September 23, 2014

Things That Make You Sad To Be A Fan

logoby Scott Benson
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As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been doing a little vacation traveling this week. So when I returned home yesterday I had received a few e-mails from readers who said that a former Pats employee had posted an alleged tell-all parting gift on a God-forsaken gambling blog located somewhere on the seedy underbelly of the Internet.

I admit, I clicked the link they sent, though I won’t repeat it here. What was written, if you can call it that, was so meanspirited and flat-out crazy that it demeans everything and everyone who comes in contact with it. Much like the individual who wrote it.

Thing is, by all appearances, he was a former Pats employee, one whose self-congratulatory wise-guy conduct and twisted life view (and public profile afforded by his employment) had already several times over made him quite notorious among web-savvy Pats fans. Meaning he worked for Patriots Football Weekly, the team’s in-house publication, despite the fact that he’s been crawling on his belly like a snake since birth. You can only imagine the sunshine this awful prick has been spreading in Foxborough and other NFL cities in recent seasons.

All on the team’s dime. All in the employ of the freaking house organ.

It’s a perverted, out of control enterprise that would even think of issuing a single paycheck to the likes of this vermin. Its a juvenile, hostile operation whose employees loudly and proudly claim “objectivity” even though they couldn’t accurately define the word if you spotted them a copy of Merriam-Webster. Because M-W doesn’t define objective as being “a pathological need to prove one’s independence by continually acting out like catty, miserable 15 year old girls.”

I don’t blame the individuals themselves for this untenable situation. After all, if your aim in life is to curry the favor of preening, look-at-me clowns like Ron Borges, if your aspirations are limited to simply aping their corrosive, worthless careers, then you deserve my pity, not my contempt. 

No, the people who are ultimately responsible for this insanity are the Krafts themselves. They’ve been right about a lot of things since the late 80′s, when they first secured the rights to the land surrounding the old Foxboro Stadium. But they have been as woefully wrong about this as they were about Bobby Grier and Pete Carroll. Worse, when you consider that was a bumbling, wrongheaded misjudgement. This….this almost seems calculated.

Why this contempt for your customers, after all the support they’ve given you on every step of your journey to here? Why do you mistrust us so? Why you believe the only way you can turn a profit on this paper and its website is to turn a gaggle of needledicked Perez Hilton wannabees against the players and coaches who have done more than anyone to afford you the internationally-celebrated status you enjoy today? How can you believe this is what will motivate us to buy your products? How can you believe this is the way to treat the people who care the most about those products? By thinking they’re nothing but vapid moths who will only be attracted by the most garish light?

Like the man whose name adorns the gleaming trophies that now line your still new trophy cases used to say – what the hell is going on out there?

I will grant you that by ridding themselves of this lowlife, the Krafts have shown that all hope is not necessarily lost. I will grant you that what this creep did yesterday was entirely outside their control. Thing is, it isn’t the first time he’s done it. in fact, the team used to pay him to do it. Ask Chad Jackson about that sometime. Ask the other players he whispered about in his muckraking radio and podcast appearances. Ask the legitimate media members he used to slime under the cowardly protection of several different anonymous message board monikers. Ask the fans he so often gleefully dismissed as gullible yokels, as a means of underlining the ‘sophistication’ of his perverted observations and his ‘importance’ as a team employee?

All on the team’s dime. All in the employ of the freaking house organ.

What should an enterprise like Patriots Football Weekly be? I admit, the term ‘house organ’ isn’t a positive one, even for a publication that is by definition a team-sanctioned marketing effort. I think if I worked at PFW, I wouldn’t want to be perceived as a house boy either. I wouldn’t want to write articles about Kelley Washington’s coin collection or A Day In The Life Of Pat Patriot. I’d want to be able to say I thought the head coach made a tactical error or the quarterback threw an awful interception. I’d want to be able to say they whiffed on a draft pick or missed on a vet free agent.

In other words, I’d want to be able to tell the truth as I saw it, regardless of whether that truth happened to be favorable to the team at that point in time. No reasonable person could begrudge the PFW staff for wanting that. No reasonable person could begrudge the Krafts for thinking their fans wouldn’t buy a paper filled with pap about Dean Pees’ piano favorites. Because they’re right.

So, it is a fine line we’re walking here, in the pursuit of a publication that promotes the team while also critically assessing its efforts. I can’t rightfully condemn them for this episode without acknowledging that what they’re trying to do with PFW isn’t an easy thing at all. I wouldn’t want that job, even if I was qualified for it. I don’t have the sort of professional judgement that would be needed to make something out of that minefield.

But exactly how much professional judgement do you really need to know that whispers about your head coach’s personal life or his professional tactics isn’t the way to do it? How much professional judgement is required for you to know that pissing on the reputation of your team’s most admired players is never a legitimate way to line your own pockets? How much professional judgement is needed to know that you never – NEVER – hand a desk and a key to the office to the kind of guy who would end up doing you and everyone else this way?

On the whole, I consider myself football blessed that the Krafts came along when they did, saving this region’s professional football team and leading it to heretofore unimagineable heights. I’m secure in the belief that job one remains fielding the most competitive team possible, year in and year out, and I’m equally secure in the belief they have more than proven their capacity to effectively do that job. None of what we’re discussing today is disruptive in any way to that, as much as contemptable bottom feeders like Tom Casale wish that were so. They would die happy if only they could ruin everyone else’s life as much as they’ve ruined their own.

But the fact is, the Krafts have taken a benign team-issued marketing piece and turned it into an attack dog against the very thing they have worked so hard to build. Even worse, the mess they should have seen coming has now gotten all over innocent bystanders, including players and coaches who have done nothing but give you everything you could have ever asked for, media members who have done nothing but treat you fairly and honestly, and fans who have done nothing but support the whole lot of you through thick and thin.

The fact is that the final accountability for this whole sorry episode – and everything that preceeded it – rests with the Krafts. The fact is they’ve failed spectacularly with this initiative, and since they’ve taken it upon themselves to foist this crap on us, the responsbility for cleaning it up should fall squarely to them.

As noted above, the job of putting out a team publication that holds some value to consumers is a challenging one. There may be intrinsic barriers in place that make such a task quite impossible after all. There’s a certain segment of society that will forever dismiss your efforts no matter how “objective” you strive to be.

That’s no excuse for aiming squarely at the lowest common denominator, and trying to sell us a subscription to it. That just shows us no respect at all.

Comments

  1. The thing is, if you read PFW, that sort of stuff never appears in the publication. It’s in the blog entries and on the podcasts/Patriots.com radio that things get out of hand. Why that is, I have no idea.

    Disclaimer: I am a freelance writer for PFW…

  2. So, essentially you’re saying that the Krafts, in order to sell magazines are smearing their own players?

    Or they are turning a blind eye to it?

  3. I have my suspicions, DV, based on what I’ve heard of their pre and post game radio shows, but I won’t claim to know whether its intentional or if it occurs out of neglect. Either way – its the same result. Fact is until this week, they were paying this guy to promote their team. However that happened, the bottom line is that was one hell of a historically bad decision.

    Bruce, thanks for drawing the distinction between the hard copy PFW and its on-line counterpart. I’m sure you’ll agree, though, that in the end, they are just different lines of the same product.

  4. Thanks for the clarification Scott.

    I agree, neglect or malicious intent provide the same result. It’s too bad because now it’s slowly getting picked up by the National boys.

    Yahoo/Deadspin are both running with this story. They are prefacing their story with tidbits of Casale’s character, but as we saw with Walsh that really doesn’t matter.

    The first to fire normally wins in this type of “flame war”

    More useless distractions for a team that looks to be very formidable this season. Really pumped by the prospect of having a “quicker” defense.

    Keep up the good work.

    -DV

  5. I guess it’s not surprising that this is starting to ripple its way across the Internet sites that have proven beyond all doubt that they are more interested in Jessica Simpson than what Tony Romo does for a living.

    I would disagree, though, that this could be a distraction for the players and coaches who are working their way through another camp, regardless of what gum-snapping, Appletini-sipping hipster doofuses like Deadspin think and say. I think they’ve proven over the years that they’re mentally tougher than that.

    I hope its distracting the living shit out of the Krafts today, though. They deserve to have their cage rattled on this one.

  6. Jackson says:

    Well-done, Bruce. As a long-time subscriber to the PFW paper, I had no knowledge of the staff (other than Paul Perillo) until I watched them on the NECN show at 11:00 during the season. After a couple of episodes, I stopped tuning in. An air of nastiness and negativity on the part of Casale and, frankly, Hart as well, sort of gave me the creeps. Please understand I’m not lumping Hart in with Casale. It’s just that my reaction to them was unpleasantly similar.

  7. The few times I listened, I got the feeling they were trying to emulate WEEI, not realizing they were burying the one good thing they had to offer, football insight. 50,000 ticket holders and 50,000 waiting list holders and other assorted fans, the size of a large town, are a substantial market. Plenty to support a radio station. All they had to do was talk football.

    Dale Arnold, Michael Holley and yes, Glen Ordway, are legitimate radio talents. These guys are not, but if they stuck to their beans, they would have been fine. They didn’t and listening to them was a complete waste of time. I stopped long ago.

    Scott, you’re right, the Krafts are blowing an opportunity. Fan-flavored analysts like Vic Ketchman of the Jaguars website are tough to find, but you can’t tell me Casale was the next best alternative.

    I would not be surprised to see aggressive changes between now and the start of the season. Lower level management at PFW blew this one by not firing Casale a while back. Upper level management blew it by not holding PFW to their task.

  8. Michael Gee says:

    Dear Scott: Excellent summary of the issues involved here! And by the way, thanks very much for the kind words. I was trying to send you an e-mail to that effect, but for some freakin reason it refuses to be sent by aol, so I will happily express my thanks in public.

  9. Micheal – thanks. Good of you to stop by with the support. I’m enjoying Homegame a great deal, and I look forward to your future entries.

  10. Scott–

    I don’t live in Boston, and am not a PFW subscriber, so I have no first-hand knowledge of most of the stuff you mention here (only filtered knowledge via PatsFans.com and other boards).

    I don’t know how much involvement the Krafts had in the hiring/firing decisions at PFW, but it wouldn’t surprise me if (A) Casale managed to “hide” his true self just long enough to get hired, and (B) once that happened, it was pretty much a given things were going to end badly. For example, if Casale had been fired over the CJ “story,” isn’t it likely that would have been portrayed as “the Krafts can’t handle honest criticism”?

    Of course, if the Krafts knew what they were getting, and did it anyways, then it’s hard to sympathize.

  11. For some reason it is a culture in Boston media. If you are a sportswriter, you want to appear objective. That seems to be achieved in this town by going negative. If you say anything positive the ones that call themselves “objective” label you a homer. Those that label themselves “objective” say anything they can to trash the Patriots. Nothing is taboo. Nothing needs verification. Have a rumor about a player’s sex life? Fair game. Heard a rumor of some team wrong doing? That is fair game too.

    The twists on anything Patriots is akin to the news spin that comes out of Fox news and Oreilly. Claiming to be balanced, but really just drivel and propaganda of the worst kind. They will say nasty things, true or not, in the attempt to claim that they are objective. Then they will tell you they love the team.

    It is ridiculous. If I want to hear rumor bashing about the Pats I will go read some blog in Ne York. What I want is the news about the Pats. I want to read honest interpretation of events, good or bad, and of course, I want to hear the good things about our team.

    The team has worked hard to build a dynasty, but most of the writers are doing everything they can to tear it down. What a shame. This is their chance to report on the glory years of the Patriots, and they are blowing it.

    There are only TWO reporters in Boston that are worth reading, because they LIKE the Patriots, and they are objective, and intelligent. One of those is my favorite, Mike Reiss. He will report the news. He will give his opinion, if asked, and it isn’t always positive. He will NOT, however, delve into the smut these other writers do, and he doesn’t report baseless rumors unless he can confirm what is going on. THAT is what a sports writer should do.

    In most cities you have two kinds of sports writers. All lament their inability to play the game. SOme of them live vicariously through the players and their writing. Others fall into the dark side. Thei bitterness at not being good enough to play comes out in their writing, as they trash the game they reportedly love. What a shame that we have so many of those here in Boston. WHere can we turn for decent reporting a fan actually WANTS to read about their team?

    Cassale, Felger, and Begoise (whatever his name is) are NOT examples to follow in the sportscasting world. They belong on Fox News, their idols.

  12. One down. Two to go.

  13. Why the hell do scumbags like Casale get employment, and Michael Gee, arguably one of the top two or three sportswriters in boston (since the death of the Globe’s classic era) has to write a blog instead of working for a larger outlet?

    A further dumbing down of our culture.

  14. Stan, you are the man. Nailed it (other than butchering Ron Borges’ name). Otherwise, a grand slam. Take a bow…

  15. Stan, you expressed the thoughts of knowledgeable Pats fans everywhere. Good job. To be fair Scott here and Bruce at BSMW do it regularly too – it’s not just Reiss.

    But yeah, the worst things that happened to older sportswriters in this town were the 2001 Patriots and the 2004 Sox. They can’t push “those” buttons anymore and aren’t capable of using their intellect.

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