A few thoughts on the Deflategate decision

Tom_Brady_vs._Vikings_2014
Tom Brady in 2014. Photo (cc) by Andrew Campbell. Some rights reserved.

We’ve had a lively discussion of this on Facebook, so I thought I’d post it here as well.

My first reaction to Deflategate was that Tom Brady was responsible. I based my opinion on his refusal to defend himself beyond a few vague statements. He said nothing after the Wells Report came out. I also had no idea the commissioner’s office was so corrupt — not too strong a word.

I changed my mind after we learned that Brady had denied under oath that he had any involvement or knowledge of footballs being deflated. Not only do I have no reason to think Brady is the sort of person who’d lie under oath, but he gave that statement knowing that Lenny and Squiggy could emerge from their lair and contradict him.

I see Judge Richard Berman’s ruling as total vindication. I know he had to be careful in ruling on narrow legal grounds rather than on the facts, but the facts mattered. He asked a lot of factual questions during the hearings, and of course he was well aware of Brady’s denial. There’s also the matter of the false ESPN report — clearly a smear job by the NFL. I can’t prove this, but I believe that if Berman thought Brady was responsible, he might have knocked the suspension down to two games on procedural grounds but wouldn’t have vacated it entirely. Judges are human, and they can’t help but let the facts influence their legal rulings. (And what’s wrong with that?)

Goodell now says he’s going to appeal. Frankly, the best outcome would be if the NFL owners decided he should spend more time with his family. What a clown.

I’m not even a football fan, but I’m glad Brady won. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Berman’s ruling legitimizes the Patriots’ championship. I never would have believed it, but the NFL really was out to get them.

As for all the media attention this has gotten, so what? I’ve heard a lot of comments along the lines of “this is so unimportant given what’s going on in the world.” Well, sports is a combination of entertainment and culture, and it’s something a lot of us follow — along with the presidential campaign and the horrors of ISIS and the refugee crisis in Europe. We all care about many different things. I’m not going to criticize anyone for caring about this. I care too.

Globe, Herald at center of multimedia sports battle

Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez

The week before Labor Day is usually a slow one, but the last few days have featured some hot Globe-on-Herald action (by proxy). If you haven’t been following it, here’s your guide to catching up.

On Tuesday, Rolling Stone published an article offering new information about former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who faces first-degree murder charges. I haven’t read the article, but you can. According to various summaries, including this one, Hernandez reportedly carried a gun at all times, used angel dust and did not get along with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

So where’s the Globe-Herald angle? The article was written by Paul Solotaroff and Ron Borges — the latter being a former Boston Globe sportswriter who now toils at the Boston Herald.

Borges’ contribution prompted a tough blog post on Wednesday by Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch. His headline — “Plagiarist Ruins Perfectly Good Rolling Stone Feature” — sets the tone for what follows. Borges, as those of you without long memories might not know, left the Globe under a cloud in 2007 after he was found to have committed something akin to plagiarism in his Sunday football notes column.

I wrote about Borges’ departure at the time, and, as you will see, I thought he got a bad rap, given that the Sunday notes columns produced by him and other beat reporters included this disclaimer: “material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.” Is it really plagiarism when you announce in advance that you’re lifting other people’s work?

Allen’s diatribe turned out to be just the opening act. On Thursday, the Globe’s Ben Volin went after the Rolling Stone article in a story that carried the deceptively mild headline “What Rolling stone got right, wrong on Aaron Hernandez.” Though Volin allows that Solotaroff and Borges did “a thorough job of recounting Hernandez’s sordid past,” he goes on to say that “the story also is filled with sensationalism, hearsay, convenient fact-bending, and even one blatant falsity.”

Whoa. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it in the Globe. And though I’m not in a position to judge the accuracy or fairness of the case that Volin lays out, it makes for a pretty entertaining read. I’d love to see Borges respond in the Herald.

(Both the Globe and the Herald today report Patriots president Jonathan Kraft’s refutation of the Rolling Stone article.)

As if this weren’t enough, the Globe on Thursday also ran a front-page story on the ratings collapse of sports radio station WEEI (AM 850) in the face of a challenge by upstart WBZ-FM (98.5 FM), better known as “The Sports Hub.” The article was written by business reporter Callum Borchers, a terrific young journalist who I had the privilege of getting to know when he was part of Northeastern’s graduate journalism program a couple of years ago.

The Herald angle is that Borchers devotes a good chunk of his story to WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” show, and Gerry Callahan is a Herald columnist. On its website, the station emphasizes the fact that Borchers is a former WEEI intern, something that was not disclosed in the article. You can hear Callahan and Borchers mixing it up on the air in this clip.

Should the Globe have noted that Borchers was once an unpaid summer intern at the station he was writing about? I don’t think disclosure ever hurts, but in this case I’m not sure what it would have added. There is no current conflict. I’ve written critically about many news organizations where I’ve applied for jobs, starting with the Globe and the Herald. (I even had a three-day tryout at the Herald in 1988.) I’m noting that here not by way of disclosure, but to point out how ridiculous it can get.

In any event, as with Borges, I hope Callahan will use his Herald column to respond. Because the three leading topics in Boston, as always, are sports, politics and revenge — with revenge being the most interesting of all.

More: “Dennis & Callahan” third wheel Kirk Minihane unloads on Borchers and the Globe.

Photo (cc) by Jeffrey Beall and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

What to watch for as the Globe sale heats up

CA_SDUTBeth Healy today offers an update on who might buy The Boston Globe and its related properties, which include the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester and Boston.com. She reports that eight potential buyers are circling, and that the deadline for submitting bids is June 27.

Three story lines worth following:

1. The Taylors are still in the mix. It would be a comeback of epic proportions if Steve and Ben Taylor were to repurchase the Globe 20 years after their family sold it to the New York Times Co. for $1.1 billion. And for those of us who want to see the Globe wind up in responsible local hands, it would probably represent the best outcome.

The question since 2009, when the Taylors made their first failed attempt to reacquire the Globe, is whether they can raise enough money to buy the paper and run it properly. Maybe the Taylors can combine forces with the Kraft family, who own the New England Patriots and are said to be interested.

Former Globe president Rick Daniels is in the mix as well. But he’s partnering with a private-equity executive, which raises all kinds of red flags.

2. The “face of hell” emerges. “Papa Doug” Manchester, as he likes to be known, bought the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2011 and renamed it U-T San Diego, which ought to be reason enough to disqualify him. But it gets worse. Manchester, a hotel magnate, is a conservative opponent of same-sex marriage who has shaped his paper’s coverage to serve his business interests. Here is a charming excerpt from a profile of Manchester by Voice of San Diego’s Rob Davis:

Few San Diegans could have evoked the visceral cancel-my-subscription-today reaction that Manchester did when he bought the Union-Tribune. He has a reputation: egomaniacal, short-tempered, litigious, unrelenting. Some fear him. Two politically connected people warned me not to write a negative word about him. “If there is a hell, Doug Manchester is the face of it,” one said.

And now he’s said to be interested in the Globe.

3. The Globe’s headquarters may be sold. Healy reports that several prospective buyers would sell the Globe’s Dorchester plant if they succeed in buying the media properties. This strikes me as odd, since the Globe has had some success in taking on outside printing jobs such as the Boston Herald, The Patriot Ledger of Quincy and The Enterprise of Brockton.

I don’t understand how the Globe can keep the presses rolling unless it stays put. On the other hand, space isn’t exactly at a premium at 135 Morrissey Blvd. these days. Maybe the idea is to sell the building, lease back part of it and rent out the rest.

No doubt we’ll learn more in the weeks to come.

Image via Today’s Front Pages at the Newseum.