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Is Spygate still a relevant discussion?

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I hesitate to write about Spygate because I feel like I'm simply feeding the wheel, providing extraordinary measures when there's already a DNR in place.  However, going through Marima's links this morning, one story in particular grabbed my attention: Tim Graham's AFC East mailbag.  The following question and response caught my eye:

Jamal from Facebook is sick of all the Patriots haters -- obviously fixated on Spygate as the excuse for everything the club has accomplished -- who post in the comments section under the AFC East blog posts.

I wholeheartedly agree, Jamal. Some fans will latch onto anything that helps them justify why their favorite teams haven't had the same success. Officiating conspiracies are good for that, too.

I kept an open mind about the Spygate saga as it developed, but I've spoken to more than enough intelligent football people about it. I'm convinced the benefits of the verboten video were overblown.

ESPN analyst Herm Edwards is one of the discerning minds I've asked about it. Edwards, then the New York Jets' head coach, was so unimpressed he was captured waving to the Patriots' camera in one of the illegal tapes from 2004.

"If you're naïve to believe that helped him win a Super Bowl," Edwards said last week, "you're kidding yourself. I don't believe that."

The key here is fan and intelligent football people.  As Graham states, in the face of overwhelming evidence during a fan interaction, a rivals "trump" card is, "Well, the Patriots cheated and deserve an asterisk next to everything they've done."  Uhhmm...ok.  However, if you look through statements like that of Herm Edwards', you will find intelligent football people saying it didn't make a difference, that it's ludicrous to think Belichick and his players benefitted enough from taping to win Super Bowls.  So, if football people don't think it made a difference, who does?

Again, I give you the rival fan.  I've had enough conversations about this that they're almost scripted:

Me: four trips to the Super Bowl in eight seasons, three rings, record breaking 2007 season, lose starting QB in 2008 along with many other starters and almost take the division.

Rival: Oh Yeah?!?!  Well, Belichick cheated so there's an asterisk next to everything.  That's the only way he can win.

Me: What about 2007?

Rival: Yeah, but you LOST the Super Bowl!!!! PWNED CHEATERS!!

Me: Ok, this is going to be a two part answer, so try to keep up.  a) How many teams made it to the Super Bowl and b) was your team one of them?

Rival: Uhhmm...yeah but Spygate...

Me: (cue Jeopardy music) I'm waiting...

Rival: (Now drooling, sputtering about how his maternal grandfather wouldn't give him a root beer barrel when he was three).

Me: Is that all you got?  Spygate?!?!  I feel like I'm in a fight with an unarmed man.

In the face of overwhelming evidence from people who REALLY know what they're talking about, rival fans still cling to this last desperate argument to justify why their team is simply not as good as the Patriots.  It's weak and lazy.  And it's a conversation ender.  If a rival fan is not willing to move past this weak excuse for the Patriots' dominance, there's not much more that can be discussed.

So, given intelligent football people have dismissed Spygate as the reason for the Patriots' success, is this largely a fan driven controversy?  Does the media play a part in it, too?  What do the Patriots have to do to prove, without a doubt, they are the best football team of this decade?