covert communication about New York’s pathetic defense didn’t rival the importance of such messages as, “Come at once … SOS Titanic sinking by the head.”

“If you’re not cheatin’, you’re not trying,’ ” Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson told reporters in San Diego on Monday as his team began preparations to meet the Patriots in Foxborough this week. “I mean, I think that’s the way (New England) lives. You keep hearing the different stories of people complaining about stuff that they do. So I’m not surprised. There are just different things that happen you keep hearing about. Anything for an edge.”

In this case, the punishment should rival the crime. It is believed New England could be docked multiple draft choices for the spying violation, a reprimand that would have teeth only if the picks come from the first two rounds. Any monetary fine would be laughable, given your average NFL team is worth more than Afghanistan.

My proposal: For an organization that had been warned about such garbage, the Patriots should not be allowed to use any game film from the press box area or stadium/end zone views that all NFL teams evaluate off for the next seven weeks, which would mean half this season.

In addition, all assistant coaches during that time must vacate the press box during games and work from the sidelines, unquestionably the worst view you can own when trying to assess why certain schemes and plays and alignments aren’t working.

It is the type of discipline that would cause Belichick to detonate a few neck veins while nearly choking himself with the strings from that God-awful sweatshirt, but you can be assured the illegal taping would stop and that rogue holding the camera would meet the unpleasant fate of termination or something much worse, such as being assigned as Belichick’s personal assistant.

New England wins bunches of games and annually contends for the Super Bowl because of excellent coaching and talented players, not signals lifted from any tape. Tom Brady hasn’t crafted a Hall of Fame career at quarterback because he knows when a Jets defensive coach scratches his nose and waves his right hand twice, a certain blitz is coming.

But don’t confuse what the Patriots have done with any form of gamesmanship. It’s purposeful cheating and should be dealt with seriously by the league office. Make things hard on them. Limit their videotape angles and press box views for half the season.

It’s just a good thing we’re more civilized today than when Pelops roamed ancient Greece. Back then, they would nail the skulls of cheaters to palace gates.

That would be a bad look for Belichick.

You just know the guy would be frowning.

Ed Graney’s column is published Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. He can be reached at 383-4618 or egraney@reviewjournal.com.

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