Steelers Go All-In X-Files, But Is the Truth Really So Far Out There?

The Associated Press

Bill Belichick is in his opponents’ heads. Is he in their headsets, too?

Despite the NFL claiming responsibility for providing coaches’ communications devices, and blaming the weather (Isn’t it always Mother Nature’s fault in Foxboro?) for malfunctions during last night’s season opener, the Pittsburgh Steelers took to the team website (the internet serving as a natural incubator of conspiracy theories) to extend the argument made by head coach Mike Tomlin after the game.

“This is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time,” contends an article at “From the start of the game through the opening 14 minutes of the first quarter, the Steelers’ coaches’ headsets were receiving the Patriots Radio Network broadcast of the game.”

It’s this dark-side-of-the-force magic that causes the hooded one’s enemies to dub him Emperor Palpatine. But Belichick more seamlessly plays the part of the Smoking Man. The truth is out there.

Certainly, the Pittsburgh Steelers launched into Fox Mulder mode immediately after their 28-21 loss. “That’s always the case,” a frustrated head coach Mike Tomlin said of problems in Gillette Stadium. When an interlocutor called this “a very serious thing that you’re indicating,” Tomlin impersonated an at-wit’s-end Agent Mulder pleading the truth of the conspiracy to Assistant Director Skinner: “I’m not indicating nothing. I’m telling you what happened.”

Someone on Toucher and Rich made the X-Files analogy this morning. And since the FM in the a.m. program airs on 98.5 The Sports Hub, the mothership of the Patriots Radio Network that obnoxiously blared in the ears of Mike Tomlin, perhaps this, too, plays as part of the conspiracy. NBC, the television broadcaster, reported the technical difficulties in real time, claiming the problems resulted in the NFL forcing both sides to lose devices until the resolution of the problem. But the Steelers maintain this did not happen.

The team’s official site holds, “The broadcast was so loud that the Steelers coaches were unable to communicate, and the NFL rule is that if one team’s headsets are not working the other team is supposed to be forced to take their headsets off. It’s what the NFL calls the Equity Rule. Strangely enough, whenever an NFL representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers headsets cleared. Then as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers’ headsets again started to receive the Patriots game broadcast.”

Did 25 million Americans watch football from Foxboro or science fiction from The Twilight Zone?

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, Gillette Stadium!

Conspiracy theories tell us about conspiracy theorists, not the events they attempt to explain. Leftists don’t like that a Communist killed the president of the United States. So, they indulge in a collective delusion that the CIA or Texas oilmen or the mafia or all three murdered John Kennedy. Muslims didn’t like their coreligionists cast as the villains on 9/11. So, conspiracy theories emerged, and endure, that “the Jews” (Which Jews? The Jews) did it. Seeing your kicker miss two gimme field goals, your defense attempt to stop Tom Brady with ten men on the field, and your offense fail to punch it in after a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line all pains deeply. Feels better to blame Belichick.

Like conspiracy theorists, fans construct a reality that predetermines heroes and villains. And in Foxboro, it’s In Bill We Trust. There, Spygate, Deflategate, and words not yet prefixing “gate” serve as proof of an NFL out to get its most successful franchise, not that the franchise succeeds through means fair and foul. Unexplained phenomena of the distant past, like the Tuck Rule Game or a prisoner on work release plowing green space amid the white stuff for the kicker to win the game, proudly remain part of the local lore. In a conversation with a fan, like in a conversation with a conspiracy theorist, reason rarely sticks around past the pleasantries.

The fans (short for fanatic) and the conspiracy theorists won’t get to the truth of the matter. The NFL needs an investigator with independence, a paragon of integrity, a man of intellect—the league needs…Ted Wells? Okay. So maybe calling in Art Bell, Alex Jones, and Jesse Ventura to solve this doesn’t sound like such bad idea, after all. Start by looking at the grainy pictures of those guys on the grassy knoll wearing Julian Edelman jerseys and large antennae. Maybe the Illuminati or the Bilderbergers ordered it. Or perhaps a rainy Gillette Stadium just suffered a fluke communications breakdown—again.

Last night’s snafu comes on the heels of both Sports Illustrated and ESPN pushing allegations (one anonymous source even accused the team of serving warm Gatorade) that the Patriots engage in gamesmanship that violates both customs of sportsmanship and promulgated rules. But the Smoking Man, er, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick contends that technical glitches plagued both teams.

“We had a lot of problems,” Belichick insisted. “We had to switch headphones a couple of times. The communications system wasn’t very good.”

Should the Steelers believe Belichick? The Smoking Man, or at least his lighter, holds a strong opinion on that question.

Trust no one.


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