Globe Magazine Takes Its Shots At Belichick

In the Boston Globe Magazine this morning, Doug Most has the latest rip job on Bill Belichick.

What an original subject. And timely, too. Let’s kick the guy further while we can.

He states as fact:

The only reason Boston sports fans have put up with Belichick’s act is because he’s won, not because they like him.

Let’s put aside the fact of whether Patriots fans actually like Belichick or not. How exactly does whether or not he wins make Bill Belichick different from every other coach that has come through here? Don’t we ultimately judge every coach/manager on whether or not they win? The “likable” Pete Carroll years sure worked out well here. Dick Mcpherson too. We loved Mac, but he didn’t win. Belichick has won like no other coach.

I’ve heard a handful of sanctimonious Patriots do some moralizing on Belichick for the events of the past year, but it was truly just a few, not this swelling undercurrent sweeping through the region as Most apparently wants to believe.

The real problem, as is always the case in these type of stories, is Belichick’s cooperation with the media. Most slams Belichick for his reaction to the truly gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss. He says how in the post-game, Belichick never mentioned “the Giants’ tremendous play.”

Belichick’s first comments in the post game press conference:

“Congratulations to the Giants. They made some plays there at the end and we didn’t. It’s disappointing.”

Most then makes a spectacular leap, bringing up the name Grady Little. Yes, he wants Belichick to be more like Grady Little. He talks about how Grady stood before the assembled masses after the crushing game 7 loss in the 2003 and how in a “folksy, grandfatherly way, he explained why he did what he did with sincerity and in detail.” What he did of course, was leave Pedro Martinez in the game too long.

The funny thing is, if you read Little’s comments, as quoted in the piece, they sound very much like something that Bill Belichick would say.

Most says that dealing with the media is part of the job that any coach or manager in Boston has to embrace. Why?

Think about Bill Belichick’s job for a moment. Think about all the things he does. It’s goes well beyond standing on the sideline in the hoodie, which of course is the image most choose to have of him. There’s scouting to be do. Game planning. Interviewing draftees and free agents. Running the organization. Planning, running, and analyzing practices every day. Off season analysis of every game from the past season, and planning for every game of the coming season.

What percentage of his job would you says involves dealing with the media? 5%? Surely not a whole lot more than that. Is he supposed to let other aspects of his job suffer so he can kowtow to the ink-stained wretches?

There are things that you can criticize Belichick for. He’s not perfect, and he’ll be the first to admit that. How many times has he said that he needed to do a better job coaching the team? His relationship with the media (which is what this article is about…not spygate, or running-up-the-score-gate or not-winning-by-enough-gate) and whether or not the fans “like” him is certainly not something that the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine needs to devote space to.

Manny Has Arrived

Manny Ramirez showing up on time to camp is the top story in the papers this morning, and him speaking to the media on his arrival is an even bigger one.

Steve Buckley has Ramirez happy, upbeat and wanting to stay in Boston for the rest of his career. Jeff Goldberg has Manny stating that he wants to be here for the next two years, but that he’ll leave that decision to the Red Sox. Amalie Benjamin says Manny didn’t stick around for long yesterday, but it was enough just that he was there at all. Buckley add that the Red Sox are in an ideal position to be able to deal with Manny and dictate whether he remains here and stays productive for the next two seasons. Rob Bradford says that Manny’s arrival made Theo Epstein a happy GM.

Sean McAdam notes that as is the case with players, only certain managers can thrive in Boston. Terry Francona has certainly proved that he can not only survive, but be wildly successful. Rob Bradford examines how keeping a journal has made a huge difference for Josh Beckett. Garry Brown says that the future is now for Jacoby Ellsbury. Joe Haggerty has a Q&A session with new Sox reliever Danny Kolb, who recalls his first trip to Fenway Park.

McAdam’s notebook has more on Manny’s acceptance of his situation with the option years. Bradford’s notebook revisits a winter of discontent for Alex Cora. Gordon Edes’ notebook has more on Kolb trying a win a job with the Red Sox. Goldberg’s notebook has Epstein addressing the Coco Crisp situation.

Patriots

The Patriots did not tag Randy Moss with the franchise designation yesterday, leaving some to speculate that the team is close to an extension with the record setting receiver. Karen Guregian says that no tag means that the two sides likely have a verbal agreement. (The Patriots can’t officially sign him until the new league year starts at the end of next week.) Mike Reiss also has a look at the situation for the two sides. David Heuschkel and Shalise Manza Young each also speculate that the absence of the tag could mean a long term deal between the sides in in the works.

John Tomase has quotes from around the league at the NFL combine on camera-gate. Young also has quotes from that event, including comments from the infamous NFL Competition Committee on the matter. Tomase also reports on the Patriots adding Dom Capers to their coaching staff. Over on Patriots Daily, Scott Benson also speculates as to the significance of the addition of a veteran NFL defensive mind to the coaching staff.

Capers, as you might recall, was a candidate for the head coaching job with the Patriots before Bill Belichick was hired. There was talk of a Tom Donahoe/Capers GM/Head Coach combination, a situation that then-Patriots beat man Nick Cafardo was strongly in favor of.

Reiss’s notebook has more on Capers, noting that the addition could free of Belichick to work more elsewhere with his club. The Herald notebook has the Patriots declining the option on Donte Stallworth’s contract, making him free to sign elsewhere.

Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa and Stephen Harris have the Bruins rallying for a 5-4 shootout win over the Florida Panthers last night. The win puts the Bruins at 3-0-1 on their five game trip.

Shinzawa has Richard Zednik speaking for the first time since his gruesome injury. Harris’ notebook has GM Peter Chiarelli mum on any possible deal for Atlanta’s Marian Hossa. Shinzawa’s notebook has more on Chiarelli’s options at the trade deadline.

Celtics

The Celtics are in Phoenix tonight to take on the Suns and their new acquisition, Shaquille O’Neal, who made his debut with the club earlier this week. After giving up 243 points over the last two games, Marc J. Spears and Steve Bulpett have the Celtics looking to get back to what got them the league’s best record – defense. On the BSMW Full Court Press, Shirley Coshatt says that defensive guru Tom Thibodeau needs to stick around beyond this season for what he has brought to the Celtics.

Spears’ notebook has the Celtics believing that the addition of O’Neal makes the Suns more imposing. Bulpett’s notebook looks at a quite trade deadline day for Danny Ainge. Jeff Howe has more on the deadline passing with no deals for the Celtics.

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell chats with new channel 7 sports reporter/anchor Julie Donaldson.

Disagreeing on Dwight

On Monday, Bob Ryan posted in his blog that he wasn’t all that impressed with Dwight Howard’s performance in the NBA Slam Dunk contest on Saturday night.

This morning in the Metro, I have a rebuttal to Ryan’s premise that we shouldn’t be impressed with Howard because he happens to be 7 feet tall and athletic.

Speaking of Ryan, he is down at Red Sox spring training, and after Manny Ramirez had his arrival press conference today, the Globe’s Extra Bases blog notes:

After standing up, out of the huge group of reporters and cameras, Ramirez went over to Bob Ryan, shook his hand, and stood talking to him for a few moments.

It would be interesting to know what Manny said to him.

Celtics Fall Again Out West

First, a quick site update, the link collections that many of you have been wondering about, have finally been added back into the site, they’re in the sidebar to the right here. We’re finally just about done with putting everything back together.

The Celtics fell to 0-2 on their West coast road trip, beaten last night on a Baron Davis 20 foot jumper with three-tenths of a second remaining on the clock, which broke a 117-117 tie and gave the Golden State Warriors a 119-117 win over the Celtics in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game in the state of California.

Steve Bulpett notes that over the last two games, the Celtics have given up their title of having the stingiest scoring defense in the NBA, having surrendered 242 points in the two losses. Marc J. Spears has the Celtics pointing to their 14 missed free throws as a big part of the loss as well. Check out the game stories from out West on the Bay Area Sports Pages.

Bulpett has Leon Powe talking about his return trip home to the Bay Area last night. On the BSMW Full Court Press, Tom Lambert goes after the NBA refs after their performances recently.

Spears’ notebook has Ray Allen talking about playing for the Celtics during Black History Month. Bulpett’s notebook says that there don’t appear to be any big trades on the horizon for the Celtics before today’s 3:00pm trade deadline.

Red Sox

Yesterday’s media focus was on Jacoby Ellsbury, today’s is on the man he is competing with for a starting job. Sean McAdam has Coco Crisp preferring to be traded if he doesn’t win the starting centerfield job over Ellsbury. Amalie Benjamin has Crisp emphasizing that he won’t be happy sitting on the bench. Joe Haggerty has Crisp not giving up without a fight for his job. Rob Bradford has more on Coco’s desire to play full time – if not here, then somewhere else. Jeff Goldberg also has Crisp ready to fight for his job.

Even though Manny Ramirez made an appearance at camp yesterday – a day before he had promised to show up – Gordon Edes apparently couldn’t waste the filler material that he had compiled which chronicles each of Manny’s tardy appearances in past spring trainings. Steve Buckley has David Ortiz feeling good as camp begins, with his knee repaired and reporting in great shape to start the season. Bob Ryan has a look at shortstop prospect Jed Lowrie, who seems headed for the Red Sox lineup at some point in the very near future. Maureen Mullen has Clay Buchholz ready to go the distance for the Sox.

Buckley has Mike Lowell explaining that his comfort level with the situation here was the biggest reason for his return to the Red Sox. Bradford has Larry Lucchino not wishing to engage the Steinbrenner boys in their recent bravado.

McAdam’s notebook has David Ortiz’s surgically repaired knee making him feel 25 again. The Globe notebook has the White Sox denying that they’ve ever performed the type of surgery that Curt Schilling and his doctor believe he needs in order to pitch this season. Bradford’s notebook has more on Manny’s brief appearance in camp yesterday. Goldberg’s notebook also reports on Manny’s arrival.

Patriots

Christopher L. Gasper and Mike Reiss pass along an AP report that the NFL and Matt Walsh are getting closer to a deal that would allow the former Patriots employee to testify about what he knows about the organization. The AP Report, which came out last night, contained one glaring error, which the Herald’s Point After blog corrected quickly. The AP claims that Walsh told the Herald that he had taped the Rams walkthrough prior to the first Super Bowl title, which wasn’t what the paper had actually stated. The Globe piece also has a number of Patriots notes, including a look at whether the team will franchise Randy Moss today.

John Tomase has the Patriots on the lookout for talent at the combine in Indy. Shalise Manza Young has former Patriot Lawyer Milloy believing that Thomas Dimitroff could be the guy to turn around the Falcons. Bill Doyle has Mel Kiper Jr believing that Matt Ryan could be the top pick in the NFL Draft.

Bruins

Stephen Harris has Shawn Thornton picking up his game with the Bruins after a talk with coach Claude Julien a few weeks back. Fluto Shinzawa has Andrew Ference shaking off a numb leg in the win over Carolina on Tuesday.

The Five Best Media Blogs in Boston

This is the followup to last week’s collection of The Five Worst Media Blogs in Boston.

This list was much harder to put together. There were so many good candidates, and also some choices and distinctions to make. I wanted the list to be blogs that were run by Main Stream Media (MSM) outlets, which cut out some of the best Boston sports out there, like CelticsBlog.com. I also didn’t include Chad Finn’s Touching All The Bases, even though it has a link on Boston.com, and Finn works for the Globe. Finn created the blog privately and it is still hosted on blogger, not Boston.com.

So here is the list of the five best media sports blogs in Boston:

1) Reiss’ Pieces - Boston.com

An obvious choice. I don’t have any idea of the traffic numbers for this blog, but I would guess that it is one of the most popular pages on the entire Boston.com website. Perhaps THE most popular. What does that tell you? That people want the facts, they want solid reporting of stories as they’re breaking, and oh yeah, without the side serving of snark, thank you very much. Reiss is the best at what he does and is the model for any newspaper-based sports blog in the country.

2) The Bradford Files - BostonHerald.com

A pretty easy second choice as well. Bradford provides a wealth of information, anecdotes and humor in his entries. During spring training thus far, he’s been on fire with entries. Lets hope he can keep it going for the whole season – he did go through some slow periods last year. He’s been including photos in the blog, and he’s been blogging from his Blackberry, letting him literally blog right from wherever he might be at the moment. His style is appealing and you find yourself really looking forward to his next entry.

3) Red Sox Monster - MassLive.com

Perhaps a bit of a surprise here, and definitely a different style from the first two blogs in this list. Red Sox Monster is a DeadSpin-style blog, focusing on humor, sensationalism and images/videos. Nevertheless, RSM is still an enjoyable visit if you’re looking for a little lighter take on the Sox. Dan Lamothe writes this blog for MassLive.com (The online home of the Springfield Republican) from just outside Washington D.C. Despite the distance, he clearly has his finger on the pulse of a certain segment of Red Sox Nation. The site is regularly linked on Deadspin and many other national blogs.

4) Extra Bases - Boston.com

The Globe baseball writers do their best to imitate Mike Reiss in their baseball blog, with some success. The blog is constantly updated, always bringing the latest news involving the Red Sox. There’s nothing special or tricky about what they’re doing, but it works.

5) The Point After - BostonHerald.com

Early on in the Patriots season, this blog was competing with Reiss’ Pieces. Of course it took two writers to do what Reiss was going singlehandedly, but the tag-team combo of John Tomase and Albert Breer was doing some pretty impressive work. Breer’s film breakdowns after the games made for terrific reading. However, early on in the season Breer left for Dallas, and Tomase as left pretty much on his own here, where he did a mostly passable job. He interjects a bit more snark and opinion than Reiss does, and this is on purpose, as he knows the he’s not going to beat Reiss at the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the blog.

So there you are, the top five MSM sports blogs in Boston. Honorable mention goes to Rink Rap by Mick Colageo (New Bedford Standard Times) and Boston.com’s Bruins Blog.

Celtics Stumble on First Stop

The BSMW Full Court Press has a rebuttal this morning to a Sunday Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe, which decried the Celtics Dancers, using the word “porn” four times to describe them, and has the author generally behaving like a moral bully.

The Celtics themselves dropped their first game against a Western conference opponent last night, falling to the Denver Nuggets 124-118. You won’t find an NBA game with more head-scratching calls from the officials than this one. On both sides. Each team was awarded a basket on goaltending call in which the ball was no where near going in the hoop. Denver went to the line 49 times last night.

Marc J. Spears has Denver spoiling the return of Kevin Garnett, who looked pretty rusty all night, and rather tentative out there at times. Steve Bulpett says that it is a good thing Tom Heinsohn wasn’t out there for the game, his head might’ve exploded at the free throw discrepancy.

Bulpett has Danny Ainge looking around, but in no rush to make a deal before tomorrow’s trade deadline. Jeff Howe has Rajon Rondo becoming an indispensable piece for the Celtics. Spears’ notebook has Marcus Camby keeping up with his UMass Minuteman. Bulpett’s notebook has Garnett trying to get his legs under him last night.

Bruins

Stephen Harris and Fluto Shinzawa have the Bruins blowing a two goal lead in 20 seconds with just about a minute to play last night against the Hurricanes, but managing to get the win in the shootout.

Harris’ notebook has a look at the Bruins “3 Score Line” made up of youngsters Milan Lucic (19 years old), center David Krejci (21) and Phil Kessel (20). Shinzawa’s notebook has Aaron Ward hoping to remain a Bruin beyond the trading deadline.

Red Sox

Jacoby Ellsbury arrived in camp yesterday and immediately became the focus of attention because of his impending competition with Coco Crisp for the starting centerfield position with the Red Sox. Steve Buckley however, says that the competition with Crisp is just a mere formality – the job belongs to Ellsbury. He draws comparisons to Nomar Garciaparra competing with John Valentin for the shortstop job. Jeff Goldberg says Ellsbury has a much better idea of what to expect in this, his second spring training with the Red Sox. Amalie Benjamin also makes the Ellsbury/Garciaparra connection in his battle for a starting position. Buckley also has Ellsbury taking his mind off the position battle this offseason by increasing his workouts.

Sean McAdam says that the Red Sox are in no hurry to make a decision on Manny Ramirez’s contract options. Bob Ryan looks at Gold Glove winner Kevin Youkilis at first base and how he has worked hard to get to this point defensively. Rob Bradford has J.D. Drew taking up bowling in the offseason to try and keep his back strong. Joe Haggerty has John Farrell confident that Josh Beckett will be even better this season. Bradford has Mike Lowell talking about the resignation of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

The Nick Cafardo steroid redemption tour continues this morning with a piece on Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada.

Edes’ notebook has David Ortiz arriving in camp yesterday as well. McAdam’s notebook has more on the Ellsbury/Crisp centerfield battle. Goldberg’s notebook has more on Ortiz and the health of his knee. Bradford’s notebook has some quotes from Hank Steinbrenner in the latest edition of GQ.

(The full Steinbrenner interview – The Godfather, Part II)

Patriots

Mark Farinella looks at the Patriots going on a PR Offensive against former assistant Matt Walsh.

Karen Guregian and Christopher L. Gasper report on Ellis Hobbs undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum, and also battling through a groin injury in the later stages of the season.

The Projo has posted an article re-printed from Arlen Specter’s hometown of Philadelphia, entitled ‘Cheating’ has been a time-honored tradition in NFL.

Everyone Has Got An Agenda

Newsflash -media members have agendas! It seems to have been confessional day today on WEEI, as both Michael Holley and Glenn Ordway announced on the air today that sports media members all have agendas and alliances.

The catalyst for these comments is the fact that we’ve got a Red Sox/Patriots, Herald/Globe rivalry going on here. Mike Reiss of the Globe gets access to Bill Belichick, while the Curt Schilling invites his own circle of reporters to his “private” press conference, leaving the entire Boston Globe out of the session.

Ordway lectured this afternoon that access to various people and teams depends a lot on comfort level. Belichick talks to Reiss because he’s comfortable with him. Schilling hates Shaughnessy, so he doesn’t invite the Globe. Ordway said that Shaughnessy should stop crying about it, because this sort of thing happens to everyone in the business.

The discussion was actually pretty good, as we know that all of this happens, but it’s nice to hear those involved admit that this stuff goes on. That all media people at some point “prostitute themselves for the story” as Tony Massarotti said.

Massarotti also made the good point that there are so many media people out there now, that the subjects can pretty much now pick and choose who they want to get the story, based on how much they kiss up to them, or donate to their charity. Ordway said that that is the reason they don’t have many guests on the Big Show. Not buying that part of it.

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Dan Kennedy wonders if a compromise is possible in the Curt Schilling/Red Sox disagreement over his rehab.

Schilling himself weighs in on the status of things on his 38 Pitches blog.

Sean Gregory on TIME.com looks at the resurgence of the Celtics and why they have thrived while so many other quick-fix, star-laden clubs fail.

Bob Ryan wasn’t overwhelmed with the Slam Dunk contest. Wilt Chamberlain could do anything Dwight Howard can do…he also says Jackie Jackson was the greatest dunker he ever saw. No love for Gus (Honeycomb) Johnson, Bob?

Peter King in MMQB, Tuesday Edition, doesn’t believe Bill Belichick, though he says he has always found Scott Pioli to be truthful.

Tom Curran reacts to the Belichick comments as well.

Pete Prisco gives us his top 10 Restricted Free Agents in the NFL.

John Clayton has the Patriots as the top draft evaluators in the NFL.

Charley Rosen has an NBA midseason report card.

Bill Simmons gives his thoughts on New Orleans during All Star weekend.

Chad Finn goes Nine Innings.

Sean McAdam traipses over to the other side of Ft Myers to do a piece on the Twins for ESPN.com.

Schill Picking and Choosing

Despite not throwing a pitch yet this spring, Curt Schilling has been right where he wants to be be down in Ft Myers thus far – in the spotlight. His shoulder and the conflict over how it should be treated have been at the top of the headlines in the early going of the Red Sox 2008 spring training storylines. Yesterday, Schilling made news by choosing whom he would talk to. Gordon Edes made note of this in an entry in yesterday’s Extra Bases blog:

Curt Schilling, who said he held off on addressing his situation because he didn’t want to be a distraction but became even more of a story this past week because of his silence, met with a few handpicked reporters in the parking lot this morning after he furtively whispered instructions that they meet him there. The Globe was not among those invited to his private party, but Don Orsillo was, with a NESN camera, and in an interview that will be aired on NESN’s Sportsdesk tonight at 10 and is embedded at the top of this blog entry, Schilling left little doubt that he feels the Red Sox have him embarked on the wrong course of medical treatment.

Rob Bradford was among those in attendance at the invite-only Schilling press conference, and relates what Schilling had on his mind yesterday. (In Bradford’s blog, he reveals that he and Steve Buckley of The Herald, Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal Bulletin, Jeff Goldberg of the Hartford Courant, Dan Roche of CBS-TV 4, and Don Orsillo of NESN were the chosen ones.)

Gordon Edes, who, as noted above, was not invited to the private Schilling press conference, writes a story anyway, presumably on the strength of the Don Orsillo video, as well as quotes from Red Sox owner John Henry. The Globe snub is clearly due to a conflict between Schilling and Dan Shaughnessy, and the curiosity factor is magnified by the New York Times Co/Boston Globe 17% ownership stake in the Red Sox. Speaking of Dan Shaughnessy, he covered the John Henry interview with the media, and manages the predictable shots at Schilling along the way. Maureen Mullen has Schilling going along with the club’s wishes as far as surgery is concerned.

Lenny Megliola says that Terry Francona is clearly a perfect fit for the Red Sox. Joe Haggerty has Dustin Pedroia determined not to slow down after his strong rookie season. Buckley has Jon Lester hoping that the focus can be on his pitching this season, and not his status as a cancer survivor. Bradford has a quick look at the man at the very front of the baseball encyclopedia, relief pitcher David Aardsma, who came over to the Red Sox in a trade with the White Sox this winter. Nick Cafardo reports on Andy Pettitte addressing the media about the HGH situation and his relationship with Roger Clemens.

McAdam’s notebook reports that Terry Francona and the Red Sox started work on a contract extension last night. Edes’ notebook has David Pauly impressed with a former Mob boss speaker at a recent Rookie Career Development Program seminar. Bradford’s notebook has more on Henry’s interview session with the media. Goldberg’s notebook has more on Lester putting the past behind him.

Celtics

The Celtics begin the second half of the NBA season tonight in Denver with a game against the Nuggets. Kevin Garnett is expected to return for the Celtics, as are Kendrick Perkins and Scot Pollard. Marc J. Spears has a look at Garnett’s impending return to action for the Celtics. Steve Bulpett has more on Garnett getting through the full workout yesterday in preparation for tonight.

Mark Murphy has a feature on Coach Doc Rivers, who hasn’t changed his techniques with the success that the club has had this year. He talks to former Rivers teammate David Robinson about Doc as a player, and how that has translated to coaching. Bill Doyle says that this brutal West coast swing could be a good barometer for the Celtics. Jeff Howe trots out three keys to championship success for the Celtics this season. Tim Weisberg has a midseason report card for the Celtics. Murphy also writes about how Garnett has raised the bar for the Celtics this season in so many different ways.

Patriots

Mike Reiss has an extended conversation with Bill Belichick about the 2007 season, and what the offseason looks like for the team. Mike Felger was critical of Reiss for not asking the so-called “tough questions” of the coach in the piece that came out late Sunday night with the statements about spygate from Belichick and Pioli, but 1) Reiss did press Belichick in that piece, and 2) hasn’t Felger figured out that the “tough” questions and being antagonistic in your questioning only puts you on the outside of the Foxboro circle…which is where Felger currently (and contentedly) sits? Reiss doesn’t “suck up” to the team, he reports the facts, plays it straight down the middle as a professional should, Belichick and Patriots obviously see that and value that, and reward Reiss for that with access like he’s had the last two days here. Something that no one else has had. So who is the real winner in that situation? The one who asks the “tough” questions and doesn’t get any answers, or the one who act professional and get the answers they seek, plus a whole lot more?

John Tomase has the NFL and Matt Walsh’s lawyers at odds over a deal for the former Patriot employee’s testimony. Karen Guregian reports on the Patriots meeting with former Dolphins Zach Thomas and Marty Booker yesterday.

Bruins/Revs

Steve Conroy has Bruins coach Claude Julien doing his best to balance trying to win each game with developing his younger players. Fluto Shinzawa has Andrew Alberts making some progress in his efforts to return to the ice for the Bruins.

Frank Dell’Apa has the Revolution sporting a new look this season.

Belichick, Pioli, Break Silence on Spygate

Mike Reiss has the big scoop tonight, with Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli each breaking their silence on the whole Spygate scandal, and strongly denying that any opponent walk-throughs were ever taped.

Pioli also says that Matt Walsh was fired from the club because he was caught secretly tape-recording conversations, something that Walsh’s lawyer denies.

Daytona 500, NBA All Star Game Headline Weekend

This weekend brings us two high-profile sports events in the Daytona 500 and the NBA All Star Weekend.

The 50th Daytona 500 

FOX brings us a number of new technological advances to their broadcast, two being outlined in the exceprts from their press releases below:

On Sunday, February 17 (2:00 PM ET), FOX Sports proudly presents the 50th running of the Daytona 500 with an electrifying 80 minute prerace show to celebrate the races history and most memorable moments from the past 49 races. Hosted by Chris Myers along with analysts Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip the show is a special tribute to living racing legends who have won the Daytona 500 including Bobby Allison, Richard Petty and FOX’s very own Waltrip. In addition to previewing Sunday’s race, FOX welcomes motorsports broadcasting legend Ken Squier as a special contributor to the broadcast, adding historical perspective. It was Squier who called the first live televised Daytona 500 back in 1979 and who coined the phrase “The Great American Race.” Also in the prerace, NASCAR on FOX analyst Larry McReynolds takes a look back at the late Dale Earnhardt’s first and only Daytona 500 win in 1998 where he served as crew chief.

GOPHER CAM PROVIDES “HOLE” NEW PERSPECTIVE — Imagine that your ultimate wish is to stand trackside at the world’s most famous superspeedway, inches away as the best drivers anywhere whiz by at a breathless 185 miles per hour during the nation’s most prestigious auto race.  That’s the view Gopher Cam provides at the 50th Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17 (2:00 PM ET) and beyond.

Gopher Cam is a small, stationary high-definition point-of-view camera buried underneath the asphalt track surface, inches below the yellow line at Daytona International Speedway.  There are four Gopher Cams in-place for the 50th Daytona 500, one in each of the track’s four turns.  This is the first instance where a camera has been installed below the surface of a superspeedway, and this is the first time that a sub-track surface camera is HD caliber.  The cameras have also been paired with high quality condenser microphones, another first, for an unbelievably realistic audio/video experience.

“Television’s never-ending goal is to bring the viewer as close to the action as possible,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill.  “We’ve had great past success with Catcher-Cam and Diamond-Cam in our MLB coverage and Grass Cam and Wall-Cam in NASCAR on FOX broadcasts.  However, Gopher Cam, and forgive us for having some fun with the name, is different. These are HD cameras developed specifically for this use.  The pictures are phenomenal, and the audio that the mikes provide is mean and loud.  It’s a tremendous complement to our Emmy-caliber NASCAR broadcasts.” 

The camera hardware and electronics have been installed six inches below the asphalt, and is housed in a cylindrical stainless steel fixture.  The lens is less than a half-inch in diameter, and camera is angled slightly to see oncoming traffic.  The assembly is covered by a protective dome that is four-inches in diameter and rises less than one-quarter inch above the track surface.  Cars rolling over them will have no idea of their presence. The cameras are connected to FOX’s mobile production units outside DIS via copper wiring that was trenched in below the track and grass and run to where it meets up with the network’s advanced fiber optic wiring system. 

Live Online Q&A System To be Launched

This virtual Q&A is unlike others that may have preceded it.  On FOXSports.com, NASCAR on FOX analysts Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds, three of the sport’s most knowledgeable experts, can answer viewer’s questions in real time.  Each individual has been recorded providing simple, concise explanations to hundreds of potential questions that might arise during a NASCAR on FOX race.

“Every sport, including NASCAR, is loaded with unique terminology that many core viewers understand, but sometimes has others scratching their heads,” said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill.  “Our virtual Q&A is designed to enhance the viewing experience by helping the curious fan better understand what they’re seeing while they’re seeing it.”

FOX’s virtual Q&A is an adaptation of patented technology called Synthetic Interviews developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Penn., by Scott Stevens, Ph.D. and Michael Christel, Ph.D., computer researchers in CMU’s School of Computer Science and Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). 

“By enabling fans to interact with their favorite on-air personalities online, FOX Sports and FOXSports.com are delivering the type of engaging, multi-platform experience that users have come to expect from sports event coverage,” said Brian Grey, SVP and GM of FOX Sports Interactive.  “It’s these types of multi-platform programming experiences that deliver a new level of engagement for sports fans and also resonate with brand advertisers.”

Synthetic Interviews is a technology that allows users to ask questions and receive video answers as if they were engaged in a face-to-face conversation with a live person.  Specifically regarding this effort, one of the three NASCAR on FOX experts appears to answer the question or explain the term as though speaking directly to the viewer.  When the project is launched on

Sunday, over 300 terms frequently used during race coverage, such as wedge, marbles or camber can be explained by the FOX Sports Answer Man.  While not every possible question can be anticipated, items featured can be refreshed and updated based on demand.  

NBA All Star Weekend on TNT

TNT’s coverage of NBA All-Star Weekend festivities tips off Friday, February 15 at 9 p.m. ET with the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam. Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley will be courtside to call the action with Craig Sager reporting from the sidelines. Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai will follow with Johnson, Smith and Barkley.

The excitement continues on Saturday, February 16, when Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai tips off an exciting night at 5 p.m. ET. TNT guest analyst Magic Johnson and NBA Insider David Aldridge will join Ernie Johnson, Smith and Barkley live from the historic French Quarter of New Orleans. At 7 p.m. ET, TNT will present NBA’s Greatest Slam Dunk Contest: Airborne. Through first-person interviews of players and TNT announcers, ‘Airborne’ reflects on memorable NBA dunk contests and the host cities that served as backdrops to the dunks that made history. Beginning at 8 p.m. ET, TNT will televise exclusive live coverage of NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, which includes the Haier Shooting Stars competition, the Playstation Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, and the Sprite Slam Dunk. The evening will be capped off by the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2008 presented on TNT by Old Spice Pro Strength at 11 p.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT.

TNT’s All-Star coverage takes center stage on Sunday, February 17 at 8 p.m. ET with the 2008 NBA All-Star Game. Play-by-play announcer Marv Albert and analysts Doug Collins and Reggie Miller will be courtside with Craig Sager reporting from the sidelines.