Fighting Words “Lost Chapter” on Patriots

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.

  • kevin

    what is a “real sports fan” or for that matter what is a fake one?

    Most people I know prefer one sport over another and they do not have an equal amount of interest in teams or sports.
    I don’t think most people view them in compitition with each other but I think it is the rare person who views them or follows them equally.

    • Bruce

      The point I was trying to make was that it seems like some, especially in the media, try to make it out that if you’re a Red Sox fan, you can’t be as equally a big fan of the Patriots.

      Can you only focus on one at a time? If you prefer the Red Sox over the Patriots, are you any less enthused when the Patriots play in the Super Bowl? Or if you prefer the Patriots, did you not watch the Celtics championship? On the nights that two or even three of the local teams are playing, do you stick with one game or do you flip between them all?

      I’d say a lot of people are fans of all the teams. You might have your preferences, but fandom isn’t mutually exclusive. Just because you love the Red Sox doesn’t mean you can’t love the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots.

      Sure, most people don’t follow all four teams in this way, more likely two or perhaps three, but I had to include them all because if I didn’t, I’d hear about it!

      As for a “fake” sports fan…I think you know the type. The one that is all of a sudden sporting a Red Sox jersey at work in October and trying to talk about “Big Poppie” and wondering why the fans boo Youkilis at Fenway.

      • kevin

        you said they make it seem that fans cannot pull equally for all four. My contention with that is people do not pull equally for all four. No matter if they follow all four, three, two or some combo including the more fringe teams I have yet to meet to person who views them equally. If you watch a patriots game clicking every once in a while to see the Sox score you are picking one over the other.

        The fanbase off the teams are not equal I don’t know why anyone would pretend they are.

        • Bruce

          “Equally” was a poor choice of words of my part, obviously.

          I think Jon below has a better grasp of what I intended. My apologies for the confusion.

      • Jason Coyote

        Bruce, another obvious example of fake sports fans can be heard mornings on T&R during their “Ask a Pink Hat” segment.

  • http://www.jonvssports.blogspot.com Jon

    For me, it’s always been
    Bruins
    Patriots
    Red Sox
    Celtics

    But really, if it’s October, I’m focused on the Sox. If it’s January, it’s the Pats. if it’s May or June (and they’re still alive) it’s the C’s and B’s. Hopefully Steve Nichols and company can get the Revs back to the MLS cup so I add them in there. Tyler Twellman, where are you?!?!?

  • NASCL

    Being a fan of hockey apparently makes you an extremist in some quarters.

  • Char

    I’m equally as avid about the Patriots, Sox and Bruins; I root for all three. I don’t get the “competition” talk either. I’m not a Celtics fan simply because I’m not a basketball fan, but I wish them well.

  • Tony

    I remember when it didn’t have to be a competition. Back in the “old” days, the only media personality in this town who openly “dissed” a sports team and its fans was Eddie Andelman on the old “Sport Huddle,” when he banned hockey talk and openly mocked those who called in to talk about the Bruins (“They’re not skating enough to their left” would always be Eddie’s “clever” response).

    I could be wrong, but I honestly think the dynamic shifted when the Sox became partly owned by the largest newspaper in New England in late 2001. I seem to remember some Pats’ players being none too pleased that during a 2003 regular season game at Gillette the Pats’ management flashed the score updates from a Red Sox/A’s playoff game at Fenway, and when the Sox took the lead late in the game the place erupted, briefly destracting the players while the outcome of the football game was still undecided. I think Bruschi, in particular, was a bit chafed at that, and I recall the “17-percenters” calling him out for being chafed about it.

    After the Sox finally won the World Series, boston.com did that “all time” poll of the fans to rank the city’s championships from 1 through whatever……and the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Rams beat out the Sox winning the 2004 World Series. The 17-percenters at the Globe were shocked and dismayed at the results, and immediately started claiming that Pats fans somehow “rigged” the voting or “stuffed the ballot boxes,” because it was incomprehensible to them that the “real” sports fans in Boston could possibly rank a football championship over a Red Sox World Series win.

    Just a theory of mine, but if there has been any “competition” created between the sports teams in town, the Globe’s (now former) 17 percent stake in the Red Sox could have played a big part in creating it.

    • Jason Coyote

      I was at Fenway watching Game 4 of the ALDS that Sunday afternoon between the Sox and A’s, while the Pats were playing the Titans down at Gillette (I remember trying to listen on my walkman for a score between innings). Both teams won that day, and the Pats win was particularly significant because it was the first of their record-setting 21-game winning streak.

  • http://www.jonvssports.blogspot.com Jon

    Eddie Andelman’s anti-hockey screed was asinine. I’ve never got the C’s/B’s rift. I root for both teams and don’t give a ****. As emotional as the SuperBowl in 2002 and the WS in 2001 were, the 2008 NBA title was my favorite because I had 15 minutes of KobeJesus and company getting curb stomped to savor it.

    • Tony

      I’m not exactly sure what the origins of that “B’s vs. C’s” stuff were, but remember that Andelman was pretty tight with Auerbach, and Red used to get pretty ticked off back in the 60s when his Celtics teams were winning championships and playing in front of 6,500 fans every night, while a succession of lousy (pre-Orr) Bruins teams would play in front of sellout crowds. The media coverage of both teams, at the time, probably reflected the level of the fans’ interest as well. After the B’s started winning and completely took over the town in the early 70s, I think Red’s (and by extension, Andelman’s) frustration grew.

      I’ve always loved all four teams in this town. I’m just as passionate about a Celts/Lakers game as I am about a Red Sox/Yankees game, or a Pats/Colts game. 30 years of Jeremy Jacobs nearly snuffed out all of my Bruins passion, but the salary cap requirements of the new NHL have saved his miserly butt, and his franchise, and my passion has been slowly creeping back to life over the last 3 or 4 years.

      • mandb97

        I know for a fact that Eddie hates Jeremy Jacobs. I’m not sure why other than at the time he was extremely cheap. It did seem though that it was far more personal.

    • J.R.

      For some bizarre reason, moss of my sports-loving friends follow the Sox and Patriots, and then either the Celtics OR the Bruins — but not both of the winter squads. (I enjoy all four teams; it’s soccer I have a problem with!)

      I don’t understand why it’s that way, but typically the hoop guys hate the Bruins for some reason while the hockey guys think the Celtics are a complete waste of time. They can only all agree on one thing: that I’m a moron for following and liking both the Celtics and the Bruins equally. It’s very odd and I suspect that Hatfield-McCoy dynamic as it relates to the Bruins and Celtics is more widespread among fans than we may think.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    it’s all up to the individual. I know a couple of people who seem to root for all the teams equaly but it’s pretty rare.
    I’ve always been a football guy. It would not matter to me if the Red Sox were in game 7 of the World Series, if the Patriots were playing a regular season game at the sametime I would watch the Pats game…..

    • Tony

      AOB…the (former) 17-percenters on Morrissey Blvd. would have you boiled in your own pudding and buried with a sprig of (Michael) Holly in your heart for expressing those pro-Pats sentiments.

      • Butch

        lol….to me it’s all about the “passion” if you will. I’ve just always “lived and died” with the Pats. Actually I WAS a HUGE diehard Red Sox fan as a kid. Then in the early 80′s they lost 3 of my favorite players, Fredd Lynn, Rick Burleson, and Carlton Fisk. I sort of lost intrest and got away from them. Just never got that “passion” back for them. By the time the ball went between Buckner’s legs it didn’t really make me all that upset, my passion for the Red Sox was gone.

        These days if I may be so bold, I gotta tell ya, I hate the Red Sox. It’s not really their fault but with the way Baseball is set up they are just another version of the Yankees…..plus the “Red Sox Nation” crap….crap like “Sox Appeal”, Pink Hatters crawling out of the woodwork…..The fact that their road games sound like home games….oh, EVERYBODY LOVES the Red Sox….YEECH…

  • JayCee

    Given the HUGE disparity that used to exist between the Red Sox & the Patriots in terms of fan interest, it’s amazing how far the Pats have come in capturing the attention of the public. I think interest in the Pats now equals – at least – interest in the Sox. The change in ownership on Yawkey Way came at a very fortuitous time for the franchise; if things had continued as they were under the luddite Harrington regime (meaning no WS championships), the Pats by now would be far & away the most popular team in New England.