November 29, 2014

And The Band Played On

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Matt Walsh end up as a defense witness yesterday in this Lewis Carroll-esque Trial of the Century?

Yes, there were ticket scalping allegations and suggestions that a player on IR had practiced with the club, but in the end, Walsh confirmed;

  • He didn’t tape the walkthrough, he wasn’t told to tape the walkthrough, he didn’t know anybody who was told to tape the walkthrough, or anybody that did tape the walkthrough, and he hasn’t seen a tape or know anybody who claims to have one;
  • Other than the eight tapes that he produced, which only confirmed what the league already knew, he isn’t aware that the Patriots violated league policy in any other manner;
  • Even the alleged whistleblower said the tapes weren’t used during the games in which they were shot.

Overall, a pretty good day for the Patriots, right? Don’t each of these respond directly to the heart of the charges against the possibly-corrupt three-time champs?

You and I both know it doesn’t work that way.

Not with Red Light Goodell in charge. I tried to listen carefully to the substance of his remarks, which were generally reassuring for Patriots fans, but I couldn’t help but be put off by the swaggering “you wanna watch the tapes again?” after he finally took the stage. Commissioner, the point might have been to dull them with the poorly shot details, but the end result was three and a half hours of live shot speculation, most of which cast the New England Patriots in a most unfavorable light. Thanks for the final kick in the nuts on the way out the door, Rog.

And most especially it doesn’t work that way when it comes to the media, hungry for any chum, never mind chum this choice, to sustain their own existence.

I can only say you have reached a nadir when Rich Eisen, anchor for the friggin’ house network, uses the word “shocking” half a dozen times in a half hour of tape clips, one of which showed a San Diego Chargers cheerleader looking absolutely terrific. The rest showed a group of Cleveland Browns coaches that are no longer employed in the NFL, and Dave Wannstedt. Which is a big deal if you’re playing the University of Pittsburgh this fall. And speaking of Pittsburgh, there was the Steelers too, who will have to explain to me how these tapes relate to their atrocious play on special teams.

In other words, the tapes revealed exactly what the NFL had last September. Shocking!

I swear, it’s only real to these guys when they show the tape on their air. The self-absorption. Shocking!

I didn’t see this, but some message board pals reported that ESPN’s Cris Carter and Mark Schlereth – there to power with their endless hot air the Leader’s Dirigible of Discourse –  were insisting the Patriots used the tapes in the games in which they were shot both before and after Walsh claimed this was not the case. This goes to lend further credence to my theory: we have to start ignoring these people, or we’re going to lose our minds.

I guess that’s what I take away from all ‘this’, whatever you want to call it, the thing which in any name reached its bizarre crescendo with Walsh’s appearance yesterday.

It’s not over, until every last fat lady in Bristol and New York and Los Angeles and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and every other lose-to-the-Patriots city this side of San Diego sings. Which is to say, never. They will always be the Cheat-riots and he will always be Beli-cheat, from the message boards to the editorial boards, even to the stage boards of the goddam house network, evidently.

Particularly if the authors of the varied screeds have been snubbed by Belichick, or lost a playoff game to him. Now, revelations that every person who has ever tried to buy a ticket to the Super Bowl has also been a victim!

It will never be over, not even after fans arm themselves with factsheets to fight off the daily distortions of an instatiable media. It’s a noble effort by these Pats fans, driven to distraction by their team being dragged through the mud in the name of ‘entertainment’ (remember that’s what the ‘E’ in ‘ESPN’ represents), but in the end, it’s futile in a world where unreliable characters like Carter and Schelereth are highly paid to do nothing but fill 24 hours of dead air, every day.

It will never be over, no matter what Matt Walsh or Roger Goodell say. Or the disgraceful Boston Herald, which ended the day by declaring that Walsh had admitted to “spying” (their word) on the Rams walkthrough.

So much for the contrite paper seeking the team’s forgiveness, perhaps sacrificing their poison pen provocatueur at the team’s altar, in exchange for mercy in the courts. Herald, to the Pats: F*** you, as of 4 p.m. this afternoon. 

They changed it later, removing the spy references, but the point was made. It will never be over. It can’t be. It’s the only thing keeping the other side alive.

Sooner we accept that, and realize that to linger any longer with this only invites further exploitation, the better.

That goes for the Pats too, at least the front office kind. After all, their team just blew two straight championships on the last possession. They don’t have something better to do?

Don’t we all?

Comments

  1. Scott- Well done, as usual. Let me first state that you are right when you say we need to stop paying attention to the media or we will all lose our minds.

    Now that I’ve said that, let the mind-losing begin…

    Schlereth & Carter were borderline irresponsible today. On the 6pm Sportscenter, they breathlessly lead with the story and went into their typical ‘instant opinion’ mode. Schlereth said the advantge the Pats got was ‘huge’. He acknowledged that the Pats, Goodell AND Walsh (the man with the most to gain/lose from truthtelling) all said the tapes were not used in the game itself, he still detailed how it could be done (something about taping the 1st qtr., editing during the second, viewing during halftime, and then adjusting during the second half <- seriously, he said that). His reasoning for stating they were used during the game, despite the people who actaully KNOW what went on said that they weren’t, you ask? Because the Patriots are also the organization that said they ‘misinterpreted’ the rule and he thinks that’s a lie, so why should we believe them (…and Goodell and Walsh) now? Ummm… ok.

    Carter, said the advantage was SO BIG that if this were allowed, he would go back in the league right now because with the knowledge they got from these signals, he and the offense would be unstoppable. No, sadly, he did not make mention of the fact that the Patriots have only been considered a ‘great’ offense one time since 2000: this past season… you know, the season we KNOW they weren’t taping.

    One word sums this up: Uggh.

  2. Richter says:

    Here’s the letter I fired off to the ESPN Ombudswoman. I doubt any good will come of it, but it was nice to get it off my chest.

    “Let’s get something out of the way first: I am a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, so I won’t try to claim that I am totally unbiased on matters concerning the team. That said, I try to remain detached when evaluating the Patriots, and generally succeed, if the reactions of those around me are any worthwhile barometer on the matter.

    That said, I have one thing to say concerning the coverage of “Spygate” today, May 13th, otherwise known as “The Day Matt Walsh Meets The Commissioner and Arlen Specter”, and that is that I am appalled by the coverage ESPN has provided today. Now, it should be said that I’ve been disgusted at the efforts of the media in general concerning this matter today by and large as well, but ESPN earned the distinction of worst of the worst in my mind.

    Let’s start with Sal Paolantonio and his fanning of the flames. His desire to stretch this story as far as it could take him is so transparent at this point, I think I can see his dreams of a NASJA award right through it. His recent article demanding that Roger Goodell ask the “tough questions” of Matt Walsh was both devoid of any substantial thought-provoking material, and clearly accusatory towards the Commissioner prior to the meeting with Matt Walsh even taking place! One wonders what Sal thinks Roger Goodell was going to ask Walsh other than the so-called “tough” questions. Perhaps Sal was worried the current head of the NFL would solicit advice about his golf swing rather than inquire about what Walsh was asked to do, who asked him to do it and the resultant scope of his activities, as Goodell presumably did, given his statement to the media after the meeting? Mr. Paolantonio’s on-air appearances were far worse, often bordering on inflammatory, with him often spontaneously digressing into possible scenarios in which Belichick and the Patriots would be found guilty of taping the St. Louis Rams’ Superbowl walkthrough, violating the sanctity of the game of football, causing the recent spike in gas prices and crimes against humanity covered under the Geneva convention. Well, maybe not so much the last two, but the point stands.

    Other ESPN writers are hardly exempt from my scorn, the supposed investigative journalist Mike Fish chief among them, but I’m reserving my harshest words today for Mark Schlereth, and to a lesser extent, his partner in negligent grandstanding, Cris Carter, for their work on the Sportscenter special that documented the Goodell-Walsh meeting. No less than four times did Mr. Schlereth see fit to make remarkably broad claims about the veracity of the Commissioner’s statement and the subsequent conclusion about the extent of the Patriots’ taping activities (I refuse to call it illegal taping, cheating or one of the many other inaccurate terms offered by ESPN scribes) on the competitive balance of the games they competed in. Schlereth stated several times that he could not believe the tapes were not used during the games they were produced from, despite the Commissioner stating unequivocally that he did not believe they were used in such a fashion, and that Matt Walsh’s testimony corroborated that fact. The basis for his claims? Shaky, often out of focus videotape released by the league following the meeting, which was at times so difficult to make out with any detail that you’d be ashamed to show it to friends and relatives for fear they’d confiscate your camera rather than be subjected to further recordings. Tapes that, upon the most casual of observation, are clearly edited to splice together play footage with coaching signals and the game clock. Does Mr. Schlereth believe that the tapes were edited during the course of a game, then quickly deciphered by the coaching staff so they could put their new-found knowledge into practice, all while coaching from the sidelines? Those jump cuts in the footage didn’t happen by themselves, so presumably that is in fact what the former Broncos’ lineman believes, which leads me to question both his intelligence and sanity.

    Conveniently, that brings me to my second point about Mr. Schlereth. It is no coincidence I referred to him as a former member of the Denver Broncos above, because that is where the true absurdity of his commentary is revealed. Mr. Schlereth stated, in no uncertain terms, that he believed the Patriots’ actions tainted the game of football, and that their “cheating” constituted a grave and heretofore unmatched sullying of the game of football. This from a man who will readily admit he played for a team that employed vicious, season and even career-ending chop blocks to defeat their opponents, which earned them a reputation which numbered them amongst the dirtiest teams ever assembled. Still, chop blocks were at one time legal, so let us look at the other ways in which the teams Mr. Schlereth remains so proud to have been a part of skirted the rules during his tenure there. The back-to-back championship Broncos teams of 1997-98 were found guilty of salary cap violations stemming from $29 million dollars in deferred payments to players, for which they were penalized a 3rd round draft pick and fined $968,000 in 2001. When the idea of other, potentially dynastic teams circumventing the rules to gain a competitive advantage was raised to Mr. Schlereth, he made it clear that transgressions such as salary cap violations were not in the same league with the taping activities of the Patriots. This is interesting, given that the deferred payments that resulted in the penalties the Broncos suffered were made to Terrell Davis and John Elway, MVPs of Superbowls XXXII and XXXIII, respectively. In Mark Schlereth’s mind, gathering information on hand signals, an activity Commissioner Goodell himself stated was both allowed under the rules and EXPECTED by teams around the league, through taping that was admittedly disallowed under the rules by a memo in 2006, is much, much worse than circumventing the single biggest balancing factor in the competitive environment of the NFL to gain the services of players that later were instrumental in winning championships! The mind boggles at the convoluted logic Mr. Schlereth must have employed in forming such an opinion. More likely is that no logic was employed at all, and he was instead impulsively defending the teams he played for. This would be fine, if not for the outrageous, repeated condemnation of the Patriots he offered.

    But, let’s assume for a moment that the man labeled “Stink” by his teammates is correct, and stealing signals and using them to discern opponents intentions prior to the snap is in fact a far more egregious violation of the rules and the spirit of the pure, unsullied game of football than cheating the salary cap. What then, would Mr. Schlereth say, if he were informed that his coach on those Superbowl winning teams, one Mike Shanahan, freely admitted he engaged in the same activity? In 2002, Shanahan did just that to Sports Illustrated. “‘Our guy keeps a pair of binoculars on their signal-callers every game,’ says Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. ‘With any luck, we have their defensive signals figured out by halftime. Sometimes, by the end of the first quarter.'” It seems, then, that the sanctimonious attitude of Mr. Schlereth is entirely unwarranted, given that he too benefited from such practices. It seems more than a little hypocritical that Mark Schlereth could devote hours of on-air time relegating the Patriots to the ranks of the lowest, most conniving cheaters, while the teams he played are guilty of similar and, in my mind, far worse infractions of the rules. Perhaps ESPN will reconsider Mr. Schlereth’s employment someday, when he’s sufficiently exhausted his credibility. I, for one, consider his, and to a lesser extent, ESPN’s, nearly non-existent at this point.”

  3. Pat Scott says:

    Glad to read this blog, because the ESPN coverage drives me crazy. I watched the whole thing yesterday — the whole thing, not just the 6pm show. I can understand their “bias” before the facts came out. But I kept waiting to hear that they would speak more objectively after they had more information. NO. NEVER happened. Not even ONE intelligent reporter or commentator in the entire ESPN organization? ESPN has sunk so low to National Enquirer level? I read the Boston Herald apology today. Reputable sports news outlet shouldn’t have had to come down to this.

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