Last week I posted an interview with Jerry Beach, the author of Fighting Words: The Media, The Red Sox and How Boston Finally Won It All.
Beach had mentioned that he had written out a chapter on the New England Patriots and their relationship with the media, but that the chapter had been excluded from the book.
On his blog, Beach has posted the contents of that chapter, spread across three parts. Part one looks at why baseball lends itself to more thorough coverage than football as well as coverage of the Patriots in the early part of the franchise, leading up to the Bill Parcells era. Nick Cafardo explains why he enjoyed Parcells’ tenure as head coach:
“He was an interesting guy in his press conferences,” said Cafardo, who was moved from the Red Sox beat to the Patriots beat when Ron Borges was promoted to NFL columnist in 1996. “He wasn’t afraid to say things about players. He would go off on the writers. He was just very entertaining and he would always fill up your notebook.”
As we know, it’s not whether you win or lose, it all about whether you fill up the reporter’s notebook. That quote kind of tells you all you need to know about the mentality of a lot of sportswriters.
Part two of the chapter looks at the hiring of Bill Belichick, along with a look at his time with the Cleveland Browns, and how writers from that city still talk about how much they dislike him. Beach looks at Belichick’s refusal to provide colorful assessments of players – good or bad – immediately following a game, noting:
Such reluctance to discuss particular players runs counter to the needs of writers, who often need a quote about a particular player for a feature. And Belichick’s singular focus doesn’t leave much room for reflection or prognostication, which are also regular topics for writers.
Part threeof the chapter examines the Patriots policies on talking about injuries…noting that while Belichick gets labeled as uncooperative in this area, his practices aren’t all that different from what goes on all over the league, and explains how talking too much about injuries can be a disadvantage come game day. The chapter also looks at the Patriots attempts to coach their players on speaking with the media, and how the team has embraced new media:
They were the first American professional sports team to embrace new media in 1995, when patriots.com was launched. That year, the Patriots also became the first sports team to publish its own full-color weekly newspaper (Patriots Football Weekly).
In 1997, the Patriots began a nightly online program called “Patriots Video News.” The team also has an online radio station, carries all Belichick and Brady press conferences live online and archives the audio and transcriptions of these press conferences online.
These moves were ahead of all the other teams in the league, many of who do the same things. “Spygate” is touched on, and Beach notes that this incident “provided the most resounding proof yet: Under Belichick, the Patriots talked about what they wanted to when they wanted to and on their own terms.”
Beach notes that this chapter on the Patriots had to be cut from the final book because “there was just no way to put this in the book and maintain some sort of flow.” He adds that his original idea was to write “about how the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins are all secondary to the Sox in Boston,” but that the end result got bogged down in “minutiae of Bill Belichick’s first two years and the Brady/Bledsoe controversy in particular.”
In the end, I’m rather glad that the chapter on the Patriots was omitted, not because of a lack of material, or because it wouldn’t have been interesting, but because it wouldn’t have fit in with what was a Red Sox dominated book.
I’ve never understood the fascination some in the media have with creating a competition between the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. They make it out as if fans can’t pull equally hard for all teams, but have to choose one over the other. The media might put the Red Sox ahead of the other teams in Boston, but I don’t think real sports fans in the region do. The chapter has some interesting material, and I encourage you to look it over. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before there is an entire book put together on the Patriots media practices anyway.