The Single-Question Mailbag: A Response To A Reader

After receiving this email this weekend from a reader with whom I had previously had a discussion, I responded and thought I would put the response here, as it might address themes or issues other people bring up from time to time.

Bruce:

Two weeks ago I sent you an email and said that you always seemed to be an apologist for the Patriots organization, but didn’t ever pass up an opportunity to take shots at The Boston Globe and The Red Sox, to name two…

You were quite kind in your reply …We discussed it in a couple of emails and you asked for an example of how you were an apologist for The Patriots and how I claimed you never passed up a chance to defend them.

Your example is Friday’s web site. You said the Patriots are the story again and everyone in the media is waiting to go after them….. Are you kidding me ? Are you going to tell me that Tom E Curran, Mike Girardi, Bedard, Espn Boston, Channel 4, 5, 7, and Ordway, Holley, 98. 5 morning Duo, Mutt & Merloni, Bob Neumier or a host of others are salivating at the prospect of going after the Patriots ???? Really ? Really?

The aforementioned, including you, are seemingly all members of the Patriots PR Staff !……

You seemingly are prepared to defend the Patriots at the drop of a hat, as one would do for their child or spouse……

Is there not a double standard here…..If these 2 guys were on Red Sox do you not think the media uproar would be more intense ?  Have you witnessed the 30 years prior to Red Sox 2004 ….and then 2011? Have you turned on the radio in those times….

To suggest that the negative media The Pats occasionally get is bad is laughable particularly if viewed through the Red Sox lens …..If the Red Sox had lost as many Game 7 World Series as The Pats did Super Bowls there would be a blackout in Boston as the phones would overheat and the media hot air would CONTINUE TO THIS VERY DAY….

Are there not legitimate questions that Bellicheck should answer in these 2 stories ? …..Or legitimate questions as to why no SB wins since last SB despite having ‘BEST TEAM IN NFL’ several times?

Come on ….Bruce

I welcome your reply

Here is my reply:

Hi [emailer] -

Thanks for the follow-up, I appreciate the opportunity to have a discourse.

I guess where we part ways, and that in my opinion  where you rather betray where your loyalties are and where you’re coming from is when you label that entire list of people as “Patriots PR Staff.”

Are you kidding me? I guess you didn’t see Tom E Curran’s very strong columns and tweets about the need for the organization to speak and admit fault over the Hernandez case. Mike Giardi has no problems being critical of the Patriots, just read his timeline or watch his reports to see that that is true. Bedard? He’s been very critical of moves the team has made, and has had no problems stating early on when he feels they’ve screwed up. Mike Reiss always gets tagged with that PR label, mostly thanks to Felger, but it is extremely unfair. It sometimes seems to me that Reiss has had a running theme about looking back at the 2009 season, as if he believes that is when the franchise lost its way. The TV stations? Well, channel 4 has a partnership with the team, with the preseason games and the pre-post shows, they’re not going to go over the top, but 5 and 7? I’m not sure what you’re watching, but it’s not the Sunday night show on WHDH which regularly features the likes of Shaughnessy, Borges and others who enjoy pointing out failures.

The 98.5 morning show? Seriously? They love to make fun of the Patriots, and with Toucher being a devout Jets fan, he revels in anything that goes poorly for the Patriots. Lou Merloni can’t stand the Patriots, and has to follow every “damn” storyline he can dredge up about them. Bob Neumeier? Where did that name come from? He again is someone who loves the storylines.

The thing with the first few individuals on the list is that they actually know the meaning of the term “objective” – and I appreciate that about them. They’re critical of the team when it is deserved – and it IS deserved at times. For you to label them “Patriots PR Staff” really speaks volumes to me as to where you’re coming from.

Where I have a problem is when the likes of Felger and Mazz, Adam Jones, Mike Florio, Lou Merloni, Ron Borges, Dan Shaughnessy, Gary Tanguay et al pile onto storylines and use them to fill hours of radio time, and inches of column space with convoluted criticism which contains high amounts of revisionist history, moving goalposts and 20/20 hindsight.

You’re telling me that when Alfonzo Dennard gets arrested for suspicion of DUI that the above list of people is not salivating over the opportunity to sit in gleeful judgement and moralizing finger-wagging? I’m not sure what you’ve been watching or listening to.

Perhaps I painted too broadly in saying “the media” would be salivating. I tend to take for granted that readers of the site know who I am referring to when I make references of that sort.

I guess I’m also confused on your continual need to bring up the Red Sox. I’ve found in my experience that there are many people in the region who are Red Sox fans, but not Patriots fans, to the point of trying at length to publicly discredit and ridicule the Patriots while making sure the Red Sox get their due. These are the folks who always make sure to point out at every opportunity that “this is a baseball town.” To each his own.

It is possible to be both a fan of the Patriots AND the Red Sox. Not mention the Bruins AND the Celtics. If you’re accusing me of being biased against the Red Sox, then you clearly haven’t been following the site for very long. The entire genesis of the website came about in the days of the “curse of the Bambino” and how fans where getting hit over the head with that every single time something went wrong.

At that time, people wrote into me and accused me of being a Red Sox toady and oversensitive to the criticism leveled at them.

The difference between criticism of the Red Sox and their losses in the past (prior to 2004) is that the media was in general, not gleeful over losses. They commiserated and yes, it got ugly with frustrations of people and pointing blame at whomever, but it was totally different from what we see today both in content and tone.

I’m also a bit bewildered as to why individuals as yourself and others demand that Bill Belichick ANSWER for the Hernandez and Dennard cases. He’s a football coach. The owner of the team, has already spoken.

Did the Carolina coach ANSWER for Rae Carruth? Bill Polian, who drafted Carruth IN THE FIRST ROUND was one of those taking a moralistic victory lap over the drafting of Hernandez in the 4th round. Did Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli ANSWER for Jovan Belcher?

By ANSWER, I don’t mean just talk about it to the media. I mean OWN IT, which what some of the people around here seem to want Belichick to do. They want him to grovel and admit fault.

As for losing Super Bowls with the BEST TEAM IN NFL as you put it, do all other coaches get subjected to this same standard? When the Giants beat the Packers and 49ers en route to that 2011 Super Bowl, were Mike McCarthy and Jim Harbaugh made to answer? Most “experts” felt those were the better teams, not only better than the Giants, but better than anyone in the AFC as well.

There’s a ridiculous double-standard there. In 2007, sure, the Patriots were the BEST TEAM IN NFL going into the Super Bowl. The Giants won the game. When else have the Patriots been the BEST TEAM IN NFL and lost? How does that compare to other franchises? When the Steelers went 15-1 and lost to the Patriots, did Bill Cowher have to ANSWER for that?

I’m sure I didn’t address all of your points to your satisfaction, but hopefully this gives you a better idea of where I’m coming from on things.

  • QuantumMechanic

    Well said, Bruce. Well said. I personally don’t know of any Patriots fan who minds reasoned criticism of the team (not saying they don’t exist, only that I don’t know any).

    But the crap spewing from the keyboards of the people you call out here over and over again don’t even come close to that.

    • bsmfan

      On the fans: If you use callers to the stations as some type of informal, unscientific barometer, the feelings were the same. In light sampling forums like this, SoSH, Patriots forums, it was a similar reflection of 5-10% who had some bone to pick and 90% who were fine after Kraft spoke.

      With some of the 10%, they seemed to already hate the team and now this was their time to vent and pile on. I heard one guy Felger let go for 30 seconds that even was riled up at how arrogant Kraft was for always wearing two-tone (bankers) dress shirts.

  • NS Webster

    I sort of agree with some of what the emailer is saying – I mean, it’s certainly Belichick reaping what he sowed with the media. If you run an organization where secrecy is #1 and then it all falls apart, you can certainly expect the criticism to be much worse than in a case like the Ravens, etc., where the coach plays the media game…and I think that’s deserved to some extent. I don’t think he “owes” any sort of explanation to “own” Hernandez, but I think he should say “here’s what I knew, and here’s why I felt comfortable that the contract extension was a good idea…events have proven me wrong.”

    But – the tone of the email just lost me. It’s ranting from the other side, which of course makes the recipient defensive (as it would me), and so there’s not really a discussion…it’s just people digging in their heels.

    I’ll give this to Belichick – he avoids that completely. You can’t feud with media types if you never engage them. And Dan S’s recent “Hugh Hefner” jibes are just beyond the pale – disgusting, actually – and I wouldn’t engage with those people either. But, by not working over the past 14 years to build some trust and relationships with the working press who aren’t jerks (even Reiss never seemed to have great access) he’s reaping what he sowed. It’s a shame it’s past the point where anybody’s minds can truly be changed – even if Bill gave a lengthy press conference and answered every question, there’d still be media and fans who refused to give him any benefit or credit. So if I were him, why bother?

    But it’s all been said before…mostly, I was turned off the tone of the email, and at that point it loses its ability to convince me of any of its arguments.

    • latetodinner

      What is gained by Bill Belichick playing the “media game” of granting insider access to certain favorites? Gossip, sniping, bitterness, clubhouse lawyering all gets aired publicly. For years I have thought that Bill Belichick has understood the media better than anyone including Bill Parcells. If a reporter wants to talk football x’s and o’s Belichick will sit and talk for hours. He will be witty, endearing, funny and informative. As soon as you want him to speculate about anything not directly football related he clams up. It has serves his purposes brilliantly. The strategy has reduced distraction while consistently producing wins…which is what he is paid to do. Bill Belichick when he took over cleared out all of the guys who used the media to forward personal agendas (with the last to go Drew Bledsoe). He wanted none of what he saw happen during Pete Carroll’s reign because he knew that if he allowed it to happen he was dead…he had gone through that in Cleveland and was not making that same mistake twice.

      Does he make it more difficult for the local press…only those that do not want to work for stories. Guys like Mike Reiss, and Tom Curran have been able to produce great material time and time again under these restrictions. It forces them to ask better questions and stay focused on their job…covering football. Lazy writers like Borges, Tommase, Shaughnessey,SMY, Breer and a host of others waste countless hours and tons of ink bitching about a lack of access because they quite frankly are not good at their job and hate being exposed on a daily basis.

      MLB has rules that mandate daily access to players in an informal setting. As such relationships are built and in a poison clubhouse (see the 2012 Red Sox) eventually everything is aired. The NFL is different, A coach can control to some extent what gets to be a distraction. Bill Belichick is able to use continue to control the message because he has delivered results. You would think the media in Boston would embrace this and start talking football. Instead they revel in instances where they get to say “gotcha”… that is mature and professional!

      • bsmfan

        There will be a time when BB is no longer the coach of the Patriots. He’ll retire or go do something else. We can all agree to that.

        Regardless if Kraft is still the owner, when that time does come and we have some doofus coach like Rex Ryan, how soon will we get the columns longing for the “good times” when the Patriots had controlled media access and there weren’t daily leaks of stuff going on, even when the team is good, in the locker room?

        Maybe the media wishes the Patriots were more ‘gossipy’ like the Sox were last year. I think most reasonable fans understand why BB/Kraft have things locked down why they do. There is a rival in our division that shows us what happens when you don’t.

        • latetodinner

          I hope we never are known as Same Old Jets (SOJ)…although we were close to that under Pete Carroll.

      • NS Webster

        Right – there is no advantage. And since the media is so toxic, there’s no reason to change.

        You are def. right that guys like Reiss were able to get stories about football, and how the game’s played – unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what most “fans” are interested in, which is why the more negative slanted stories get clicks and viewers. I mean, those guys aren’t great writers and they’re lazy journalists, but they know how to get an audience. And that’s lame on our end more than theirs.

        Bill isn’t going to change at this point anyway…if he’s here for 3,4, or 5 more years, he’s not suddenly going to start having expansive press conferences. Would it have made a positive difference if he had been that way from the start (and I recall his PCs being a lot more interesting in the early 2000s)? It seems like all this really tarted with the “team hates the coach” Tom Jackson lie back in 2003, and never bounced back from either side.

    • brickseller

      No, ther’es no media agenda against the Patriots. That’s why 2 years ago Joe Sulliven did not even run the Sunday Football Notes IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON TWICE and why Shag can blast Dennard and say let’s give Delonte West a chance when he returned to the Celtics. The media’s so disapointed that bill muted their attempts to give season long legs to the Hernandez story (not he didn’t deserve it) that they are now embarrasing themselves ad nauseum

  • HomerGreenz

    If you think Reiss is a Pats apologist / PR flack you’re simply not reading Reiss. The moment that line is uttered, I know the person is speaking from a place of total ignorance. It’s not worth my time to go back through his archives, but if one did, or had actually been reading him all along instead of just regurgitating someone else’s opinion about Reiss, you’d see many, many posts about the Patriots failures. Specifically about losing Super Bowls and about draft picks…

  • APNDaveR

    Bruce’s response: [thoughtful and detailed; see above]
    APNDR’s response: If you can’t even spell “Belichick” correctly, your opinion is utterly worthless and irrelevant to me. End of discussion.

    • latetodinner

      Hey Dave…way to make me spit coffee out my nose at the screen! As an aside…I have been waiting patiently for your summation of Case Hernandez and how that is all going to play out.

      • APNDaveR

        Summation: he’s toast. More than enough to convict him based on what I’ve seen, and I strongly suspect that they’ve gotten at least one accomplice (but perhaps not one of the other two guys who were arrested) to flip on him. Unless his attorney pulls something out of his rear (“I told the guys to rough him up a little bit, but they went nuts and killed him”) to bring the charges down to 2nd or manslaughter, I don’t think this is even going to be interesting…

  • brickseller

    Criticism that does not include agenda driven remarks about Patriot draft choices that the writer HAS NEVER EVEN SEEN PLAY ONE SNAP. Reasoned criticism includes questions about some of Bill’s draft choices, his occasional less than perfect treatment of players ( not referencing that Whiner Welker) or brusqueness with the media. But when a retired baseball player on TV, who does’nt know whether a football is stuffed or blown up, starts criticizing how Bill measures out his practice time, ( yse somebody said something that dumb with a straight face) ,you don’t have to be too,too smart to discern an agenda,

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