So here comes the Washington Post this weekend, with a piece on the front of its Sports section. It seems to promise some sort of conceptual scoop, a new way to view the news of the week. Here’s the headine. “Taking Advantage: Though His Methods Were Illegal, Patriots’ Belichick Has Done Nothing More Than Carry On a Long Tradition.”

That’s a good teaser for a nice feature story on the history of Belichick-like tactics down through the history of the National Football League. For the uninitiated, Bill Belichick‘s squad, the New England Patriots, was nailed and fined last week for videotaping the signals of their opponent, the New York Jets. As it turned out, the league had been warning teams about this practice, and league sources everywhere had long been suspected espionage by the Pats.

In an attempt to contextualize Belichick’s transgressions, Postie Les Carpenter actually ends up detextualizing them. As points of comparison to Belichick’s blatant and inexcusable actions, here’s what Carpenter comes up with:

  • The Chicago Bears’ George Halas was required to send film of his team to his upcoming opponents. He regularly sent poor-quality film. Ooooo.
  • George Allen was always on the lookout for spies. What a scofflaw!
  • The Dallas Cowboys once found out that a spy was on the way to check out their operation. OMG!

Last week, everyone was saying that Belichick’s reputation suffered a hit from this episode. This week, the Post has taken the first, bold step toward rehabbing it.