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Spygate: Cracking the J-School 101 Code

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The most interesting portions of all the pre-Super Bowl XLII shows were those in which “Spy-Videogate” was discussed. While the “talent” and ex-NFL players at ESPN, almost to a man, freaked out about the possibility of the New England Patriots taping the St. Louis Rams walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI, the reactions of the pregame crews of the NFL Network and FOX were vastly different. There was one person at each of the other two networks who appeared to be genuinely offended by the thought of videotaping the Rams’ final on-field maneuvers before Super Bowl game day. At NFLN Adam Schefter, former Denver Post sportswriter and NFL.com writer and Curt Menefee, the host of FOX’s pregame show.

It made me seriously wonder why and how those men at ESPN banded together and were so vehement in their seeming hate – or extreme dislike – of Bill Belichick and so willing to blindly believe what they heard about the videotaping of the Rams’ walk-through. They appeared to act with a hive mind and speak as one, with each trying almost too hard to trumping the other’s self-righteous stance.

Meanwhile at NFLN Schefter was fixated on the fact the Patriots won each Super Bowl by three points as if it was some sort of magic number while Menefee was going crazy over the lack of concern over the alleged incident by Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, and Jimmy Johnson.

Trent Dilfer told Schefter that if there was anyone to blame in the incident it was Dick Vermeil for having a final walk-through that was any more than a glorified excuse for the team to get together and expend some energy the day before the game. Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens, went on to explain that there was no way the Rams’ offensive players were walking through their goal line plays.

On FOX, the ex-players and Johnson, Super Bowl winners all, took turns dispelling any importance on the videotaping of a walk-through, if there was one. However, when it came time for Johnson to talk, illuminating comments spilled forth from the ex-Dallas cowboys and Miami Dolphins head coach’s mouth,

Johnson told Menefee and the nation that one of the producers at FOX witnessed the Rams’ alleged walk-through. He then dropped these bombshells: the Rams did nothing more than drift around the field and gather for a team photo and, no one from the New England Patriots was there videotaping anything.

Menefee replied weakly and posed a hypothetical, what if there was someone would you be angry, question. After Long and Bradshaw laughed at Menefee, the host quickly quieted down and adroitly changed topics.

With all their resources, with Mike Fish and Gregg Easterbrook, NFL specialists John Clayton, Michael Smith and Chris Mortensen pumping up the volume on the importance of former Pats employee, Matt Walsh, who worked in the New England videotaping department, how is it that they all failed to know this information?

Easterbrook went so far as to play the “Journalism 101 card” in his article which acted to castigate anyone he must have felt who is an outsider and is questioning the veracity of ESPN’s reports of New England’s videotaping practices. That Fish and Easterbrook are hot-wired to Walsh, who might have breached his confidentiality agreement by possessing videotapes that are the property of the Patriots organization, and seem ready to stake their reputations on the seemingly shady character, there is ample information to quell the notion that the Patriots engaged in taping a St. Louis Rams walk-through the day before their Super Bowl game against New England.

In the pre-production meeting before NFL Countdown on the Super Bowl XLII Sunday, who met with or talked by phone the Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Steve Young, and Mike Ditka? How is it possible that no one at ESPN had the information Jimmy Johnson had? NFL Countdown producer Jay Rothman surely had a hand in what information was to be disseminated to the public. But Rothman and/or his assistants probably – and rightfully – leaned on the information provided to them by the reporters covering the alleged taping incident.

At the same time, we were and are left to wonder what Steve Young’s Super Bowl Saturday “walk-through” experiences were. How about Emmitt Smith’s? After all, he played for Jimmy Johnson when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s. How about Ditka? He in played in Super Bowls for legendary Cowboys head coach Tom Landry and was the head coach of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl-winning team. Perhaps they, unlike their peers on other networks lined up in various formations and discussed the execution of given plays; yet it is difficult to imagine Smith did, since he played for Johnson.

It appears that faulty information provided by ESPN journalists allowed for the NFL Countdown crew to tow the line and report the distinct possibility that a New England Patriots staffer – Matt Walsh? – videotaped the St. Louis Rams walk-through the day before their Super Bowl game against the Pats. Through this lens the countenance of Countdown crew can be understood and much of their vehemence toward the Patriots can be absolved.

However, what cannot be absolved is the J-101 lesson readers were treated to at the hand of Easterbrook:

Flash back to September. After the league made its strange decision to destroy the materials, then refused to say what they contained, several media figures, including me, did this Journalism 101 exercise: Current scandal involves current taping by the Patriots. Are there any former Patriots video officials from New England‘s Super Bowl runs? That led to a former New England scout and video department official named Matt Walsh, who now lives in Hawaii. Simultaneously, the NFL grapevine was alive with rumors — caution, rumors — that the Patriots were guilty not just of taping sidelines during games but rather of much more serious transgressions. The primary rumor, which was reported Saturday by the Boston Herald, was that the Patriots secretly taped the St. Louis Rams’ private walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI, that the Pats knew some of the Rams’ plays and formations in advance.

Saturday morning, the Boston Herald ran a story asserting the Patriots secretly taped the Rams’ private walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI. The Herald cited an unnamed source and did not name Walsh as the person behind the camera.

Also Saturday, Mike Fish reported on ESPN that St. Louis‘ walk-through was devoted to red zone plays — all new plays and new formations the Rams had not shown during the season. Going into that Super Bowl, the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” was the league’s highest-scoring team. In that game, St. Louis was held to a field goal in the first half. The Rams kept getting bogged down, as if New England knew what plays were coming. If the Patriots secretly taped the Rams’ walk-through, then stopped the red zone plays the Rams showed in that walk-through, then won that Super Bowl by three points, then logic says New England materially benefited from cheating in the Super Bowl. If true, this would be the worst sports scandal since the Black Sox.

Let’s put that in capital letters: IF TRUE. We don’t yet know whether the Super Bowl allegations are true. Then again, we are into only the second day of information going on the record and the league finally answering some questions about the subject.

The words scream out, ‘the worst scandal since the Chicago Black Sox!’ And these are preceded by the ominous-sounding:

“The Rams kept getting bogged down, as if New England knew what plays were coming.”

Be afraid of the hoodie, be very afraid; the boogie man cometh.

The words scream out, ‘Journalism 101’, if you didn’t take it, no one wants to hear a peep from you, your voice does not count.

I wonder if Jimmy Johnson took Journalism 101 long, long ago at the University of Arkansas because he seems to have remembered more from his class than either Easterbrook or Fish. Then again, isn’t investigative reporting an art unto itself?

Either way, with Jimmy Johnson’s divulging that the Rams did not walk through their goal line offense plays, that they had no walk-through at all, makes one think that J-101 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Random Thoughts: Tyler Hansbrough and Straws; Donnie Takes Over the Knicks; On Philly Sports; Mike Woodson?; Kelvin Likes the Pros; Spygate, Hairgate

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billyking.jpg** On Mike and Mike this morning former coach Fran Fraschilla said he like Memphis and North Carolina to win the Final Four games. He said Joey Dorsey is every bit as dominant as Kevin Love, that Derrick Rose is a monster, and that if the game is called tightly, it will suit Memphis because of their physical style of play, because “they play physical ball in the Pac 10.”Does anyone else find it weird that the Pac 10 is known for physical college basketball and finesse football teams?

Fraschilla also said the following about the Kansas-UNC game:

“Kansas has six really good players, Carolina has four really good players, but Carolina has this guy…”

“This guy” would be one Tyler Hansbrough, media-pronounced deity of the Tar Heels. Hansbrough is so feted that Jay Bilas mentioned Tyler’s name in the same sentence as Michael Jordan’s; that Fraschilla believes that one Hansbrough is so good that he is worth two of the Jayhawks’ “good players.”  

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Recapping March: Articles and Commentaries Chronicling the Month

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aleibovitz.jpgWith LeBron, Gisele, Annie Leibovitz, and the cover of American Vogue, the making of Tyler Hansbrough’s college legacy, Brett Favre’s “retirement,” the revealing of Arlen Specter’s true mission behind Spygate, more steroid news, upping the ante on Geno and Pat’s continuing feud, and the remaking of John Thompson III and Georgetown’s basketball program through March Madness and revisionist history, it has been yet another crazy month for sports and sports-related news.

So, I thought I’d do something a little different and provide a little recap of March through the month’s commentaries and articles. I’m actually crossing my fingers and hoping nothing too crazy happens between today and tomorrow at midnight!

Anyway, thanks for reading SOMM….

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Notes, Notes, and More Notes: Harmon Leaves Daly in the Drink; Theismann vs. Buck on Spygate; To Kill (Vick’s Dogs) or Not to Kill (more to come)

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joeyst.jpgRandy Moss didn’t….?

And finally on the notes front —–

So, that’s it. Just like that, Randy Moss is okay, after all. The woman who accused Moss of physically abusing her dropped her domestic violence case against the New England Patriots wide receiver:

Rachelle Washington, 35, had alleged that Moss caused her serious injury in a Jan. 6 incident in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., then denied her medical attention. The restraining order barred Moss from coming within 500 feet of Washington.

Washington’s lawyer, Darrell Thompson, explained the turn of events last night.

“My client, acting solely on the advice of her former attorney, filed for the temporary restraining order against Mr. Moss. She has decided that such restraining order is unnecessary and has requested the order be dismissed,” Thompson said in a statement.

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Written by dwil

March 12, 2008 at 11:30 am

Spygate: What Arlen Specter Really Wants from NFL Owners and Roger Goodell

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spygate.jpgLet’s see, how does this go? The New England Patriots at New York Giants football game is scheduled to be aired on the NFL Network only. However, because the Patriots are undefeated and this is the final opportunity for another team to defeat them during the regular season, there is a groundswell to have the game aired on some channel other than NFLN, which is only accessible to satellite television subscribers.

Without warning, Senator Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) interjects himself into the situation and “formerly” challenges the NFL to air the game on another station.

Commissioner Roger Goodell acquiesces, and the game is aired on so many stations it saturates the airwaves.

There are issues between Goodell and cable companies. The NFLN is not a channeled offered as part of cable television packages. Cable TV says the NFL is holding them ransom. The NFL says they cable companies want NFLN for a wing and a prayer.

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Spotes Notes, 2.16.08: Mark Cuban Is a Trickster; Blackface, UNC Style; Goodell Faces Himself; Rams Player Wants Pats’ Money

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blackface.jpgDirk is trippin’ – and slippin’

And Nowitzki is pissed off at Devean George. So pissed off that he pulled out his “Euro-card” on George:

“He’s looking out for himself a little bit,” Nowitzki said. “In a way, we play a team sport but a lot of it is about individuals. It’s Dirk versus Kobe, not L.A. versus Dallas. It’s not promoted as much as a team sport as it is in Europe. Devean was looking out for himself; that’s what you are used to over here.”

It seems like a common theme among the Euros. They love them some NBA money and that NBA exposure. When they go back home to their Euro-countries they get all that extra love for playing – and succeeding – against the best in the world and even more Euros (money, that is) from Euro ads courtesy of their shoe-clothing contracts. So, when it’s all good, the NBA is the best.

But.

Any problems in the Lig? They break out the, ‘it’s so much better in Euro-ville’ speak. And it all seems to have to do with the sentiment that Americans are money-worshipping, self-centered isolationists.

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Bill Belichick: The Mystery of The Hoodie

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belichickhoodie1.jpgBill Belichick is giving the press nothing. Nada. Not an inch. And I, for one, love it. Mike Greenberg on the Mike and Mike in the Morning show is “flabbergasted” over the Patriots head coach’s ability to give so little of himself to the press. Greenberg said things like, I have never seen anyone who has is so guarded in the public, who we don’t know.

Greenberg stated that he was not being critical of Belichick, he is simply flummoxed that the coach has the singular ability to keep his emotions in check while in the public eye. Here are some selected Belichick quotes from yesterday:

“It takes a lot to get to this point, but we’re starting all over in the new ’08 season and it’s already time to move on. We’re already into the offseason and that’s just the way it is. So, we’ll start moving ahead towards next year.”…

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