The NFL recently announced that it has suspended Tom Brady for four games for his “243-page, more probable than not” role in the Deflategate (AKA Ballghazi) scandal. The Patriots will also be fined $1 million and lose their first round pick in the 2016 NFL draft and their fourth round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. And so concludes yet another chapter in America’s long running love affair with gatesuffixing every scandal du jour, which originated in 1974 with two politically motivated burglaries at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, then located at the Watergate Hotel and Office Building. Ever since we have been awash in gates, or what sociologist John Thompson calls, “scandal syndrome.”
America, however, already enjoyed a deep and rich history of promoting, hawking and branding various forms of misconduct, long before Nixon’s bumbling henchmen had a chance to immeasurably disfigure the lexicon of scandal, going all the way back to our formative years as a country. Here is an abbreviated list of some of the more the noteworthy from a naming perspective:
1797 – The XYZ Affair: A confrontation between the United States and Republican France that led to an undeclared war called the Quasi-War. The name derives from the substitution of the letters X, Y and Z for the names of French diplomats in documents released by the Adams administration.
1801 – The Burr Conspiracy: U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr’s goal was to create an independent nation in the center of North America and parts of present-day Mexico.
1804 – The Pickering Affair: Federal Judge John Pickering was impeached and convicted in absentia by the U.S. Senate for drunkenness and use of profanity on the bench in spite of the fact neither act was a high crime or misdemeanor.
1831 – The Petticoat Affair: The husband of Margaret “Peggy” O’Neale was alleged to have been driven to suicide because of her affair with Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of War, John Henry Eaton.
1872 – Crédit Mobilier Scandal: The scandal involved the Union Pacific Railroad and the Crédit Mobilier of America construction company in the building of the eastern portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
1875 – Whiskey Ring: Massive corruption of Ulysses S. Grant’s administration involving whiskey taxes, bribery and kickbacks ending with 110 convictions.
1919 – Black Sox Scandal: The Chicago White Sox lost the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, and eight White Sox players were later accused of intentionally losing games in exchange for money from gamblers. The players were acquitted in court, but nevertheless, they were all banned for life from baseball.
1919 – Newport Sex Scandal: Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt initiated an investigation into allegations of “immoral conduct” (homosexuality) at the Naval base in Newport, Rhode Island. After the report, which revealed nothing, the investigators themselves were also accused of homosexuality.
1923 – The Makropulos Affair: The Makropulos Affair is a play written by Karel Čapek and first performed in 1922 at the Vinohrady Theatre in Prague.
1924 – Teapot Dome Scandal: A bribery incident that took place in the United States during the administration of President Warren G. Harding. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall had leased Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and two other locations in California to private oil companies at low rates without competitive bidding.