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Eli Manning Involved in Fake Merchandise Scheme

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

This is a Patriots blog. It’s Thursday evening. So why am I writing an article about Eli Manning and the New York Giants?

Well that’s easy: because we’re Patriots fans, and it always has to be about us. We kind of have a monopoly on nonsense scandals around here. Plus, we never miss the opportunity to ensure that everyone else finds us completely insufferable by immediately pointing out league and fan hypocrisy before the ink on stories like this latest one have even dried. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t put a New England spin on all of this and give people plenty of “cue the Pats fans!” fodder. So it’s with no small sense of pride that I unpack this latest from Big Blue.

You probably don’t remember, as everyone was busy freaking out over under-inflated footballs at the time, but Eli Manning and the New York Giants were sued in 2014 for distributing phony “game-worn” gear. Allegedly, one piece of said gear is even currently sitting in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: the helmet worn by Manning during the 2007 Super Bowl. Whether that’s true or not is still up in the air, but nothing really came out of it at the time; as with most trivial, meaningless stories that nobody actually cares about, it was buried in the news cycles and everyone moved on.

Until now, that is.

According to the New York Post, there is now “proof” that Manning was in on the whole scheme. Several emails were obtained of Manning asking the team’s equipment manager to procure “helmets that can pass as game used.” The emails were allegedly sent from his old AOL account - a detail I find incredibly fitting for some reason.

The legal filing also states that the Giants, when originally asked, failed to produce the emails, despite the fact that “they claim to have no document destruction policy.”

Now as we all know, there is no crime in the NFL worse than failing to fully and completely cooperate with the league. If you aren’t turning over all cell phones, correspondences, backup hard drives, old report cards, and baby pictures to the suits over on Park Avenue, it represents nothing shy of a flagrant, arrogant, disgusting slap in the face of all authority and blatant disregard for the CBA that the Players Union so carefully negotiated. After all, it isn’t so much the infraction itself that’s such a big deal - it’s the denying it and completely covering it up that matters most.

I’d also be curious as to whether selling fake gear and duping the folks in Canton into thinking they have a helmet from one of the greatest upsets in professional sports history falls under the umbrella of “violating the integrity of the game.” Your guess is as good as mine on that one.

I’m not passing judgment. I’m going to extend Eli Manning the courtesy that Tom Brady did not get and see if any more facts come to light here. The New York Post isn’t the most credible media outlet, and there may be a whole bunch of other stuff going on here that we don’t know about yet. Furthermore, we have the following from Eli’s lawyers:

“The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday.”

Email? Taken out of context? Looking to smear a quarterback’s name in order to cash in? Man, I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before...

What we seem to have here is a multi-Super Bowl winning quarterback allegedly in cahoots with a low-level equipment manager, exchanging texts and emails, purportedly in a scheme to make a few bucks selling fake equipment to memorabilia collectors. Who knows if any of this is even remotely true, and who cares. But I’ll just go ahead and say what we’re all thinking: if this is the Patriots, it’s national news. It’s the leadoff story on CNN and NBC, bumping Syria and United Airlines to the backburner. This would represent such a disgusting display of cheating and underhandedness that fans would literally be calling for the dissolution of the franchise. I mean first there was Walkie-Talkie Gate, and now this? How many more examples of shady activity do you need before you finally pull your head out of the sand and realize that Eli Manning’s rings are forever tainted? Bust out the asterisks, folks.

But how does selling fake memorabilia give you a competitive advantage, you ask? Why does that even matter? Rules are rules, and if you break the rules and cover it up you’re a cheater and you deserve to be suspended and you have to lose all your draft picks and you have to get fined all the dollars and everyone will hate you. That’s the way it works.

But it’s not the Patriots. It’s the team that has kept Tom Brady from being a perfect 7-0 in Super Bowls. The Giants are the anti-Patriots in that respect. Nobody is going to care about this. It seems like a pretty crappy thing to do, to be honest - the Giants are directly messing with some people’s livelihoods by doing what they did, and a lot of folks are very proud of their collections of sports memorabilia, all for what ultimately amounted to a few pennies - but again, it might all be false. I don’t want to come across as accusatory by any means. It’s just yet another annoying, obnoxious reminder from an annoying, obnoxious Patriots fan that there is one set of rules for the 31 teams in the National Football League, and one set of rules for New England. The Patriots are held to a different standard, and that’s just the way it is. To make the case that the Patriots don’t deserve any benefit of the doubt due to a long-standing culture of breaking the rules simply doesn’t hold water, as several teams have now been caught several times doing things they shouldn’t be doing and punishment has been minimal at worst.

Let’s also keep in mind that, somewhat lost in the furor over PSI and incorrect information leaks that was Deflategate, people were completely livid to find out that Brady had signed a few things that were later on sold by the equipment guys, as if it was some kind of bribe for their silence. People were livid over actual in-game memorabilia that Brady signed. But it’s nothing to see here, move it along.

If the league punishes the Giants - and that might be a big if - I sincerely hope that they do so correctly and fairly, only passing judgment after the facts have been gathered and evidence weighed. And if punishment is meted out, I hope it reflects the crime - which is just some shady activity by a bona-fide doofus who somehow inexplicably managed to beat the greatest quarterback of all time twice when it mattered most. I mean every word of that - just because New England got screwed, that doesn’t mean I want the same for everybody else. I’d just like a little bit of acknowledgment that the hypocrisy of the NFL, and the perception of the Patriots, has once again reared its ugly head, and the main reason that people jump so hard on New England when something goes wrong is because it’s fun. Hating the Patriots is enjoyable, and milking cheating narratives adds to that enjoyment. Nobody actually cared about Deflategate, they cared about getting to hold one over on the Patriots and justifying why New England wins all the time. Get off your high horse, admit that there’s money and pageviews in being anti-New England, and get on with your life.

Stay tuned for more updates as they come in. But who knows, maybe that’s the last we’ll hear of this whole thing. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to the upcoming press conference where a reporter asks Eli Manning to look into the camera and say something to all of the children who look up to him who now how to live their lives knowing that they were swindled by their hero.