"It's not the crime that gets you... it's the cover up." - Richard Nixon, discussing Watergate
Two days later, debate still rages over who's to blame for the Lampard disaster. In the rush to blame someone, I think we're losing sight of the real crime here.
It's not that Lampard wanted to stay. It's not that Manchester City wanted to keep him once he proved worthy of it. This isn't about a player. Making it so either misunderstands or mischaracterizes the situation. It's about something much deeper, much more fundamental.
The crime is that for five months, both New York City and Manchester City straight up lied about what Lampard's situation really was. Five months, full of artifice, dissembling, deception, obfuscation, and duplicity, in the most brazen, unabashed, and insolent manner.
They lied to you as fans of the team. They lied to me, and every other member of the press. They lied, they prevaricated, and stretched the truth to a fare-thee-well.
And they thought they could get away with it.
City Football Group gave every impression that Lampard had signed with New York City, and was loaned to Manchester City. By FIFA rules, a player can't be under contract with two different clubs, so that's why everyone thought Lampard was being loaned to Manchester City. It's right there, in the website address of the announcement: "Lampard joins City on loan".
But the truth will out. It was only as Wednesday's deadline loomed that everyone started finding out the truth: Lampard was not, and had never been, a New York City player. Had Lampard not performed as well as he has, it's entirely possible we wouldn't have ever known.
The relationship between a football club, at any level, and its supporters is fundamentally based on faith and trust. Fans agree to support a club through thick and thin - to be faithful to that club, in downfall or in triumph. In return, a club keeps faith with its fans by promising to compete to the utmost of its abilities, and by signing players who make that possible. It is at once an astonishingly strong, yet fragile, bond: capable of lasting for generations, yet subject to shattering should that trust be violated.
We give the club our love, and all that we ask in return is the promise of greatness. Not even a guarantee; just a promise.
The perpetrators of this fraud - New York City, Manchester City, and City Football Group - have broken faith with the fans of New York City. Not once, not twice, but severally. They paraded Lampard before us, announced him as not just a signing, but the team's second Designated Player, and the face of the team - and it was all a lie. They thought we would be too stupid to find out.
It gets even worse, though. Now that we have a semblance of the truth - and that's all we have, truthfully - there is no remorse. No repentance. New York City fans are expected to simply shrug, and get on with their lives. Why are you so angry about this, Manchester City fans - and some others, too - say. He's just a player. A team is more than just one player. Support the badge!
Left unsaid is why that badge is worthy of support when one of its first acts is to break faith with the people it now demands that faith from; and to then show no contriteness when caught.
This isn't something that will be fixed by a signing, or two, however lavish. Why should anyone believe a damned thing they say or do, after what they perpetrated for five long months?
This breach of trust can only begin to be healed by showing remorse and regret, in the most public way possible.
It speaks volumes that, thus far, neither New York City nor Manchester City have done that. It is indicative of how little regard either have for Major League Soccer or its fans that they thought they could do this, and not get caught; and once caught, make no acknowledgement of that fact.
This cannot stand. Modern soccer may be venal, and corrupt, and driven by the pursuit of success at any cost, but it cannot be so venal and corrupt so as to mock the faith of fans and the integrity of a league's competition in such a brazen manner. For all the many crimes of Chivas USA, even they never announced the signing of a player they had not, in fact, signed.
Without fans, football is nothing, goes the saying. That is especially true of Major League Soccer. The fans of New York City deserve redress for this breach of faith.
Will they get it? In the hands of others, not their own, lies the answer.