Where The Media Blows Yet Another Patriots Story Out Of Proportion

Greg Bedard didn’t expect this, even if he probably should’ve known what parts of his story some of his belly-crawling colleagues in the sports media would pick up and sensationalize.

In an profile of new Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine, the Boston-based Bedard painted a picture of Pettine as a hard-working, intelligent coach with a chip on his shoulder due to the fact that just 13 years ago he was coaching high school football.

About two-thirds of the way into the column, Pettine started to explain why he prefers to keep his initial playbook relatively thin and simple.

pettine-quote

He then told a story about Tom Brady teasing one of the Jets coaches about having their playbook, and Pettine saying he wasn’t surprised because Rex Ryan gave out playbooks all the time, including to Nick Saban, who is a Belichick friend.

While Bedard thought the anecdote was innocuous, whoever laid out the page at MMQB saw the sensationalistic aspect to the statement, and thus created the pull-quote above.

Immediately Twitter and web headlines everywhere proclaimed the Patriots guilty of stealing playbooks and by extension – cheating.

Bill Belichick was asked about it at minicamp yesterday.

Rex Ryan was asked about it.

Nick Saban’s office was asked about it.

This didn’t stop the freight train. Bedard went onto CSNNE last night to try and set the matter straight, and said if he knew the extent to which the anecdote would be blown out of proportion, he’d have left it out, because it wasn’t important.

Bedard: Media misconstrued Pettine anecdote

Most people who know the NFL know that playbooks get passed around all over the league. Rex’s brother Rob worked for the Patriots – you don’t think he gave his brother one? You can download portions of the Patriots (and other teams) playbook on the internet.

Bedard is pissed that this has become the focus of his story, and I don’t blame him.

Addendum:

This was posted last night:

So when the Patriots are mentioned with anything, it is a huge deal. Stuff like this comes out, and it is completely ignored.

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David Ortiz was wrong to have a tantrum over an official scorers decisions week. It’s not the first time he’s done, and it probably won’t be the last. He’s emotional – for better or worse – but that does not excuse his behavior.

That said, Boston sports radio needs to save their hand-wringing and outrage for other things. They love to tell us how Ortiz gets a free pass for everything in this town, and put on their whiny-baby voice while they say but he won us three World Series when mocking fans. We’ve heard it a million times already.

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It was bizarro Felger and Mazz this week, as I tune in one afternoon to hear Felger saying he made a bet that the Patriots would be a top-five defense this year, and that he feels that this team is championship-built.

Tony Massarotti then stated that the Red Sox aren’t out of it yet, and can still make a run to the postseason.

#mindblown

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Enormous changes coming to ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ – Chad Finn details the upcoming changes to the ESPN flagship show which has a new 194,000 square-foot studio. If you’re a fan of “show the highlights and get out of the way” the new SportsCenter may not be for you.

Bengtson has used the phrase “talent forward, content back” — one of those buzzy sayings that if you hear enough might leave you with a hangover the next day — to describe a more personality-driven approach to “SportsCenter.”

Great.

NESN’s Tom Caron brings out best in all analysts – Bill Doyle looks at the Red Sox host’s ability to work with varied personalities like Tim Wakefield, Steve “Psycho” Lyons, Jim Rice, and Dennis Eckersley

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Finally, a minor request to my friends on the Patriots beat. Can we dispense with the whole habit of including Matthew Slater in with the wide receivers on the roster? Every time a reporter lists out the wide receivers who will make the team, they usually list six, but with the caveat that one spot is reserved for Slater. Ben Volin does it today, most of the other reporters do it as well. It is tedious.

Matthew Slater is not a wide receiver. Does Danny Aiken get counted as a tight end or offensive lineman? No, he’s a specialist, as are the kicker and punter. Slater is as much a specialist as those guys. List him as one.

Cup Fever Grips Hub

The World Cup continues to be a huge hit here in Boston, as last night’s U.S.A./Ghana match showed with a 7.0 overnight national rating for ESPN, (a record for them) but 10+ in Boston and Hartford.

Talking World Cup soccer is still something the local media is not well-versed in. Dalen Cuff of CSNNE did a nice job on the Felger and Mazz program yesterday afternoon, but he’s the exception to the rule. Most seem to still prefer to mock it as that is easier to do than actually trying to learn about it.

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As the baseball world mourned Tony Gwynn yesterday, the media was almost unanimous in praising Gwynn as not just a great player, but a great person as well.

The exception, as always, was the aforementioned Felger and Mazz, with former baseball reporter Massarotti calling Gwynn “overrated” and Felger suggesting that the Padres star used steroids. Stay classy, guys.

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Glad the Globe devoted front page space to a column on poor losers. You can guess who was lumped in with Richard Nixon and Whitey Bulger, cant you?

This must be what Kevin Paul Dupont is talking about when he rails on about how important newspapers and print journalism continue to be in our society.

Oh, and a rebuttal to that Globe piece?

Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser. – Vince Lombardi.

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Patriots minicamp runs over the next few days. I’ve been finding myself heading over to the Boston Herald Patriots blog (The Blitz)  more often these days. It is straightforward and updated constantly.

While I still think Mike Reiss is head of the class, ESPN has absolutely destroyed his blog. It isn’t so bad during the offseason, as there isn’t as much Patriots news on the national front, but when things heat up and the Patriots are being talked about by the likes of Skip Bayless, I don’t want those segments jammed into the blog at me. Reiss doesn’t have control over that, and has himself expressed frustration at the arrangement, but it is still annoying having to weed through those posts.

With the The Blitz, you’re actually getting information from the Herald writers on the beat – Jeff Howe and Karen Guregian. The Globe no longer has a Patriots blog since the spin-off of Boston.com. The writers on Extra Points are a mixed bag. You might get Eric Frenz (good) or Zuri Berry (bad) or you might get someone else entirely.

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A few good links from today:

Depth charge: The importance of Rubby De La Rosa (and friends) – Alex Speier on the contributions of a pair of 25-year-old pitchers for the Red Sox.

Thornton, Bruins will miss each other – Joe McDonald says Shawn Thornton will always have a place in the hearts of Bruins fans.

Shabazz Napier works out for Celtics – Baxter Holmes looks at the Roxbury native who would love nothing more than being drafted by his hometown team.

Kevin Love trade rumors 2014 – Jay King looks at Chad Ford’s suggestion that Minnesota is coming around to the idea that the Celtics could offer the best package for Love.

It’s convenient for NFL to cluck about Irsay now – Tom E Curran thinks the NFL should’ve checked in on the Colts owner before his incident.

How do sports reporters at newspapers adapt to the Internet? Often, grudgingly – So true.

Tito’s Still Upset, NESN Giving Time Off To Orsillo, Remy

The Red Sox got back on the winning side of the ledger last night at Fenway Park. Old friend Terry Francona was in the house, and like old times, made an appearance on the Dale and Holley show. He again said he has not spoken with John Henry or Tom Werner and isn’t sure he ever will again.

A few quick media notes this morning:

NESN will give Don Orsillo time off in July – Chad Finn looks at a memo from NESN this week that Orsillo and Jerry Remy would be taking vacation time this summer.

Like Chad, I find the Orsillo bit rather strange. NESN is known for their cryptic releases and this one was no exception. It stated “Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo will each get a week-long break this season, consistent with what many regional sports networks do for their MLB broadcast teams.” and then gave the dates.

It did note that Jon Rish will fill in for Orsillo while he is “on break.”

Join Eddie Andelman’s ‘Huddle’ on Boston Herald Radio – The sports radio pioneer will do a one-hour show this afternoon at 2:00 on Herald Radio.

Fran Quinn will get air time at U.S. Open – Bill Doyle looks at coverage of the U.S. Open, including of Massachusetts native Quinn, who had a strong showing on the first day of the tournament.

Random Thoughts:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a broadcast trio as depressed as Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were when the second half of last night’s Spurs/Heat game began.

One of the things that makes Dan Shaughnessy’s incessant trolling so infuriating is columns like this.

I’ve seen hang-wringing on Twitter and elsewhere over the comments of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann that his team has no chance to win the World Cup. The media is a funny group. They demand honesty from the people they cover. But when they get it, the criticize the person for giving it. They’d rather have Rex Ryan’s yearly Super Bowl guarantees.

Early returns on the MFB: Not good. Gresh and Zo have little to worry about. Tim Benz seems to be of the Mike Salk school of painful teases – “There IS one star that I don’t think should be getting more heat from the media. I’ll tell you who when we come back.” Christian Fauria can’t complete a thought without getting distracted, or he comes out with a gem like “90% of the time he always does the right thing.”

Tony Massarotti spent a good chunk of time yesterday staring at the ceiling while trashing David Ortiz and his season thus far. His timing was perfect.

Jenny Dell Resurfaces as CBS NFL Sideline Reporter

Former NESN Red Sox sideline reporter Jenny Dell will be appearing on NFL sidelines this fall, as CBS announced its broadcast pairings for the 2014 season.

Part of the release noted that Tracy Wolfson would be joining the network’s top announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as reporter. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts have been promoted to the 2nd team, and Trent Green will join Greg Gumbel, after the retirement of Dan Dierdorf.

The release also noted that  THE NFL ON CBS will utilize additional sideline reporters during the season including  Jenny Dell and Evan Washburn.

It’s a nice way for Dell to land on her feet following her departure from NESN which was made complicated and messy after she and Red Sox player Will Middlebrooks announced that they were dating.

CSNNE To Provide Nightly World Cup Updates

While soccer and the World Cup may currently be an object of ridicule on certain sports radio shows, there is still some interest locally in the biggest soccer tournament in the world.

Comcast SportsNet New England announced their coverage plans for the World Cup this afternoon.

Full Release:

COMCAST SPORTSNET TO FEATURE IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF WORLD CUP SOCCER WITH NEW ENGLAND’S TOP SOCCER EXPERTS
 
Revs GM Mike Burns, Revs Players Chris Tierney, Darrius Barnes, and
A.J. Soares, and USA Soccer Legend Kristine Lilly to Headline Nightly “Cup Reports”
on Comcast SportsNet, Beginning Wed, June 11

Burlington, MA, June 10, 2014 – The 2014 World Cup is almost here and Comcast SportsNet, television home of the New England Revolution, will bring soccer fans nightly “Cup Reports” with opinion and analysis from some of the sports’ most knowledgeable experts, beginning Wednesday, June 11th and continuing throughout the entire competition.

Comcast SportsNet’s “Cup Reports” will be featured in the network’s nightly news show Chevrolet SportsNet Central and will include in-depth updates from the likes of Revs GM and two-time U.S. World Cup team member Mike Burns, current Revs players Chris Tierney, Darrius Barnes, and A.J. Soares, and US women’s soccer legend Kristine Lilly, among others. The robust team of soccer experts will provide fans with recap and opinion on prior games and a preview to upcoming matchups, providing unique daily coverage of the World Cup as it unfolds.

In 2010, Comcast SportsNet featured Revs goal record-holder TaylorTwellman on the network providing his expert insight and analysis on South Africa’s World Cup. Twellman, who started his broadcasting career with Comcast SportsNet New England, is now a national soccer analyst for ESPN and will play a significant role in the network’s coverage of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

CSNNE.com, the online home of Comcast SportsNet, will offer an online version of the Cup Reports and will also provide real-time news and info on a dedicated World Cup page surrounding the tournament.

The World Cup is an international soccer competition contested by the Senior Men’s National teams of the members of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. The Championship is awarded every four years and is a highly anticipated worldwide event.

 

Week Wrap – Just Another Week of Sports Media Trolling

Where do we begin?

It was a non-stop week of media trolling, which isn’t all that different from most weeks, but this week seemed to be on a different level.

We started out with the Brady isn’t an elite QB anymore – which somehow completely dominated almost all sports outlets at the beginning of the week. Given that it is the first week of June, many welcomed an NFL debate. Mostly from this viewpoint, it was another example of the blind allegiance to the stats of Pro Football Focus, which was the subject of the Wednesday column here.

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The Kevin Love/Carmelo Anthony to the Celtics talk also generated a lot of discussion – it’s always great to hear TV and radio shows tease We’ll give you latest on Carmelo Anthony to the Celtics coming up… when you know there CANNOT be anything “new” on the situation, given as how free agency hasn’t started, trades can’t be made and the draft is still three weeks away. But still, they try to tease you into tuning in for the “latest.”

But you also know there’s something to it when Jackie MacMullan feels she has to rush in an throw cold water on everything: Kevin Love-to-Boston is no sure thing. Really? I thought the deal was already done? Didn’t they have the press conference already?

Jackie throwing the water on this ensured that she would get herself plenty of on-air gigs this week to talk about her column, in which she notes that when the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett, the talks were between Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale who were BFFs. Now the talks will be between Danny Ainge and Flip Saunders who are not BFFs, so talks might not be “as fluid or cooperative as they were when McHale and Ainge were striking a deal.

Whoa. You can’t get that type of deep analysis just anywhere.

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Then we had Patriots receiver Danny Amendola making the career-killing move of possibly hanging up on superstar radio host Adam Jones. At the very least he conveniently got disconnected and didn’t call back.

After Amendola did this to poor Jones, the media outlets of 98.5, CSNNE and Boston.com (or was it “The Lodge”) immediately circled the wagons around Jones, rallying to his defense as if the guy had just come through some harrowing experience. On air CSNNE folks slapped him on the back and congratulated him for “busting his cherry.”

On Toucher and Rich, Fred Toucher described Jones’ show as a “straight ahead sports talk program.” Clearly, Toucher has never heard Adam Jones’ program, which is nothing but #hotsportztakes and “worries” and “concerns” and worst-case scenarios.

You also have to love Fred Toucher weighing in on the Amendola “hangup” after he himself hung up on Rick Pitino not too long ago, and has bragged about it ever since.

Then on Boston.com, the “other” Adam, Kaufman weighed in with nearly 1200 words on the topic: Uncomfortable Questions No Excuse for Patriots’ Danny Amendola to Hang Up During Radio Interview.

Here are some gems from this hit piece:

Athletes, particularly those at the professional level and regardless of the sport, have a responsibility to the media.

Only the media thinks this.

Jones is an established radio talent in this market…

I’ll take your word for it.

Simple, logical, easy to answer queries from Jones for a veteran receiver with a high salary (he’s entering the second of a five-year, $28.5 million deal), high expectations, and an even higher likelihood of failing to make it through a full season unscathed.

So easy to answer he asked three times, and no, there’s no chance there was sarcasm behind any of it, just as in this sentence.

Those are just the facts and it’s his responsibility to live with that and, if necessary, be reminded of it.

Amendola needs to be reminded of it? I’m sure he forgot the time he almost died on the field. He has a responsibility to live with that, you know?

Truthfully, it’s unfortunate for Amendola because many people – and I am on that list – were expecting him to struggle to stay healthy before he ever put on a uniform.

But Kaufman has no agenda here.

Even so, if an athlete, any athlete, is permitted to cash his paychecks without performance, he can at least discuss the components of what prevented him from doing his job in years past.

If he’s going to get injured so much, clearly he should not be permitted to cash his paychecks.

But, in the future, he should realize answering challenging or unpleasant questions is simply part of the job, even if he’d rather focus his time and energy on how he’ll avoid being a disappointment and future cap casualty by the winter.

Zing! I’m so clever!

Does Kaufman reveal that he too works at 98.5? Could this also be a part of his motivation for writing this? I’m sure it isn’t. Really.

Then you get Tweets like this:

What? So an undrafted free agent who was cut by the Cowboys (publicly on Hard Knocks) and Eagles and bounced on and off their practice squads and then finally made the Rams, had some production, only to suffer a freak injury in which his clavicle pushed in and nearly crushed his his trachea and aorta and killed him, who then came back from that, and signed with New England and tore his groin in the first half of the first game of the season, and came back in that same game doesn’t know what adversity is? Not until Adam Jones asks him a few dumb questions?

Berry tried to then say this is the first time Amendola hasn’t been considered “great.”. Um, read the above paragraph.

Yes, these are the people paid to make their living talking about and covering sports.

Deadspin covered this Amendola story as well – Danny Amendola Draws Ire Of Insufferable Boston Media

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Dan Shaughnessy doesn’t want to be left out of the action. So he launched another tirade at David Ortiz, again suggesting that Ortiz must be using steroids right now because his performance is so good at his age.

He also criticizes Ortiz for his profanity in the ceremony following the Boston Marathon bombings last year.

Adam Gaffin had the best take on this. Bitter old clown complains about David Ortiz’s post-Marathon comments

I realize Shaughnessy is the columnist equivalent of a vampire, who will quickly die without the fresh blood he gets by riling people up, and I guess he succeeded again, or I wouldn’t have gotten this far with this post, but, really, attacking Ortiz for helping to bring the city together after an event that, unlike anything Ortiz has ever done, truly was evil? Have you no sense of decency, sir?

No, he doesn’t.

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This caught my eye  as well yesterday:

They are conditioned to this belief by the constant mouthings of as depraved a group of radio talk-show hosts as ever fouled the air. They do this with the massive second-guess whenever the Red Sox lose, which is always more than 60 times a year.

The minds of Boston fans are shaped by these instant baseball experts who, with an eye to their own ratings, have latched onto the Red Sox as the hottest topic in town.

Hey, that’s a pretty dead-on take.

Wait, that was Shirley Povich of the Washington Post writing in 1979 about the treatment of Don Zimmer in Boston?

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Just another week in Boston, eh?

Rangers-Kings matchup a boon to NBC – Chad Finn looks at the ratings numbers that Stanley Cup Final should generate given the cities involved.

Dan Trant recalled in NBA TV special on 1984 Draft – Bill Doyle looks at the special, and the mention of the former Celtics draft pick who was killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers.

Can Pro Football Focus Stats Be Blindly Trusted?

In this age of sports analysis and analytics, it can be fascinating to see how the media picks and chooses what analysis to run with and which to mock and ignore.

One fascination that I don’t get is the lock-step acceptance of everything that comes out of the company known as Pro Football Focus.

They’re cited endlessly and their stats are treated as the end-all. Football writers seem to love their stats, using them in their articles as ironclad proof.

I did an interview with the founder of Pro Football Focus back in 2011. Even then I was a bit leery of their methods and tried to express that in the “subjective angle” question.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last couple of days, Pro Football Focus was on your radar as one of their writers, in an ESPN Insider piece wrote the following:

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. The elite quarterback Mount Rushmore has been in place for a few years now, a comforting constant in an NFL of consistent turnover and change. But it might be time to wipe one of those four faces off our mountain of elite play. The Tom Brady of 2014 no longer belongs on that monument.

and in his concluding section, he writes:

but there is little doubt at this point that we are witnessing his decline in action. Brady is no longer an elite quarterback. He remains very good, but if the decline continues at the same rate, it won’t be long before that is no longer true.

This story took the sports media by storm, and has been easily the number one topic on sports radio, television, and on the internet. Everyone is talking about it.

The writer, Sam Monson, has made the media rounds talking about his opinion, so it’s a win-win for him, ESPN,  Pro Football Focus and the football media at large. An NFL discussion in the first week of June!

It almost – almost – feels like this piece was a response to the Peter King MMQB piece a week earlier which talked about Brady and his performance before and after the 2008 knee injury and how, in Brady’s words, “You know, you don’t have to suck when you get older.”

The point of this post however, is not to debate whether Tom Brady is on a swift decline or not. (I think that has been addressed by the likes of Tom E. Curran, Ron Borges, and Christopher Price.) It is to explore the dangers of blindly relying on data and conclusions that we have no idea if they are actually accurate and pertinent or not.

What Pro Football Focus Is (And What They Aren’t)

It is important to note what Pro Football Focus is. Actually, first we’ll define what they are NOT.  They are not taking raw numbers and data and crunching them into new and exotic formulas to provide a different sort of insight into player performance. This is not sabermetrics for football.

No, their methods are different. They are a UK-based company, who obtain games through NFL Rewind and sit and watch and grade each player on each play. Their dedication to this is admirable, as I can’t imagine sitting down and doing this kind of deep grading for every play, every game week after week.

I suppose there is some value in this data, in a big-picture sort of way. Stats on items like dropped passes, QB hits, things like that are likely extremely accurate. In my interview linked above, founder Neil Hornsby said that PFF’s value is this:

  • Who was on the field – in 2010 this was 99.83% accurate but we didn’t double hand most games then – this year we do so I’m predicting well in excess of 99.9%
  • What position they played (at a level which allows us to provide formation as well as package information)
  • What they generically did (block, pass route, cover, pass rush etc.)
  • A measure of how well they achieved what they attempted to do (obviously we don’t know their assignments so this is what we use)

The last part is the gotcha and this is where it is dangerous to put too much stock in the Pro Football Focus stats.

The Dangers In The PFF Method

Last August, Bill Belichick talked about the dangers of watching film and making conclusions based on it.

It might even look to us like somebody made a mistake but then we look at it more closely maybe somebody besides him made a mistake and he was trying to compensate. I think we need a little closer analysis a lot of times. Sometimes the play calls or what was called on the line of scrimmage might be something that we’re not aware of. That could happen in any game. You think a player did something that he shouldn’t have done but maybe he got a call, a line call or a call from a linebacker or he thought the quarterback said something so he did what he thought was the right thing or maybe it was the right thing but that call shouldn’t have been made or should have been on the other side. But yeah, I think we need to be careful about what we’re evaluating.

So sometimes even the team itself doesn’t know exactly where things broke down and who did what wrong. Belichick then went on to talk about watching opposing team’s game films and the impossibilities of knowing what happened:

But believe me, I’ve watched plenty of preseason games this time of year and you’re looking at all the other teams in the league and you try to evaluate players and you’re watching the teams that we’re going to play early in the season and there are plenty of plays where I have no idea what went wrong. Something’s wrong but I don’t…these two guys made a mistake but I don’t know which guy it was or if it was both of them. You just don’t know that. I don’t know how you can know that unless you’re really part of the team and know exactly what was supposed to happen on that play. I know there are a lot of experts out there that have it all figured out but I definitely don’t. This time of year, sometimes it’s hard to figure that out, exactly what they’re trying to do. When somebody makes a mistake, whose mistake is it?

Bill Belichick doesn’t have it figured out. But Pro Football Focus does? They can provide a grade on every play?

Another problem is that the NFL just recently added the coaches film to Game Rewind, so before that, the PFF graders could not even see the entire field. I don’t know if they currently even utilize the overhead game film, or just rely on the standard HD game telecasts. If it is the latter, they cannot see every player on the field for every play…so how can they grade what they can’t see? (And actually, the All-22 film doesn’t come out until mid-week, which is after PFF has posted their initial grades- so they’re not using it, at least in their first gradings.)

There HAS to be a subjective element in the grading process. They have to be making conclusions based on conjecture and assumption or what they “think” the player was attempting to do or was assigned to do on any given play.

On their own grading page, they explain their “rules” for making their grades:

• DON’T GUESS — If you’re not 95 percent sure what’s gone on then don’t grade the player for that play. The grades must stand up to scrutiny and criticism, and it’s far better to say you’re not sure than be wrong.

It is, however, crucial that this is not seen as an excuse to shy away from making a judgement. What we definitely do not do is raise or lower the grading because we’re not sure. Giving a grade of -0.5 rather than -1.5 for a player on an individual play because you’re unsure is the wrong grade to give. If the grader is 95 percent sure of the severe fault on the play, the grade is -1.5. If, however, the grader is unsure of his judgment, the correct grade is 0.

A couple things I don’t like here. How does the grader know whether they are 95% certain or just 90%? How many plays per game are going ungraded because a determination cannot be made?

Later, in the section which asks How subjective is the Grading?

Just like with the more mainstream statistics, there are occasions when the choice is difficult. But the difference on our site is this: If a guy is going to be upgraded or downgraded on a judgment call, we let it ride. We simply make the comment and then put in a 0.

Again, how often is this happening? It seems like it wouldn’t take many “0” grades to skew the data.

Lastly, I hesitate to bring this part up, but part of me wonders the qualifications for doing this work. It feels like me taking a job to to play-by-play film breakdown on the Premier League.  What are the football coaching or scouting backgrounds for these UK analysts making these grades? Is there anyone on staff with an NFL background?

Why Such Devotion?

From all of this, the national media are using PFF stats as gospel? Why? Are the simple +1.2, -0.7 ratings so damn attractive that they are accepted without question? Is it just an easy way for the media to rate players without doing a lot of work themselves?

Honestly, I don’t know. As mentioned above, I do feel there is some merit and value to the work that Pro Football Focus is putting in. I just don’t get the slavish devotion to their grades that I see when I read many NFL articles.

Again, this is not taking actual numbers and using them to come up with new stats to use in analytics. This is not taking passes complete and passes attempted and breaking it down into the various lengths of throws and spots on the field. This is sitting down in front of the monitor, forming an opinion and making up their own stats and advanced formulas based on stats garnered from what they think is happening on each play.

I believe the NFL media as a whole needs to be a little more judicious in how they use these stats instead of blindly accepting what comes out of the PFF factory.


 

Some worthwhile sites with NFL stats and analytics include:

Advanced Football Analytics

TeamRankings.com

Football Outsiders

The Minihane Reminder – The Boston Media Is Not Very Tough (skinned)

Only in Boston could we have a ceremony celebrating the 10-year anniversary of a Championship that broke an 86-year drought and then spend the next day listening to the media bitch endlessly about it.

Then we have Kirk Minihane’s column today. (The Manny Ramirez reminder: Boston is not a tough sports town)

Holy crap.

I understand the points he’s trying to make. I really do. I’m going to try my best not to be a total fraud on this one.

First, I’m on the anti-Manny side of this. A serial steroid abuser, a guy who quit on his team, skipping Jimmy Fund after Jimmy Fund event, blowing off Walter Reed, beating up old guys and his own wife — we all know the greatest hits. He’s personified everything that’s been wrong with baseball the last 15 years, and the Red Sox decide to give him above-the-title billing for the 10th anniversary celebration of the 2004 World Series champions Wednesday? A stunningly tone-deaf move by the Red Sox, basically endorsing all the many transgressions of Ramirez.

I think we’re all well aware of Manny’s history. I also think appreciating what he did on the field does not signify condoning what he did off of it, nor does it mean that the Red Sox are complicit in his acts by giving him the role they did the other night.

That would be like saying Kirk Minihane, by showing up for work every day endorses the acts that got his co-hosts suspended for racist remarks. That when they skipped the Jimmy Fund event themselves because they were in a contract dispute, that it was OK. Their own interests were more important. That sending out numerous bullying voicemails and Tweets that would get others in hot water is just fine and dandy, thank you. We all know the greatest hits of D&C. By working there, Kirk endorses all the many transgressions of John Dennis and Gerry Callahan.

Some would say that Dennis and Callahan (and Minihane) personify everything that’s been wrong with sports media for the last 15 years.

I wasn’t surprised the Red Sox elected to have Ramirez announced last and throw out the first pitch — this is an ownership group that hungers to be liked by players, turning into 12-year-olds around these guys. That’s OK, I guess, it’s their money and they’ve been extraordinarily successful. No, what surprised me was this idea that there was ever a chance the fans would react negatively toward Ramirez. That was never going to happen.

I wasn’t surprised that Kirk and his co-workers as well as just about every other on-air personality in town elected to spend yesterday howling at the moon on his topic. This is a group that hungers to have the edgiest hot sportz take, and to attempt to make following sports miserable. That’s OK, I guess. They’ve been extraordinarily successful. Well, some more than others, anyway. What surprised me was this idea that there was ever a chance that the media would actually just let fans enjoy something that meant a lot to many of them instead of trying to ruin it with their own misery. That was never going to happen.

Again, cheer or boo — it’s your buck — but can we all get together and drop the notion that Boston is a tough town? That’s over, it’s been over for years. Who, exactly, is having a tough time in Boston these days? What athlete? Ramirez treated fans, media and his own organization like a six-pound turd for the better part of a decade and all is forgiven … why? Because he’s been gone for a while? Because he’s using the ultimate mulligan, the Jesus card, to kick off an image rehabilitation tour?

That’s right, Clay Buchholz is NOT being called a giant pussy a dozen times an hour all day on sports radio. Rajon Rondo is NOT being deemed a punk and an arrogant s.o.b. who isn’t a leader whenever the subject of the Celtics comes up. Dont’a Hightower is NOT being called the biggest draft bust in the Bill Belichick era and having his every miscue in coverage screamed about. Brad Marchand is NOT catching any heat for his playoff antics and lack of performance. Danny Amendola is NOT being mocked at every turn for being a fragile as Wedgwood china. David Ortiz is NOT being called greedy and having his every achievement asterisked. Bill Belichick, despite having the best record in the NFL since 2001 does NOT have his every move, draft pick and decision picked apart, criticized and questioned.

These things are NOT happening. It’s a piece of cake to be an athlete in Boston.

Please tell me why it is necessary for athletes to have “a tough time” in Boston. Some in the media seem to think if they’re not being “tough” they’re not doing their jobs. They’re the only ones who think this. Eight championships in twelve years tells me that things are going pretty well.

Is the Jesus card the ultimate mulligan, or is using kids with cancer a better way to rehabilitate an image? As long as it is publicized, I guess. If you’re putting your name and image to a cause like that, you can get away with pretty much anything. And if someone dares question your motivation in doing this, you can just scream at how your accuser hates kids with cancer, and your lackeys will rush to your defense and smother the dissenter. John Dennis, when the whole METCO thing happened said that people did not know what was in his heart.

Apparently, though, Manny is just “using” the Jesus card, because Kirk and everyone else can actually see into his heart and know that this is fraudulent, just an act to try and con people into thinking he’s changed.

You know who is having a tough time in Boston these days? The D&C Show, for one. Damn those ratings.

Here’s the truth: You don’t care if Ramirez is a different person or not. Down deep, you’re thinking what I’m thinking — once a jerk, always a jerk. That doesn’t change. But he helped you win two World Series and was a great (though juiced off the charts) hitter. And that’s what matters. He could get arrested six times over the next 10 years and tear Boston to shreds in interviews, and guess what would happen in 2024? He’d get a standing ovation at the 20th reunion.

Here’s the truth: I’m over it. Is Manny Ramirez the only athlete in history to be a jerk? Was he the only player juicing it up? So, none of the competition were doing these things? There were no jerks or juicers prior to Manny?  The Yankees had many more players be exposed over the years as having used substances. Is there any effort by the local media to diminish their accomplishments? No. Only with the locals. Does it bother me that Manny did these? Yeah. It does. But I’m over it. Why is it such a horrible thing that someone cares mostly about just what happens on the field? When did this change? Athletes in the past did horrible things, but no one heard about it. Should older fans now look back at teams of their childhood and renounce them now knowing what we know about some of them? It’s a slippery slope. We need to hold all grudges against Manny forever, but what about when we find out about things others have done?

Just like Kirk is apparently over his co-worker’s antics. Kirk is open about the troubles in his own personal life in the past. Should we also hold them against him? Once a jerk always a jerk?

I’m over it. The 2004 World Series was a historic moment in local sports. The efforts to make us miserable over it are just pathetic.

Right or wrong, the fanboys have won. The cynics have been pushed aside, they are now very much a minority in the fan base and the media. If you introduce a negative opinion, or a suggestion an athlete should be traded or not re-signed, or if the athlete or coach isn’t as great as the current perception, you are either miserable or just a troll looking for page views. Maybe you think that’s a good thing. Maybe you’re right. But I’m not comfortable with it. I don’t like beat writers as PR guys or radio talk show hosts as cheerleaders, and I don’t want adults with some influence pushing for players to be on the cover of video games. I see all this — just go on Twitter during games and tell me some beat guys aren’t rooting for teams — and wonder what’s next, where exactly does it end? Will John Henry own everything and everyone will just shrug and move on?

Ah yes. The fanboys. There are no lower forms of life than the fanboy.

There are no cynics anymore. I just wish that the likes of John Dennis, Gerry Callahan, Kirk Minihane, Lou Merloni, Andy Gresh, Michael Felger, Tony Massarotti, Adam Jones, Dan Shaughnessy, Ron Borges, Kevin Paul Dupont, Gary Tanguay, Eric Wilbur, Adam Kaufman, Jim Donaldson, Hector Longo, Steve Buckley…I just wish these poor, repressed souls had SOME outlet or platform to express their anti-fanboy views. To set us all straight. It’s too bad, really. There just are no cynics anymore.

I have never once looked on Twitter during a game and gotten the impression that the beat writers were rooting for the local teams. Ever. Where does this come from? Radio talk show hosts as cheerleaders? Who is he talking about here? Dale Arnold on the Bruins? Scott Zolak on the Patriots? It sure seems to me like those guys are the minority.

Beat writers are cheerleaders? Who? I don’t see it. Is it because they’re not cynical and negative? Does everyone involved in covering sports have to be cynical and negative or they’re not up to the standards that Kirk is demanding? Where does the line come down?

One thing we know for sure – unlike these fan boys, athletes and team management, the sports media embraces criticism of themselves and uses it to better themselves and their product. That’s without question. They would never insult someone who is critical of them and their work.

In the minds of the media, do you know what a fanboy really is? It’s someone who pushes back against them. Email Dan Shaughnessy sometime and knock his latest column. You’ll be called a fanboy. Push back on Twitter against someone in the media. They’ll call you a fanboy.

Fans are always going to be suckers, I suppose, weak in the knees for a 4.3 40-yard time or a .440 OBP. I get it, I really do. I don’t agree with it, but I even understand why they cheered for Ramirez. They don’t care about the bad stuff, it’s irrelevant. They want to win and they want to treat the people who actually win like they are more than the rest of us. If Aaron Hernandez were somehow released from prison today, and signed by the Patriots tomorrow (clearly impossible, of course), most fans would be thrilled. And if he caught three touchdown passes against the Broncos, virtually all would be forgotten. Now, would some people give up their season tickets or stop watching? Sure. But those tickets would be snatched in three seconds and the TV ratings wouldn’t move an inch.

If you’re a fan of sports, you’re also a sucker. Remember that.

Also remember that when a guy keeps telling you repeatedly that he gets it, he really does – he doesn’t. Not at all.

Let’s run through Kirk’s hypothetical strawman scenario involving Hernandez.

If Aaron Hernandez were somehow released from prison today – The only way that could somehow happen would be if the charges were dropped, probably following the confession of another, so Hernandez would be innocent.

and signed by the Patriots tomorrow (clearly impossible, of course), most fans would be thrilled. – Yes, given that he was innocent of all charges in this strawman argument, then I would hope fans would welcome the resigning of a quality player who was wrongfully charged.

And if he caught three touchdown passes against the Broncos, virtually all would be forgotten. – Well, hopefully it wouldn’t be forgotten, people shouldn’t let the state brush those false charges under the rug so easily.

Wait, what was the point again?

Cheer or boo, do whatever you want. But let’s stop with the charade that Boston is a tough sports town. It’s a pushover, a place for athletes to be protected, coddled and worshipped by fans and media. This is San Diego, Kansas City, fill in whichever former punchline city you’d use. Boston is no different, most of the media and fans just want to believe it is to feel different about themselves, to build up some false credibility. It’s a fanboy haven now, for better or worse.

Oh right. The whole point of this column is that the Boston media (and fans) aren’t TOUGH. Or tough enough anyway. In order to have credibility, apparently Boston fans and media need to be TOUGH on players and teams.

This paragraph (well, the whole column actually) makes no sense to me whatsoever. Questions I need answered:

Who is portraying the “charade” that Boston is a tough sports town?

Why is it important whether it is true or not?

Why would Boston fans and media need to make something up to feel different from other cities?

What credibility is needed beyond eight championships in twelve years?

When did being a fanboy become such an awful thing?

I like Kirk Minihane. I enjoy many of his columns, he oftentimes takes a stand that runs against what much of the media groupthink seems to be. I’m disappointed that with this one, he seems to be in lockstep with his colleagues at WEEI, as well as the likes of Felger and Mazz and Dan Shaughnessy.

When all the biggest voices in town are the cynics, how can it be said that the “fanboys” have won?  I’ve actually had a column started and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder about how “Felger Has Won.” I believe it is a more accurate representation of what the current fan/media climate is here in Boston at the moment. The “fanboys” get mocked, shouted down and hung up on, while the cynics get all the space and airtime they want.

If you listened to the radio at all yesterday, you know I’m right.

Does Jared Remy’s Guilty Plea Help His Dad?

In a somewhat surprising move, Jared Remy yesterday pleaded guilty to the murder of his girlfriend and mother of his daughter, Jennifer Martel.

The plea avoids a very public and gruesome trial, which is good for the victim’s family. Is it also good for Remy’s father? By entering the plea and going to jail, the case will fade in the public eye faster than if a trial was going on this fall.

This was something in the works, as NESN had sent out a notice on Monday morning that Jerry Remy would not be in the booth  that night or last night. They were “planned days off.” According to that email, Remy will be back in the booth tonight at Fenway Park.

Update: NESN has since said that Remy will be out tonight and tomorrow night, replaced by Steve Lyons.

Jerry Remy is still getting heat from Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan – ‘RemDawg’ benefits from a blatant double standard – but it seems in general the cry is fading out against the broadcaster, who has as many or more defenders in the media as he does those who are uncomfortable with his continued presence on the air.

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In other news involving the legal system and sports media, former Channel 7 and 56 sports anchor Bob Gamere is a free man, released after serving 4 1/2 years in prison for child porn.

Ex-sportscaster Bob Gamere out of prison after child porn conviction

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Yesterday marked the debut of the new WEEI midday show.

middays-with-mfb

I gave it some time yesterday. I’m not making any judgments after a day, the show went pretty well, Benz to me anyway sounds a lot like Mutnansky. A little deeper voice maybe. We’ll see how the show develops over the coming weeks and whether or not the station made an upgrade here.

I heard Mike Mutnansky a little last night on with Mikey Adams before the Red Sox pregame, and some after. He needs some time as well to adjust into the new role.

Media Links and Week Wrap

Yesterday was the last edition of the Mut and Lou show on WEEI. Mike Mutnansky will soon transition over to the role previously held by John Ryder, working Red Sox broadcasts and last nights. All in all, it’s not a horrible move for Mutnansky, who stays employed and gets a role that still gives him some of the spotlight.

Kirk Minihane wrote a column yesterday paying tribute to Mutnansky – Taking time to appreciate the Mut Man – and it was a sweet of Kirk to come to the defense of the exiled midday host. (Though how many radios tuned to 98.5 at 10:00am to hear Andy Gresh respond to Kirk’s insults about him?)

Just like Minihane tends to go over the top when writing about someone like Joe Haggerty, he goes a bit over the top in writing nice things about Mutnansky. It’s what Minihane does. I agree with much of what he writes about Mutnansky as a person. He’s a good guy, he works hard. I feel like he unsuccessfully tried too hard to be something he’s not. Some people can get away with that, he couldn’t.

If Kirk really wanted to be brutally honest and over the top he might question how the son of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute President and Chief Executive Officer got the midday job on the station that just happens to hold the Jimmy Fund Radio Telethon every year. I’m sure there’s no connection there whatsoever.

In the Globe today, Chad Finn looks at How NESN has changed in 30 years with a look back at the first telecast (which literally no one saw) and several milestones along the way.

There are also links to a Jack Craig column after the debut of NESN and foot-stomping columns by Bob Ryan (Why can’t I watch the Red Sox on Ch. 38?) and Leigh MontvillePay-cable television will begin for the Red Sox with this game and I will kick the Florida ground at the very idea.

Over on the T&G Bill Doyle writes Holy Cross football to have bigger presence on Charter TV-3.

Dan Kennedy looks at the sale of the T&G – John Henry sells Worcester Telegram to Florida chain which is noteworthy since the Red Sox and Globe owner had previously said he would only sell that paper to local owners or he would continue to operate it himself.