October 25, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

The Memphis Democrat kicked off week one of the newspapers Big Buck Club this week.

The New England Patriots by all accounts look like the team to beat in the NFL.

What in the world do those two things have to do with each other?

As the Patriots went to 7-0 on the season with a 49-28 demolition of Miami, I couldnt help but wonder why in the world they felt the need to cheat? Remember back when the season started and the team was making the headlines for the wrong reasons after coach Bill Belichick and his staff were accused of breaking the rules by videotaping the opposing teams calls from the sidelines.

The team gave the league another black eye, and for what? It all looks pretty foolish now, as the squad doesnt seem to need any illegal advantages to win. New England did not need to break the rules to achieve its goals. Instead, the franchise and the coach were nailed with huge fines and the team forfeited its #1 draft pick as well.

Well, as I was dreaming up the plans for a special deer hunting feature in the newspaper, I shied away from a big buck contest because I feared it might induce some hunters to break the rules to try and harvest the biggest deer. Trust me, we all know there is already plenty of pressure being exuded to land the trophy deer, so I didnt want to add any more temptation to bend the laws in an effort to get said big deer.

The sad thing is, most hunters that thumb their noses at the law, likely are just like the Patriots. They risk fines and penalties as well as negative publicity, and for what? Most folks that are skilled enough to take a large buck, are more than capable of doing so by the rules, if they are just patient enough. Sure that deer on the other side of the fence is tempting, just as those play signals were for the Patriots. But ask the Patriots next year around draft time if they regret that decision. Better yet, ask Belichick ($500,000 fine) and the Patriots ($250,000) if it was worth it.

Even if you dont get caught, such transgressions only cheapen your accomplishment. Call me an idealist, but if I ever get a bigger buck than my wife, I want to have it mounted and placed on the wall without having that deer looking down at me daily reminding me that I am a poacher or a trespasser.

When, and if, New England celebrates the final victory in Arizona in February, I suspect they will collectively wish the cheating episode were forgotten. Their achievement will be tarnished in many fans eyes.

Of course, winning a free taxidermist mount and capturing a Super Bowl are slightly different. Still we didnt want a competition to create problems. The goal of the Big Buck Club was to get more people to share their hunting pictures with us. We all hear stories about the big deer harvested by local hunters, so the newspaper hopes to let you see them as well.

So, Bill Belichick, if you are planning to join the club, remember it is not a contest. Every photo will be entered into a random drawing for the top prize. You dont have to harvest the biggest buck to win.

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