Plagiarist Ruins Perfectly Good Rolling Stone Feature

Why’d you do it, Rolling Stone?

After already angering much of Boston last month with the cover story on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the magazine this time ruins an otherwise sterling feature on Aaron Hernandez by allowing plagiarist Ron Borges to sully the work of writer Paul Solotaroff.

While Joe Sullivan was having his Boston Globe writers out talking to private investigators and handwriting experts, Solotaroff was putting together perhaps the most complete investigative profile of Hernandez yet.

Much of the feature is outstanding – it really puts together a lot of the pieces, and background that brought Hernandez to the point where he is now. Where we’ve heard so many disjointed accounts of incidents, the narrative of this story puts them all together in context, along with testimony about Hernandez’s upbringing and the events that put him on this path. It’s really compelling and fascinating material.

But then, out of nowhere, Ron Borges swoops in, takes a steaming dump on the Patriots, and then flies out again.

It really is amazing. You can tell precisely where Borges’ takes over the narrative (the stoop-to-conquer Patriots of Bill Belichick) and when he gives it up. It’s not a smooth transition at all.

Solotaroff brings the piece to the point where the Patriots come into the story – the 2010 NFL Draft. Then this;

Time was, the Pats were the Tiffany franchise, a team of such sterling moral repute that they cut a player right after they drafted him, having learned he had a history of assaulting women. But Beli-chick, the winner of three Super Bowl titles and grand wizard of the greatest show on turf, had decided long before he got to New England that such niceties were beneath him. Over a decade, he’d been aggregating power unto himself, becoming the Chief Decider on personnel matters. He signed so many players bearing red flags they could have marched in Moscow’s May Day parade (Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, et al.), and began drafting kids with hectic pasts, assuming the team’s vets would police them. Some of this was arrogance, some of it need: When you’re picking from the bottom of the deck each spring, you’re apt to shave some corners to land talent.

The writing style, the tone, everything is completely different from the rest of the piece. It’s all Borges catch-phrases, too.

He continues:

Belichick signed both to big extensions years before their rookie deals expired, giving Hernandez $40 million and Gronkowski $54 million, while stiffing Wes Welker, the slot receiver.

“Stiffing Wes Welker.” How that little tidbit – even if true – is at all relevant to the rest of the story is completely beyond me.

Borges then launches into how Belichick fired Frank Mendes, and “replaced the Pats’ security chief with a tech-smart Brit named Mark Briggs.” (In 2003, mind you, 10 years ago!)  That paragraph ends with a law-enforcement official who “dislikes Briggs” complaining that the Patriots aren’t receptive to tips and it isn’t a friendly environment to call over.

More:

In his first remarks after Odin Lloyd’s murder, Robert Kraft described himself as “duped” by Hernandez, saying he’d had no knowledge of his troubles. That is arrant nonsense: Every team knew him as a badly damaged kid with a circle of dangerous friends and a substance problem. Once a Patriot, Hernandez practically ran up a banner that said STOP ME! I’M OUT OF CONTROL!

Funny, that’s not how Borges himself described Kraft’s initial statements on the case.

Speaking publicly for the first time against the advice of his attorneys, Kraft said he felt the need for the public to hear from the organization — and frankly he is the organization. One can talk all they want about Bill Belichick or anyone else but when push comes to shove one voice dominates all others in Foxboro and it is Kraft’s. The team is still here because he kept it here and it will be here long after Belichick and Tom Brady are gone and so on his first day back in his office he spoke from the heart.

I’m confused; was Kraft speaking from the heat, or was he dishing out arrant nonsense?

And then, POOF, as quickly as Borges swooped in, he’s gone, and Solotaroff wrestles back control of the narrative.

It didn’t have to be that way. By adding Borges to the story, someone with an axe to grind against the franchise, and who left the Boston Globe under a cloud (shouldn’t that have been a RED FLAG?) undermines the effectiveness of the feature.

Question: What does the Boston Herald think about this? How could they not even get an exclusive excerpt out of the fact that their writer was working on this? How can they not be pissed?

Some other points:

We know what the sports radio talking points will be:

The flophouse was Belichick’s idea, Mike!!!

They knew what a scumbag he was, and looked the other way!
If Belichick didn’t arrogantly fire the security director, no one would’ve been killed!

He was walking around the locker room high on angel dust, and they did nothing about it!

So all those locals (Media especially) who swore they would never again read a word that Rolling Stone published after the Tsarnaev cover are going to completely ignore this article right?

Lots of suggestion that Urban Meyer covered stuff up at Florida, but seemingly not a lot of sourcing.  Nor specific details.

Angel dust? One source, and a cop from Bristol who says it was a problem in the city.

The thing about this is, while there is a ton of detailed about Hernandez’s life, when it comes to his Patriots tenure, material prior to this spring is not in abundance. Points about the combine meeting, (how many sources on that one, I wonder?) the missed workouts, the threatened release, those are new. Otherwise, there besides unnamed friends saying Hernandez smoked several blunts while driving home after every game, there isn’t much that seems to indict the organization.

  • bsmfan

    Bruce, you also forgot either an outright lie or something wrong with the facts (I posted this on the previous one):

    The NFLPA filed a grievance for Hernandez since the Pats didn’t pay his 82k workout bonus.

    This article claims that he missed workouts due to all of the stuff going on.

    I’ve never seen a workout bonus clause that allows for any absences other than excused ones for something like a wife giving birth or death in the family.

    Either the NFLPA has to put up the fight (why would they if he did miss them and voided the bonus by not showing up?) or the source there is not telling the truth.

  • Kamandi

    Caught the open of Felger and Mazz. Amid their effusive praise of the RS piece’s revelations and talk of how it revealed the negligence of Kraft and Belichik, they never mentioned Borges’ participation. I’m guessing Borges dines out on his byline being on the piece for the next year, which is his ultimate goal.

  • bullock

    According to sources mentioned in the story, Hernandez was a chronic abuser of substances such as angel dust, and likely cocaine and marijuana. Aren’t all of those banned substances? Yes, yes they are. Interesting. So here’s what we’re left with:

    Either the NFL’s drug-testing policies don’t apply to prolific offensive players (I hate the term “fantasy” players) because he has never been popped for taking a banned substance.

    Or the statement — which comes from unnamed sources (a radio personality’s favorite word) — is false.

    • bsmfan

      I think it’s long been known–not spoken–that they hit the dumb guys who still piss hot even after knowing they’re tested for substances (PEDs I guess are included? we don’t know) at the beginning of OTAs and during preseason. This “string” of suspensions this off-season–I think–was them enforcing more due to the Biogenesis/MLB stuff and needing to look like they actually police their players. If you want to see a perfect example of this? Read the history with Von Miller and how many tests for substance abuse (not PEDs) he failed and wound up with 6 games. He failed 3 tests and only when he appealed his 6gm suspension did any news come out. Why weren’t the first two hit?

      Bottom line: they do enough to keep Congress from getting involved.

  • bsmfan

    Follow-up:

    @zuriberry: Interviewed @RollingStone contributing editor Paul Solotaroff earlier today on his #Hernandez piece http://bo.st/18lpAAv

  • Trip McNeely

    And what’s with hyphening Belichick’ s name? What is the point there? It’s obviously meant as an insult. But to what end, I don’t know. I don’t get the insult at all. Is he calling him a girl? Is he implying that Belichick is woman like? Or that a woman would not be fit to run a football team? Somebody get Gloria Allred on the phone, this chauvinistic pig must be held accountable!

    • agramante

      I haven’t read the original piece, Trip, but I’d hazard the guess that the hyphen in the article occurs at the end of the line and Belichick’s name was split up between two lines.

      • Trip McNeely

        Nope the quote is in Bruce’s post, and it’s in the beginning of a sentence. It may be a typo, but again because this is obviously the part of the article that Ron wrote you have to wonder. And because of his track record of taking swipes I’m going to continue to believe that it is one.

  • DryHeave

    interesting stuff all around, (media wise) Borges being a contributor, the usual Belichick/Pats bashing…. but just speaking personally. I fully admit I root for laundry. The minute the Pats let Hernandez go he was dead to me. It’s over and done with as far as I’m concerned, I really couldn’t care less about AH and “His Story”……but of course the Stones article will fuel the mediots with enough soap opera crapola for at least a week ZZZzzzzzz……just sign me, “Can’t wait for 9/8/13″

  • smack_libs_around

    Just when you think all the bashing of sports media hacks is a little over the top, along comes Borges to convince us it’s not.

  • bsmfan

    Ben Volin to the rescue?

    “””But the story also is filled with sensationalism, hearsay, convenient fact-bending, and even one blatant falsity. The authors go to great lengths to portray Hernandez’s friends and family as thugs and losers, then expect the reader to fully believe these same unnamed sources who provide many of the lurid details.”””

    http://b.globe.com/141U7HM

  • Trip McNeely

    I actually watched Sports tonight last night at 6 to see what people were saying about the article. Gary Tanguay is an absolute joke. Twice last night he should have followed up with honest questions, but said nothing. First, when he and Felger questioned Borges about the “arrant nonsense” line about Bob Kraft in the article, Ron back pedals and glosses over it saying “it’s “very possible he [Kraft] didn’t know [about the extent of Hernandez's behavior and associations]. …It’s very likely he wasn’t aware.” Um, what? Because in your article you just said that Kraft saying he was duped is arrant nonsense, so which is it? And if that part of your article is inaccurate then how much else is? But why would Gar-Bear ask a legitimate question like that?

    Then in the next segment Albert Beer’s bodyguard Fred Toucher comes to his rescue and says he would like to tell BB “F you.” Albert was obviously upset by BB’s response to his question so here come the radio tough guy ridding in like a white knight on his trusty steed to save poor little Albert. The natural question is, well then Fred I guess you’ll be at the next Patriots press conference then so that you can ask BB a tough question and then give him a piece of your mind if you’re not happy with his answer or tone, right? Nope, Gary just sits there. Total joke. They should change the show name to “Uno’s Sports Reporters Stroking Each Other Off Tonight” because that what this crap has become

  • bsmfan

    I think you mean his “PATRIOTS TOADIE MEDIA”

    Breer just nominated himself for some sort of “Darwin Award”:

    @AlbertBreer I’ll say this to everyone speculating about the Aaron Hernandez sourcing — Rolling Stone’s standards are known to be very tough.

    • latetodinner

      This story is getting way to much run. The PCP factoid adds a nice layer to the narrative as does the explanation of the “accidental” death of TI in the car meets country club wall saga and why that was important to the Hernandez case(s).

      Otherwise…a Ron Borges hit piece is a Ro Borges hit piece. Taken it with the grain of salt it is meant to be taken.

  • bsmfan
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