October 21, 2014

That Was A Close One

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

I admit, they almost had me.

I had gone more than three months without writing about You Know What-Gate, choosing instead to amuse myself with talk of the free agent and draft markets, and the question of how in the world the Patriots will be able to come back from blowing a perfect season in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl.

Until this week.

It started (relatively) innocently enough on Tuesday, when former video assistant Matt Walsh finally appeared at the NFL offices to tell the league what he knows about Bill Belichick’s taping practices. As editor of PD (I won a coin flip), I felt we had little choice but to acknowledge the much anticipated event.

So I did, and I’m now here to tell you that I should have left it at that.

I didn’t. One Spygate post led to another to another this week, and before I knew it, I was at full boil. It was as if it was September 10, 2007 all over again.

Just as the Vast Wing Nut Conspiracy had hoped.

Football coaches trying to steal signals from other football coaches isn’t nearly the threat to our sporting lives as is the corrosive element that duplicitously claims to be our advocate. When the objective history of this entire ridiculous episode is finally, mercifully written, it will reveal that the so-called advocates cynically arrived first at their desired conclusion and then worked backwards, not for the public’s good, but for their own.

Now they feign weariness of the whole subject while stoking the flames for further punishment. Further clicks, further eyeballs, further sales, further profits. Until further notice.

Now they presume to define for us what Bill Belichick did to us. Us! We’re victims! He put us on the defensive FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES!

Putting aside the overwrought drama for a minute: on the defensive against what? Well, what sportswriters think, for one.

Isn’t it interesting how this accomplishes the dual purpose of keeping them front and center at a time when consumers are finding fewer and fewer reasons to look their way?

If Spygate dies, a little part of them – their wallet, specifically – dies too.

I can hear it now – “oh, sure, it’s all the media’s fault!”

That seems like a mighty convenient way of excusing them from any responsibility whatsoever.

I can’t do that. Because this week reminded me that only one party in this sordid affair stands to benefit from its extension, and they’ll do anything, say anything, go anywhere to make it so.

They’ll keep their corrupt carousel grinding, hoping you’ll feel compelled to ride, as they lurk within the trojan horses they’ve sent spinning round and round, contemptuously leveraging the public’s notion of a Fourth Estate to mask the reality of their craven entitlements.

So this is where Patriots Daily gets off.

None of us came to this game and this team because of a reporter or a columnist. My mother and father brought me, and I bet yours did too. Or your brother or sister or uncle or cousin. Or your friends. They brought you, not to listen to self-serving pontification but to watch football, a gloriously interesting game, especially with repeated viewing. They brought you not to assume a faux dispassionate arms length pose to conceal selfish resentments, but for you to make the same emotional connection they had made, with a team that by its very geography had come to represent something in all of them.

Along the way, you may have discovered that the reporter and columnist could be a helpful guide as you learned more about this experience. And it is indeed affirming to know that a precious few still exist, and they continue to provide that service for a fair and honorable price. Good morning, Mike Reiss, Shalise Manza Young, Karen Guregian, Doug Flynn, Eric McHugh, Chris Price, and you others who still value honesty and integrity in your work, and who by your actions humbly acknowledge and respect the responsibilities your public positions still bear.

As to your less-admirable colleagues, the miserable squirrels who number their co-workers reputations in the mounting body count brought about by their avaricious scramble for every last remaining nut, two words.

Be gone.

At least here, on these pages. And hopefully, in your homes, your cars, your pc’s. Give their words and their deeds the weight they deserve, which is to say none. Show them every bit as much respect as they’re showing you. Which is to say none.
 
To do otherwise would be to invite further abuse. There’s only one way to end Spygate.

By not taking their bait.   

So I’ll try to do that here, by turning my attention permanently away from the sideshow and back towards the real show. In fairness, I’ve had the floor plenty over the last week, and if one of our writers finds they have a parting shot at this cruel carnival, it’s only right that I give them their chance.

But once that’s over, we’re moving on. On to what brought us here in the first place. Professional football, and our local team.

I’m having this conversation with you now to make sure that you hold me, and all the rest of us, accountable for doing just that.

Comments

  1. Looky Lou says:

    My last words on you-know-what…MUCH ADO ABOUT KNOTHING…oh, and these words from SCOUTS INC.

    Spygate tapes simply streamlined the scouting process
    By Scouts Inc.

    Updated: May 13, 2008

    Trying to steal signals is nothing new in the NFL. All teams have advance scouts who watch and log opponents’ personnel groupings and record the signals they see from the sideline. The Patriots, however, took things to another level with their videotaping of opposing coaches.

    The speed of the game makes it hard for a scout to pay attention to everything going on, and between personnel, formations, play calls, special-teams alignments and sub packages on both offense and defense, a scout has no chance of getting everything about every play down on paper. Having all that information on video would certainly make it easier to connect the dots and compare notes.
    In the video released by the NFL, it is apparent that Matt Walsh’s taping skills improved with time. In the earliest videotape handed over (Patriots-Dolphins in September 2000), Walsh focused only on the coach who sent in the personnel grouping, but that alone wouldn’t have offered any extra advantage because an advance scout can do the same thing with pen and paper. In 2001, though, Walsh was able to film home games against Buffalo and Cleveland from an end-zone view that allowed him to first show field position, followed by down and distance, then defensive signals and finally the actual play. Having that information in sequence on one tape certainly makes it easier to connect the dots between everything that’s happening.

    However, these videotapes likely were not used to make in-game adjustments because there simply is not enough time during game action and a 12-minute halftime to decipher and decode what those tapes contain. At halftime coaches and personnel staff are barely able to get a drink, use the restroom and relay to players the most basic things they saw in the first half, before the team heads back onto the field. Where the advantage lies is in the time it takes to prepare for the next game against the particular opponent being filmed: What would normally require watching and splicing hours of tape was already done in one fell swoop during a previous game.

    If Scouts Inc. were running the scouting department of an NFL team, this kind of video would allow us to chart tendencies, personnel variations and play calls in a shorter time. Answers to questions about the opposing team would appear more quickly. What’s important to remember, though, is that teams eventually glean this kind of information from film study anyway: The video in question would simply be a shortcut in a process that is already under way. There is an advantage, but it is minimal.
    And based on what the league released, there seems to be little X’s-and-O’s information that would tip the scales unfairly. Again, going only on what is seen in the Walsh tapes, it is doubtful Scouts Inc. would be able to give our team information that advance scouts had not already provided. For example, if a team shows a two-deep pass coverage in its pre-snap defensive look, the inclination for the offense is to audible out of a pass into a run. There is the chance that one safety will cheat to the line at the last second, but that is something advance scouting and previous film study of the opponent against other teams would already have revealed. Therefore, this kind of video would not be essential to revealing that disguised coverage.

    The tape Walsh made of Cleveland in 2001 is the highest-quality segment we saw, and even that video would afford a group of scouts only a small advantage. They might be able to identify when a particular zone-fire or coverage is coming and check off at the line, but again, that is something that would have been apparent anyway thanks to the kind of due diligence NFL teams employ when preparing for opponents. The advantage is even slighter when talking about division rivals because the Patriots and every other team have two chances per season to study and chart each team in their division.

    We don’t know for sure whether more tapes ever existed in New England, or how these tapes were broken down and used. But after reviewing the material released by the league, this much is clear: We saw nothing in that video that would allow us as a scouting department to provide a team with an unfair advantage over an opponent.

    Yes, preparation time was reduced and film study was streamlined, but not in a way that single-handedly turned the Patriots into one of the premier teams in the league. In the end, the Patriots’ success comes down to having better players who make full use of the information provided to them.

    Scouts Inc. analysts Jeremy Green, Keith Kidd, Doug Kretz, Ken Moll and Matt Williamson all contributed to this story

  2. Al Bundy says:

    “Now they feign weariness of the whole subject while stoking the flames for further punishment. Further clicks, further eyeballs, further sales, further profits. Until further notice.”

    Bingo.

  3. Looky Lou says:

    and by the way Scott, that was one FANTASTIC read, GREAT JOB!…I posted it over on the PATRIOTS.COM board ( giving you and PATRIOTS DAILY full credit of course)..the more people that read that, the better

  4. Reading that, I feel the contempt.

  5. Pat Scott says:

    People react and overreact. That’s just what they do. Let’s say 50 years from now, the Patriots have won 26 Super Bowl championships (don’t ask me why 26). What will we, the supposed victims, be defending about? “Don’t tell us we only won 23; we won all 26″? Come on! So I totally agree. Let’s move on. Go Pats!

  6. David Clemeno says:

    Hey Benson: Home. Effing. Run.

    The thing that really puzzles me about this whole public lynching of BB is: what on earth could BB have done to elicit this degree of outrage? He makes the media’s job difficult. Ok, agreed. So what? It’s been proven that if you do your job in a professional, non-biased manner, BB opens up. Are these media jackholes THAT thin-skinned, THAT petty, THAT self-entitled, THAT insecure? It boggles my mind that people can actually be this vindictive, especially over something as trivial as sports. They must really like the taste of their own bile.

  7. Looky Lou says:

    It’s sort of ironic really…Tony Mass and others in the media just LOVE calling the fans names (get-a-lifers, rumpswabs,etc..etc..) Yet THEY make their livings off of sports, and THEY are the ones who act like sports are life and death. I think they REALLY believe fans jump off the Tobin after a tough loss…..ironic indeed

  8. Scott, this is awesome.

    I think the best part of the column is that you’ve already accurately predicted that the media will soon resort to their standard fallback position when all else fails, “oh yeah, blame US for all this, like we’re to blame”.

    It’s a standard media ploy that they trot out whenever they start catching too much heat from the public for their own professional misconduct and malpractice.

    Is it any wonder why “journalist” ranks just below “baby seal clubber” on the list of least-favorite professions as far as the public are concerned?

  9. Thanks Scott. Realized a long time ago what a waste it was to give any of those miserable tools any of my time. May is the month when fans should be thinking that 7th round draft choice is going to make the HOF, hoping Mayo agrees to a fair contract without holding out. Instead we get SHOCK without anything new except more piousness from the “mainstream” media.

    From now on it’s Reiss’s Pieces, this site and Belichick’s coaches show on Monday’s. The rest be damned.

  10. Richter says:

    Sweeping generalizations are usually a bad thing. They lead to ignorant opinions and an uninformed outlook. In this case, though, I think it’s fair to make an exception: It really IS all the media’s fault. They are entirely to blame for the mess this situation has become. It was the perfect storm of resentment, schadenfreude, opportunism and contempt that brought us to this place. Resentment, by the sports media, of Belichick’s (rightful) disdain for them and everything the institution of sports journalism has come to represent. Schadenfreude, by opposing fans and media alike, gleeful at the chance to say, “See, you guys really aren’t that great,” never mind the fact that both continued to trumpet that fact for years before finally becoming sick of their own voices. Opportunism, by certain media members (you know who I’m talking about), looking to make a career for themselves by affixing a scarlet letter to Bill Belichick’s chest. And contempt, already welling up inside the chests of scribes and fans alike for a team that wasn’t supposed to be run like this, that wasn’t supposed to succeed like this, because it was decided a long time ago that they should be permanent fixtures as doormats of the league. The bile had been percolating a long time, just waiting to find an outlet. Every one of these factors were stoked by the media relentlessly, until an outpouring of unchecked lunacy swept over anyway brave enough to read the sports section of the paper or tune in to the “Worldwide Sports Leader”. So it is all their fault, in this case. They hate the team, they hate Belichick, and they hate us, maybe most of all, because we don’t care that the team doesn’t make their lives easier and enable them to be the lazy pigs they wish they could be, doesn’t buddy up to them and make them feel like part of the in-crowd… we only care that they win for us, and do a decent job of being heroes, as far as professional athletes can be, anyway.

  11. Great stuff, Scott.

    Throughout all of this, since day one, who is the only person or entity that has been sanctioned in any way for their actions?

    And still, that’s not enough. They want Belichick’s blood and even if Sheriff Goodell were to cut off his arm and wave it wildly over his head at a Gang Green fan rally, the media jackals would wonder why he didn’t go for the legs.

    It will never end.

  12. Easterbrook says “A man of dignity would resign”… but apparently that doesn’t hold true for men of dignity in the media, who fabricated the story ruining the most historic game in New England’s history. Where are the calls in the media for Thomase’s resignation?

    Shoddy unaccountable “journalism” is ruining sports, not the coaches.

    When the media talks about the arrogance of the Pats, all you need to do is hear pompous Felger disrespectfully poo-pooing the Chargers at having zero chance to beat the Colts, “ridiculous, no chance”. So often so completely but unassailably wrong… You would never hear anyone on the Pats speaking about opponents so disrespectfully.

    I have removed the two major boston dailies from my favorites list. I’ve kept this site and the AP wire and that’s fine for me.

  13. Nopointe says:

    Interesting, but I really need to hear what Ordway thinks before I make up my mind.

  14. Looky Lou says:

    Easterbrooks is a desparate fool…..his columns always scream, “LOOK AT ME! PLEASE LOOK AT ME!” his opinion means nothing….IF it is his “opinion”, most likely he knows his columns are foolish, just looking for attention..those types are the worst of the worst

  15. Lyle,

    You’ll be interested to know that I emailed Easterbrook and told him that since he believes “men of dignity would resign”, I would expect him to post his resignation from ESPN within 48 hours.

    I’m not expecting a response (he never does), nor an I expecting him to resign.

    He’s a “journalist” after all, which means he’s never wrong, no matter how many times the facts confirm that he is wrong.

  16. I’ve been told I should have mentioned mac users in the above column. I regret the oversight. Long road back, yada, yada.

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