Boston Herald Apologizes To Patriots – Is It Enough?

After yesterday’s testimony by Matt Walsh to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Boston Herald has issued an apology for their erroneous story the day before the Super Bowl which said that the Patriots taped the St Louis Rams walkthrough the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. The story caused a nation-wide furor which has continued since that day. Here is the apology:

On Feb. 2, 2008, the Boston Herald reported that a member of the New England Patriots [team stats]’ video staff taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed.

Prior to the publication of its Feb. 2, 2008, article, the Boston Herald neither possessed nor viewed a tape of the Rams’ walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI, nor did we speak to anyone who had. We should not have published the allegation in the absence of firmer verification.

The Boston Herald regrets the damage done to the team by publication of the allegation, and sincerely apologizes to its readers and to the New England Patriots’ owners, players, employees and fans for our error.

As you can see at the top of this post, the apology is prominently mentioned on both the front and back cover of the Herald.

Is it enough? David Scott has some pretty thorough analysis of the situation over at Scott’s Shots.

Here’s my beef: You certainly remember how, when the whole spygate thing originally went down, and Belichick remained silent on the matter outside of just a single statement? That he steadfastly refused to answer questions about it, no matter how many times they were put to him.

Remember the heat he took for it? He was virtually crucified by the media for not even reading the statement, or addressing it “live” or taking questions about it. Consider some of the comments from that week:

I’m no sports expert.

But I know a coward when I see one. And a coward is what I saw scowling behind the podium Friday at the New England Patriots’ press conference.

Bill Belichick, the legendary coach who demands fearlessness from young men bashed and smashed all over a football field, was too afraid to get the words out of his mouth: “wrong” or “sorry” or “mistake.” Or even “mistakes were made,” the preferred term of 21st century politicians also too afraid to tell the truth.

With the world watching, Belichick hid behind his “statement,” the one he actually deigned to admit he wrote only after two questions in a row about it. But the leader of the gridiron behemoths lacked the courage to read it aloud.

Yeah, that one was from Margery Eagan – of the Boston Herald.

How about this one, which begins:

On behalf of the sports enthusiasts of New England, the Boston Herald today issues the following statement:

While we find formal releases like this to be cold, impersonal and lacking humanity and humility, we felt compelled to address the recent actions of the New England Patriots, one of the most celebrated and supported teams in sports.

So the Herald here is firmly and deliberately placing themselves on the moral high ground to pronounce judgment. Yes, they felt compelled to address the Patriots behavior. Later on in the article, the writer, one Tony Massarotti, says:

In the days immediately following disclosure of the Patriots’ unethical behavior, both Belichick and Kraft issued statements apologizing for the incident and the shame it has brought on our region. We found those admissions to be hollow and completely meaningless. Whatever words the Patriots printed on a sheet of paper and distributed to media outlets throughout the nation, not a single team official has stepped up and said the most important words – “I’m sorry.” Consequently, there has been absolutely no attempt on the part of team officials to explain themselves and show any remorse whatsoever.

Regret, after all, is an emotion. It cannot be replicated or replaced, even by a color laser printer. In any apology or admission, the words are not as important as the feeling behind them, and the written word can frequently come off as corporate, sterile and devoid of all human feeling. (On this matter, the Herald, among other print media outlets, has particular expertise.) In short, we have questions that we had hoped would be answered. Communication is important in any relationship, even one between the followers of a football team and the team itself.

At a time like this, forgive us if we cease being mindless lemmings who have filled football stadiums in Foxboro from September through January since Mr. Kraft took over the franchise.

While we understand that no person or organization is perfect, we have found the events of the last week to be quite troubling because they violate the first rules of human decency. In the end, the only thing that connects us all is our vulnerability. We all make mistakes and we all look to move on at the appropriate time, but not until we all acknowledge that we ultimately share one responsibility.

It’s called accountability.

Unlike the Patriots, we hope to discuss this matter further.

So the Herald was right there in front leading the cries of accountability in the days following spygate, demanding an explanation, wanting more than just a simple, issued statement.

In this current incident, all we’ve gotten is a simple, three paragraph statement, which doesn’t even name John Tomase or the editor responsible for letting the walkthrough story get through.

If a football team is being castigated for not being accountable to society for their actions, how much more should a newspaper, which is held and bound by the ethics of journalism?

The Herald will have to forgive us if we cease being mindless lemmings, who read the paper daily, trusting that due diligence is being done in bringing us the news each day.

The Herald’s apology is also weird on a number of fronts. Yesterday, material was flying on and off the Herald’s website at a dizzying rate. A post from Tomase was removed from the Point After blog, a story was given a number of headlines, the first one focused on Walsh admitting to “spying” on the Rams at the walkthrough, with little emphasis placed on the fact that the event had not been recorded. Headlines were reworked, and the “spying” material taken out.

If they were still sticking to their story and angle, why the sudden changes and then the apology? Did the Patriots statement from yesterday give them a bit of a jolt? Who was the original source, and what does it say about the Herald that they trusted that source enough to run with the original story? It appears we won’t know, since the Herald isn’t talking.

There’s plenty more coverage of this out there, but I’ve already used most of my time here. Check in at PatriotsLinks.com for all the headlines on this subject. Also, over at Patriots Daily, Scott Benson weighs in on the events of the day as well.

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The Red Sox dropped another one last night, this time in Baltimore. Get the news at RedSoxLinks.com.

The Celtics play a crucial game five with the Cavaliers tonight at the Garden. On the BSMW Full Court Press, Matt Richardson and Kevin Henkin team up for some observations on the series. Get your Celtics news and headlines at CelticsLinks.com.

  • gary

    Definitely not enough. Tomase and the editor(s) who allowed this story to go to print must be held liable. At the very least, a suspension, and preferably, termination.

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  • Corner Blitz

    Bruce, fabulous job ferreting out the hypocrisy and ethical lapses at the Herald and the media in general. The quotes from Eagan and Massarotti should be featured prominently for years to come. Massarotti particularly should come in for increased scrutiny as he has proven to be such a thin-skinned hypocrite regarding the issues you skillfully illustrate. I hope some good will come of this, but we know how the media closes ranks and protects their own. Massarotti is an odious fraud whose whiny protestations mask a deep seated insecurity over his place in the world.

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  • Sluggo

    Tomase should be suspended and removed permanently from the Herald beat. He has no credibility. His editor should be fired.

    • Sluggo

      Correction: Tomase should be removed from the Patriots beat. And after a thorough review of his conduct, he should be offered the opportunity to resign (before termination) if this review indicates shoddy practices.

      The idiot at the Phoenix who wrote last week of Tomase’s “breakthrough” expose the day before the Super Bowl should now consider a new story about how this incident could in fact bury the Herald in the eyes of most Boston news consumers permanently.

  • Chris

    Yes…I’ll echo that: GREAT JOB in exposing this hypocritical, fraudulent sports media cabal. True, there are good, solid members. We would mostly agree that Bob Ryan is front-and-center there. But what of all the others? Almost from A to Z, they are varying degrees of ‘Awful.’ Tomase is just the latest.

    Tomase needs to be jettisoned in a Ron Borges/Mike Barnicle sort of way. Nothing short of that will wash with the public, who clearly want–and should get–a scapegoat. The people who count themselves as members of this ‘cabal’ are all complicit members. They know it and we know it. Our saving grace is that newspapers and TV stations and radio stations are going through their own turmoil right now, and that pleases me. It also pleases me that blogs like this exist, because it exposes the sports media cabal for what it is: a collection of Wal-Mart door greeters who got lucky breaks along the way.

  • Bill

    Releasing an erroneous report which defames an organization or individual is irresponsible and slanderous. Doing so on the eve of the Superbowl is downright malicious.

    A brief apology (which appears insincere at best in light of the initial reports posted on the Herald yesterday) in no way adequately remunerates this attack — and be sure to realize that this truly was an ATTACK on Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization.

    If the Herald is to be taken seriously, it must punish the offending parties in a manner befitting the violation; termination.

  • Mike

    I love sports, and love the Pats, and I’m trying and trying to get outraged by this, but I just don’t care…

    • Paul

      As the old saying goes…”If you’re not angry you’re eyes are closed”

  • Curtis

    Now that the Herald has admitted they were WRONG, the real issue to me is: where’s the damage to the pats? Seriously. Tickets will still be sold out (at highest prices in the league), paid waiting list for season tix, merchandise is still being sold, the construction still underway for Kraftland in Foxboro and they will still get plum national game times and huge ratings. So what if 5 national writers dont like the team, 105 will still say they are the favorites to win it all in September. I just dont see any tangible damage other than the self-inflicted wound caused by the coach’s arrogance costing a 1st round pick.

  • Chris in Illinois

    Slander and libel are not synonymous. Slander relates to the spoken word, libel to the written word. (So the Herald cannot be sued for or accused of slander.)
    To prove malice, the Patriots would have to prove intent to harm. The operative work is INTENT. Regardless of how it appears, that is very, very difficult.
    Sloppy? Yes.
    Malicious? Doubtful.
    The Herald made an indiotic mistake, and it should have known better. It was inexcusable.
    If you all want to let the Herald know what you think, don’t demand terminations or suspensions. That won’t happen. Instead, just quit reading it.

    • John

      Now this is perspective. One of the best comments I have read about this whole fiasco.

  • Chaz

    I think it is clear that the source was someone close to Walsh who had lied. By saying that they “now know the report to be false,” they are implicating Walsh or another source claiming to have heard from Walsh.

  • Fred

    Maybe everyone involved should be brought out to the town square to be hung and quartered.

    ETA on when you guys are going to stop obsessing about this? I’ll stipulate that the NFL made a grand mess of this, but does that really necessitate overheated 500 page posts every time anyone involved makes a statement or dares to take a breath? Seems to me to be the flip side of a really ugly coin.

    • Angry Old Bastard

      …I don’t know Fred, maybe we’ll stop “obsessing” about it when ESPN does….I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not but this web site is about THE MEDIA….If you want to discuss the Red Sox batting order, I’m sure there are places for that…..jeeze…

    • LAR

      People are getting “overheated” because its an issue of credibility and accountability. The Patriots may have violated a rule, but they were held accountable and paid the price (literally). People are outraged because it appears that the media and this loser Walsh aren’t being held accountable. Tomase didn’t have a story and Walsh didn’t have much of anything, yet they were allowed to run rampant and damage the reputation of others with no repercussions??? It’s not just about football, Fred.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    Bottomline to me is, the Herald can stick their appology where the sun don’t shine….I’ll never buy that useless rag again!

  • heironymous

    Longtime lurker who felt compelled to applaud your contrasting Tony Mazerotti’s column with the Herald’s formal statement on the matter. Although I do think the Herald’s front and back page headlines were heartfelt and penitent, as Tony pointed out, they owe us more in the days to come.

    And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean a lynching of Mr. Tomase either.

    But as one who buys the Herald every single day in order to do what I can to ensure Boston remains (at least) a two-paper town, I hope they don’t let me down.

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