Sports Media Musings: Playing the Patriots Blame Game & Media Notes From Championship Sunday

None of the subsequent text you’re about to read matters; just as none of the endless hours of conversation breaking down the Patriots 28-13 defeat at the hands of the Ravens matters. You want storylines? There are plenty. You want culprits? There are plenty. But remember – and I can’t stress this enough – none of these narrative arcs really matter.

In the aftermath of the Patriots regular season loss to Baltimore back in September, here is what I wrote for WEEI.com.

We hear these platitudes all the time yet take them for granted. It’s a game of inches, a league of parity, and anything can happen on any given Sunday. More or less, it seems every year, the Super Bowl  is decided by a handful of 50/50 plays. Realistically, about five to seven teams can potentially win it all depending on the outcome of these moments. Maybe four of these teams reside in the AFC. The Patriots, once again, proved they are one of the select teams in The Conversation. (Seriously, did you watch the Jets and Dolphins throw up on one another for over four hours yesterday?)

This theory still holds up. The score didn’t indicate this, but the AFC Championship game was rife with 50/50 moments. And the Ravens, by a long shot, came out the victor in each of those situations.  Each team had four red zone trips. One came away with four touchdowns; the other, only one. Michael Felger, who will be doing a victory lap this week (and forever), picked the Ravens based on his “gut.” The guy who got it right went off intuition? If that doesn’t show you the fickle and arbitrary nature of the NFL, then I don’t know what does.

So, sure, take solace in the loss and lick the wounds. If you’re the media, blame Tom Brady for not producing points in the second half, heck, even throw words like “legacy” around (which is insanely shortsighted since legacies, by nature, take time to unfold and require perspective, but if you’re feeling frisky, need page views or ratings, then by all means, go for it!); ramble about the mismanagement at the end of the first half which took away the opportunity “cost” New England four points (I get the anger,  but rather presumptuous to assume the Pats would have punched the ball into the end zone there, given how much they struggled in that area all night); forget Aqib Talib was playing lights out and his exit due to injury signified the return of Kyle Arrington and insertion of Marquice Cole into the fold; or make baseless claims about what The Drop Part Deux means to Wes Welker’s contract uncertainty. You will hear all of it. Just don’t forget about The Conversation – it’s everything in the NFL.

Touchbacks: Media Notes From Sunday’s Action

I subjected myself to ESPN’s NFL Countdown show. Maybe it was because of Ray Lewis and all the religion talk this week that made me feel the need for repentance, or something. I don’t know. Either way, I’m 95% convinced Cris Cater was either drunk or acting out a C+ Stephen A. Smith impression during a segment called, “Where You At?”

***

There was a segment where T.I., a rapper from Atlanta, interviewed Roddy White of the Falcons. This was a real thing; very reminiscent of  Lil’ Wayne‘s blog on ESPN.com. Normally, I would be all over ESPN for doing this, but T.I.’s piece was much better than Chris Berman’s segment with Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, where Boomer joked, “I swear, you guys must be brothers?” Ohhh Boomerrrrr, so youuuu. The highlight came at one point when Justin Smith awkwardly said, “You’re trying to butter me up.” I would have loved to get into Berman’s conscious at that exact moment, “Psh. I don’t need to butter YOU up. I AM AN INSTITUTION. I AM FOOTBALL.”

***

Speaking of Berman, you wouldn’t believe it, but they showed his sideline report following The Catch in the 1984 NFC Championship game. I see this clip far too often; another example of ESPN making itself part of the story, “Look at us, in our infancy, not knowing what we know today – THAT WE ARE THE WORLDWIDE LEADEERRRRRRR IN SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT!!!!!”

***

Speaking of worthless sideline reports (I’m on fire with my seagueways right now, just go with it), evidently Fox skipped their sound check with sideline reporter Pam Oliver. Twitter was up in arms about her inaudible report (due to the deafening Georgia Dome crowd) right before kickoff. Here’s the thing: If we (rightfully) mock sideline reports for being useless and adding little insight – then, why, are we raising our fists at the information being missed. I thought we decided it’s all so pointless?

***

Joe Buck has been justifiably criticized for tempering his tone and excitement in big moments. The most egregious example of this mundane style of broadcasting is the Helmet Catch. However, he had a great call on Julio Jones’ opening drive touchdown in Atlanta. Perfect cadence and pitch as the play unfolded. I get he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like Buck.

***

Much is being made of Shannon Sharpe’s diatribe directed towards Bill Belichick for skipping out on his one-on-one interview with CBS’ Steve Tasker. I’m actually with Sharpe here, but I don’t get why he is so shocked. On the peripheral, Belichick is a sore loser. It’s weird. But it’s also not new. The Hoodie has no use for the noise; he never asks for the adulation he gets, and certainly doesn’t soak in the hate, either. Remember, though, that’s on the peripheral. Internally, all you need to know about Belichick is this tidbit from Peter King this morning.

The postgame conversation on the field with Bill Belichick … Harbaugh: “I’ll treasure that conversation forever. Before the game, we talked, and he said maybe we should just skip the postgame handshake because it’s such a circus. I said I didn’t know; I thought we should do it, it’s just the right thing to do. And we did. He was so classy, so gracious. Complimentary about how we played, about our game plan, about how tough it is to play us. I told him how much we pattern our organization around theirs, how much we study them.”

***

At various times, I covered the Patriots this past year. I interviewed guys who didn’t make it to opening day like Robert Gallery and Joseph Addai; attended OTAs, minicamp, parts of training camp, the preseason games, and even the home opener as a member of the media.

Sunday night, I found myself in a bar near my Boston apartment, with a buddy, Johnny (a Patriots fan, though, I don’t think he knew who Marquice Cole was until Anquan Boldin abused him last night). It has been an interesting transition back to watching the game away from the press box. While there is no buffet line, egos are checked at the door;  a girl who gradually grew uninterested in the game played that shooter arcade game and entered her name as “STD-UTI” (which was hilarious); Johnny and I debated whether our waitress had breast implants (ultimately determining the affirmative, yet we never confirmed); listened to hammered guys claim, “I can’t put this game on Brady, I just can’t,” and after it was all over, had a random guy seriously proposition us with the following choice, “Are we going after girls tonight or looking to find a fight?”

Quirky, fun, memorable, and refreshing — sports is sports again. Even when it sucks.

  • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

    Ryan,

    You forgot that today has been declared National Patriots Hate Day.

    We have some reports from Dan Sileo and John Dennis that Pam Oliver was unable to be heard in the Georgia dome because she was too busy in the kitchen (yes, I’m joking). You nailed it. We mock how useless sideline reporters are until we’re “denied” the information we so mock?

    The Patriots lost, yeah, but how could the media be denied their ability to hype up the “Harbowl?” Last week, I heard from two national writers (John McClain was one) on the radio, “I’m sick of writing about the Patriots.” I’m not pulling the conspiracy card here but it was an interesting remark.

  • John

    I love how everyone was predicting the Pats were going to score in the 30′s… and everyone was all over Felger for his “irrational” reasons for picking Ravens. his rationale was pretty on the money to me. Ravens are that team that got on a roll at just the right time … heading into the playoffs.

    • Winning_Again

      Everyone was on Felger because the only reason behind him picking the Ravens was his “gut” told him so. He did it purely to drum up ratings and fire up angst amongst fans he despises. Most people wouldn’t have a problem with someone picking an opposing team as long as the person provides logical reasoning.

      P.S. Is that you Mazz?

      • Steve

        What wasn’t logical about picking a team that has never lost to you by more than 3 points, and could have beaten you in any of those losses with one lucky — or one less unlucky — play going in their direction? His reasoning:

        -Tough, veteran, physical team not intimidated by the Patriots who always plays them tight.

        -A team that is starting to peak in the playoffs and who yes, is “due” for a lucky bounce or two against you.

        It might not be scientific but it’s perfectly rational. What’s not rational is your thought that his prediction has any impact on ratings. But I don’t want to turn this into a Felger defense rant. Instead I want to call out Patriots Nation for the embarrassment to New England that it is.

        I didn’t think the Ravens would win, but I also thought Vegas setting the line at 10 was absurd. And the idiotic fanboys who called Felger’s show and said he was a moron for picking the Ravens to win are insulting to Patriots fans who have half a brain. I figured Pats would win a close one, but am far less surprised that the Ravens won than I would have been if the Patriots won by two touchdowns. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but so many Patriots fans are an embarrassment and don’t deserve to root for this team. They have no respect for other teams and then do nothing but make excuses for the Pats when they lose. Yet these same jagoffs were probably some of the people who were filing out of Gillette with 9 FREAKING MINUTES left in the AFC Championship Game and a Tom Brady-led team down only 2 scores. I’m embarrassed to say I root for the same team as these people.

        • Winning_Again

          I didn’t say picking the Ravens to win was wrong. I said picking the Ravens, specifically in the manner in which Felger picked them, was done purely for ratings. If you want to disagree thats fine. More power to you! But don’t turn this into a rant about not respecting the Ravens. I thought, much like you, that the Patriots would win a close game, based largely on talent and track record. Using track record, it shows that Felger will usually choose the position of contrarian. He knows it will elicit callers, many of those angry. Anyways, enough on this, let’s get Hockey talk!

        • Steve

          You may respect the Ravens, and if you do, thanks for being an intelligent sports fan. I’m just beyond fed up being lumped in with the “footy pajama” Patriots fanboys who seem to be what other people view the average Patriots fan as. The people who called into Felger’s show predicting a blowout and calling him an idiot for picking the Ravens clearly know nothing about sports. And I don’t want to be associated with them. Call me an a-hole, call me a snob, call me whatever. But I’m not a white trash jackass who thinks “The Pats ah gonna win cause the Ravens ah wicked old and Brady’s gonna cahve ‘em up because he’s the best evah. It doesn’t matta what happened befoah, Belichick’s gonna have ‘em ready and we’re goin to New Ohleans.” Sorry, got sick of hearing that on the radio last week and makes me embarrassed to to say I root for the same team as these people. That is all.

      • John

        “Everyone was on Felger because the only reason behind him picking the Ravens was his “gut” told him so.” – That sounds like something my 12 yr old would say.

        So as long as his “gut” tells him that the Pats will win, it’s okay with you? Do you ever have “gut” feelings about things, or do you always just look at previous box scores & point spreads to tell you who might win? People just can’t get over the whole “contrarian / drum up ratings” thing. It’s very lazy.

        I’m still wondering what was so “irrational” about his reasons for picking the Ravens.

    • Peter_Akuleyev

      Based on the way the Ravens have played all year, it was perfectly logical to pick the Patriots to score in the 30s. The Baltimore defense really hasn’t been very good this year – they were hardly lights out against Denver last week and not that great against a supposedly less dynamic Patriots team back in October. If the Ravens won it was supposed to be in a shoot-out carried by the strength of Flacco’s arm. Holding the Ravens to 28 points was actually an accomplishment.

    • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

      Unless you’re here to troll, we covered this on two posts last week. The uproar–at least here–was because of what Winning said below. We all know his intent to do it was to “stir the pot” as he admitted to Tom Curran the week before when him/Shaugnessy/Felger got into the argument on pre-game live.

      “Everyone predicting?” Most media members and folks who write predictions had this thing within 3-7 points. Everyone knew the line was a joke.

      • John

        Enough of the “stir the pot” stuff. I’m so tired of hearing that. Not EVERYONE is going to pick the Pats to win every game every year. So basically Felger can’t ever pick the opposing team without being a “contrarian” or plotting to “stir the pot”? That’s so dumb. Felger made you all look dumb… because he saw this loss coming a mile away… and you guys, like you do every year, never give the opposing team any respect.. and therefore are shocked when they lose.

        • Winning_Again

          You are clearly missing the point or are just new to Felger’s schtick.

        • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

          You clearly missed the discussion, posts and points made on this from the week before. I suggest you go back and re-read them.

          I’ll reiterate the crux of most:

          No reasonable fan, person here or sports fan cares if a media member picks against their team.

          F+M went on to discuss this when Felger, Thursday or Friday, started to do the real “Man, so many fans here are mad.” (UMAD BRO?) Thankfully, Mazz stopped it real quick with “Mike, the reasonable fans here have no problem with it, but it’s the small minority who can’t stand any local media member who picks against them.” (I’m paraphrasing here.)

          The problem comes to credibility. On CSNNE Sunday, Curran called out Shaughnessy and Felger for “stirring the pot”, to where Felger justified his “position” by saying its his job to be “contrarian” first and firemost. The day after the Texans win, not even an hour in, Felger drops that, instead of possibly waiting for the week to pan out, after 4 hours of discussion in his segment, and making a pick sometime Friday. This isn’t far from the first time something like this has happened, as well. You can go back in the archives here for many documented instances.

          Yeah, part of his job, along with “sports talk” is to drive the ratings but those of us, including me, are accusing him of making the pick not because he thought they would win, but because of what I laid out above (contrarian). Ever watch First Take? You know that Skip/Stephen A purposely take/pick different sides of something like this to drive ratings, right?

          If he had waited until Friday to make his Ravens pick, you would have still had the “outraged” minority–nothing you can do there. These people exist in every market and cannot be talked down. However, you would have had a lot less chatter here about his pick being to drive those ratings instead of having good, intelligent sports talk.

        • John

          No. I don’t watch First Take. That show is complete garbage. I don’t know why you keep bringing that up with your posts week after week. So you’re basing your opinion on that show?

          You’re also basing your opinion of Felger on the fact that he made is pick on Monday, instead of waiting until Friday? That’s just weird. Why in the world does that matter. I think SF is going to win the superbowl. Should I wait until a week from this coming Friday to share that opinion with anyone?

  • TonyC66

    I know that the common narrative–especially around here and especially considering the local NFL franchise–is that “injuries are not an excuse for losing”; but for heaven’s sake, is it really that surprising that the Patriots lost to a team that was at its healthiest all season long this January, while New England was, once again during yet another playoff run, beset with injuries to some of its most important players? I don’t know about the rest of you, but the minute I saw Talib hobble off the field less than 10 minutes into the game, I instantly got the feeling that the Pats’ goose had been cooked. And as for their red zone failures, not having the best tight end (and red zone target) in football against a defense that’s always tough in the red zone wasn’t exactly a good situation for them. Lastly, getting pressure on Flacco was going to be a key on Sunday, and Chandler Jones played two snaps–two–because of that bad ankle. The Pats entered the playoffs “healthier than they’d been all season” according to Belichick, then last week they lost Gronk and Jones, and Sunday they lost Talib before the final echoes of the national anthem had even faded. No, I’m not making excuses, but I’m merely pointing out that in the modern NFL, having “all hands on deck” come playoff time–which Baltimore, by the way, finally had after not having it for most of the regular season–is practically a prerequisite for having a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Remember, Gronk played on one leg in the Super Bowl last season, a game which was basically decided by a single play (you can pick one of about 6 or 7 critical plays in that game that went the Giants’ way instead of New England’s): if he’s healthy, I have to believe that the Pats with that game. The Pats will be back in 2013. They’re basically a very young team and, despite Sunday’s struggles (with Jones and Talib out of action), the defense did, in fact, get better this season. If they could just stay healthy enough come playoff time, that elusive fourth Super Bowl title would be a lot easier to grasp.

    • TonyC66

      The above is supposed to say: If he’s (Gronk) healthy, I have to believe the Pats win that game (Super Bowl 46), not
      “with” that game, of course (typo).

  • Tyler

    Joe Buck is fucking terrible – a smug, smarmy twat.