Q&A with Boston Globe NFL/Patriots reporter Greg A. Bedard

Since returning back to his Boston roots two years ago, Greg A. Bedard has found his niche in the Boston sports media market and has emerged as one of the best Patriots reporters in the area. His Wednesday columns in the Globe where he analyzes the past weeks game has become a must read and is heavily discussed amongst other media members and on sports radio. Boston Sports Media Watch had the chance to catch up with Bedard and get his thoughts on his past football reporting, as well as what it’s been like returning home and becoming a member of the Boston media.

Greg A. Bedard has returned home to his Boston roots and has become a prominent member of the Boston sports media.

1. You were an athlete up until college at Rutgers, did you always have a passion for sports writing and think of it as a potential career? Was football always the number one sport for you?

Part of the reason I chose Rutgers was because of baseball. I was a decent first base prospect at Lincoln-Sudbury and wanted to stay in the Northeast. Rutgers and Seton Hall were the top two programs in the region at the time, and that’s what my decision came down to after my visits.

In school, I knew I wanted to do something with sports and the media, I just didn’t know what exactly. SportsCenter was kind of a big deal at that time, so I started on a communications track. After I quit baseball because of injuries, I started looking more towards the print side. Rutgers had a very good daily student newspaper, so I answered one of the ads looking for new writers. My first article was on the women’s golf team (fun fact: my future wife’s name appeared in it), and I volunteered to cover the softball team. I was instantly hooked. I covered them like they were the Red Sox – I’d skip classes to cover road games (like I needed an excuse) – and I knew I found my calling.

While I was the beat writer for Terry Shea’s first football team in 1996, that I wound up covering football was very much by accident. Baseball was always my sport, and probably still is. The Palm Beach Post very easily could have named me backup Marlins writer in 2004. Thank goodness they decided on the Dolphins. Covering the NFL is a much easier life if you want to have a family. I don’t know how the baseball guys do it. But if the Globe asked me to cover golf tomorrow, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I’m not one of these guys that’s married to a team or sport. The work is what’s important to me. The shape of the ball doesn’t really matter.

2. You’ve were a beat writer for both the Dolphins and Packers before coming to the Patriots. In terms of the day-to-day operations, player availability, locker room access, etc. how much different are the Patriots than the other teams you’ve covered?
Night and day. With the previous teams I covered, the players actually were in the locker room during media availability time. Rarely did you have to request that a player show his face. If you don’t do that with the Patriots, you’re probably not getting an interview. Most days you’ll see about six players in there, and if they talk there’s 25 reporters around.

Assistant coach access under Dave Wannstedt, and then with the Packers was awesome. With Wannstedt you could grab anybody you wanted coming off the field. The Packers had assistant coach access three days a week – about 30 minutes with all of them in a hallway, so you could get individual face-to-face time often – and you could talk to the three coordinators after games. That was absolutely invaluable to my development as a football writer. After a while you developed a rapport with the assistants and you could ask them about why certain plays did or didn’t work, and which players screwed up and why. You didn’t quote them, but at least you were getting accurate information to relay to the fans.

I learned more about the game in those 3.5 years in Green Bay than any other time in my career. Between the players always being available, to the assistant coaches, I could ask real questions about the game and learn about it.

Trying to learn about the game of football while covering the Patriots is like trying to get water out of a rock. I don’t have a problem with how they do things – it’s within the rules – but I’m certainly glad that I was able to work in other markets before coming here.

3. How much different is it working in the Boston media market than in the Miami and Green Bay markets?

I’d say the biggest difference that I have noticed is in the percentage of fans that are critical of the team, or that want debate about the team and the decisions it makes. And I think it’s directly tied into the length of time since the last championship.

Dolphins fans had a very low level of trust for what the organization did, for good reason, so they questioned everything. In Green Bay, which hadn’t won a title since 1996, I’d say about 20 percent of the fans didn’t want to hear anything bad about the team. The rest expect excellence year in and year out, because they feel the Lombardi Trophy and NFL championships are their birthright. They want perfection out of their team. In New England, I’d say it was closer to 75 percent when I got here in 2010, and it has slowly declined slightly. Again, it’s directly tied into the time since the last championship. And it will take another step when Tom Brady is no longer here, especially if they don’t win another Super Bowl before then.

My perception, and I don’t know if it’s reality, is that the pressure on the media here is very intense. Everything is scrutinized. People are keeping track of what you say, how you say it and they keep score. Consumers also love to put you in a box. You’re either this kind of reporter, or you’re that kind of reporter. Nuance is a foreign concept. It’s funny that fans accuse the media of being lazy and guilty of stereotyping, when they do the exact same thing to the media.

In regards to the media itself, I think the relationships are a mixed bag. In South Florida, we all tried to beat the crap out of each other during the day in a highly competitive market, but we had no problem having a beer afterwards. In Green Bay there were hard feelings between the media outlets, specifically the Green Bay Press Gazette towards the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I never understood that. There’s plenty of coverage to go around, and we didn’t even compete for print readers.

It has been fine here; no real issues. The one thing I don’t have a lot of respect for, in any place I’ve been, is media-on-media crime and/or trying to shoot down other people’s reports. I don’t really understand that either. If you have something to report, then report it. Don’t just use somebody else’s report as a jumping off point. Twitter does make things tougher, but I just try to worry about what I can report and proceed like I’m in a vacuum. That’s easier said than done sometimes.

4. You’ve become known for your columns on Wednesday’s following re-watching game tape giving insight not found anywhere else. Have you always done this? Talk more about what goes into the game study, how long does it take, etc.

I knew nothing about this kind of journalism until I went to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and saw that Bob McGinn was doing it, and had been doing it for like 20 years. But as soon as I did, it was like I was awake for the first time — “Why didn’t I ever think of doing this? This is where it’s at.” Studying film, trying to quantify certain things that aren’t officially tabulated (pressures, knockdowns, etc), and then explaining things simply for readers goes to heart of journalism, especially in the televised sports era. Everyone has seen the game. Many have heard the sound bytes from press conferences, but what fans really want to know is why? Why did the Patriots struggle offensively for a half? Why did they lose? Why couldn’t they defend this route? Etc.

When I came here, I thought two things: that it would go over well here because the Patriots aren’t going to tell you what they did well, and they certainly aren’t going to point out what they did poorly. If I could take what I knew about the game, and relay that to the fans by explaining what went right and what went wrong in each game, then I thought it would be successful. And I also promised myself when I came here, knowing the market like I do, that I wouldn’t just offer up opinions on a whim. I would try like hell to quantify everything I could. You can’t just write, “Tom Brady is struggling,” and not have any real evidence outside of statistics, which often lie in football and are certainly no way to measure about 80 percent of the game.

As far as the process itself, it takes me about eight to 10 hours to get through a game. Having the coaches film (some of the time) certainly helps. Having watched film with NFL coaches, college coaches and analysts like Greg Cosell at NFL Films, I have a decent size depth of knowledge – but it’s not even close to the actual players and coaches.

I try to be as clinical and try to mimic the coaches as much as possible. Even with the TV copy, I watch with the sound off. And I watch all the offensive, defensive and special teams plays in succession. This is why I sometimes reach different opinions than fans, especially about individual players. There are about 70 plays for the offense and defense in each game. Why should the 68th play matter than the fourth? Devin McCourty gets a pass interference penalty late in the game, but should that wipe out the 95 percent of plays in which he performed his duty well? NFL coaches grade out a player for the entire game, so why should I be any different?

I watch each play about 10-12 times, trying to determine whether each player, within reason, has performed their duty. I have a spreadsheet with about 35 different categories that I use on each play. Then afterwards I tabulate the positive and negative plays for each player (basically, did they exceed or fail at what I think they were supposed to do), and that gives me a rough idea about how they played. What I see on that paper and on my spreadsheet leads me to write in one direction or another. I usually have a vague idea about what I might want to write about, but it can easily and often changes (much to chagrin of copy desk in all likelihood). I try to be as much of a blank slate as possible and let the data take me one way or another. Every single game is unique. I try to identify what that is for the reader.

For example, last year after I had done my tabulations for the Chargers game, I noticed that Albert Haynesworth, after a very strong opening game in Miami, had zero plus or minus plays on my sheet. That was unusual. Why was that? That led me to watch all of his plays over again, and to the lede of my column where I wrote the Patriots were going to need better and more consistent play from Haynesworth.

Players are going to challenge some of your conclusions – and that’s something I welcome because it helps me get better – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned covering the league it’s if you rely on the film and facts gleaned from it, then it’s very hard to go wrong, and for players or coaches to take much issue with your work. Your knowledge of the game and the team will be very accurate. The film never lies. In my opinion, you absolutely must study film if you’re covering an NFL team. Luckily, the Globe gives me the time to do that. Not all media outlets do. And it’s difficult to find the time as a beat writer. I’m lucky that Shalise Manza Young does her job so well, because it allows me the immense time it takes to do mine. It’s a similar setup to what we had at the MJS – Tom Silverstein and I did the beat, which allowed Bob to do his analyzing. I’m very grateful to Shalise and the paper for that.

5. Growing up in the Boston area and reading the Globe growing up, is this a dream job for you, or would you like to one day cover the NFL nationally?

Two very good questions. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I probably need to figure them out to determine my future, whatever that might be.

I wouldn’t call this a dream job to me at this point in my life, but it was certainly very desirable. Sports editor Joe Sullivan, when we talked about the job, said, “You’d be a direct descendant of Will McDonough,” I mean, what person who grew up around here wouldn’t be completely floored hearing that? I can tell you that on the other end of the phone, I had a huge smile on my face. Still, it was far from a done deal that I was going to take this job. There were two big factors, which continue to be the driving forces in my career: the ability to do good, meaningful journalism – not just feeding the beast based on a timetable (though every outlet has to do some of that; I just didn’t want that to be me) – and to be a good husband and father. I would give up money and success to have adequate time with my family. The Globe was able to hit on both of those factors, and coming “home” (though my parents and brothers are elsewhere) was an added bonus. But it was incredibly tough to leave Green Bay. In the end, all things were equal and “Mama” (the Globe) called. It’s hard to say no to Mama. It was the right job, at the right place, at the right time. If it were the Patriots’ beat writing job, I wouldn’t have taken it. I don’t need to ram my head against the wall repeatedly.

As for where I go from here, if anywhere, I don’t know. I’ve never felt a huge draw to a TV gig (I know, with my looks, this is very surprising). I know I don’t want to be traveling every week and at the whim of some producer (poor Albert Breer, but he’s young and childless so more power to him). Sure, some sort of national job where I didn’t have to move would be enticing. But, like in Green Bay, I could see myself staying here forever. I guess, in a perfect world, I’d do something similar to what Willie did – have the Globe as a base and add some steady television work that fits into that. I’d certainly like to expand on the radio work I do on WEEI. I’d love to spend two hours on the radio getting into deep discussions about the Patriots with smart hosts and callers.

But it’s not something that I think about very much. I’ve got a good gig doing meaningful work for readers that seem to appreciate it for the most part, and I’m able to balance my family about as well as you can in today’s media age. Would I like to get paid more? Sure, who wouldn’t? But so far, so good.

Just What Is A “Produced” Touchdown?

This drab little note in Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column this week has provided considerable fodder for the likes of Felger of Mazz.

Opposing passers have produced more touchdowns than Tom Brady, 19-18.

This is just a weird sentence. “Produced more touchdowns?” What is the definition he’s using here?  Solely passing TD’s?

If we’re going by strictly “passing” yes, opposing QB’s have thrown 19 TDs, and Tom Brady has thrown 18. Brady also has two rushing touchdowns this season, and Kevin Kolb in week two rushed for a touchdown against the Patriots.

It would seem logical that “produced” by the quarterback would also include TD’s scored personally by the quarterback. So when we get there, we’re at 20-20 on the season.

By using this stat, some (Felger and Mazz) have made the completely inexplicable leap to the conclusion that Brady has or is losing it, and the Patriots have lost the advantage they had of having Tom Brady as quarterback. They’re going by King’s 19-18 stat (Has Dan Shaughnessy jumped on that one yet?) and saying that the QB doesn’t even matter.

Whoa.

Just another example of the surface-deep analysis you get from the likes of these guys.

The Patriots have 14 rushing touchdowns on the season. That’s the most in the NFL, by the way. (By way of comparison, opponents have five.) That’s 32 offensive touchdowns. Again, that’s the most in the NFL. Does the QB only produce the passing ones? He has nothing to do with drives that end in rushing touchdowns?

So what if Tom Brady had thrown for 27 touchdowns at this point and the team had rushed for five? Same 32 touchdowns. Would Peter King and Felger and Mazz be happy with that?

The likes of Felger and Mazz would be bewailing the absence of the running game that could prolong Brady’s career. They’re too reliant on Brady, they don’t have any balance to their offense!

The Patriots have enough problems right now. The quarterback isn’t one of them. Bending stats and not giving the entire picture is just fraudulent muck-raking, something some around here are very proficient in.

Shaughnessy — “Get Off My Lawn, Bloggers”

The Boston Globe continued its series of attacks on blogging, Twitter and the internet by old-school media dinosaurs with the publication of today’s column by Dan Shaughnessy.

You’ve probably heard by now that Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was injured on Sunday and some Kansas City fans actually cheered when he was taken off the field.

The bloggers are to blame, naturally.

It’s an issue about civility in America today. It’s about accountability. It is about angry fantasy football players who do not know how to look someone in the eye, or hold a face-to-face conversation. It is about fanboy bloggers who kill everyone and everything under the brave cloak of anonymity. It’s about instant tweets fired from the safety of your basement. It is about anonymous bullying with the World Wide Web serving as the new bathroom wall.

Those of us who write stories and do talk shows are not blameless. Winston made a good point when he said that Cassel “hasn’t done anything to the media writers who kill him . . . ”

I’ve certainly done my share of tweaking and exposing professional athletes or organizations who don’t give an honest effort to live up to their contracts or fulfill the team-fan accord. In print, on TV and radio, we contribute to a climate of anger in the stands. But at least you know who we are.

That last paragraph is mind-blowing. He only tweaks those “who don’t give an honest effort?” or who don’t  “fulfill the team-fan accord?” What does that even mean?

So has “Amos Alonzo Kraft” failed to give an honest effort, or has he not fulfilled the team-fan accord? Which is it? (By the way, Shaughnessy actually took that moniker from Mike Barnicle. If you’re stealing material from Mike Barnicle, it might be time to acknowledge that you actually do not possess a conscience.) And that is an incredibly minor Shaughnessy tweak.

And “at least you know who we are.”

OK, that makes everything better.

Guys like Shaughnessy are terrified of the internet, because while he might not be the most self-aware guy around, he at least recognizes his increasing irrelevance, as evidenced by this old-man rant.

Yes, there are nasty, vicious people on the internet. I sometimes am disgusted myself at just how angry some people are online, and the things that they say. But speaking in sweeping generalities, like Shaughnessy does, isn’t right either.

It’s easier for Shaughnessy to write a column like this now, because a lot fewer people – especially those online, who are his targets – are able to read it due to the paywall.

Which just might be the best thing about the paywall, limiting the exposure of a Dan Shaughnessy column like this one.

Bob Ryan’s Farewell, CSNNE’s 5000th and More…

Bob Ryan’s farewell (sort of) column in the Globe yesterday was typical Ryan – passionate, with a nod to history, underscored by humility about his own role in things.

The Globe has lost perhaps the final piece to its glory days, and a bridge to even earlier eras. We’ll continue to read Ryan on many Sundays throughout the year, but the paper will not be the same. Ryan officially closes things out with his account of the United States’ win in the Gold Medal Men’s Olympic basketball game.

You’re up, Chris Gasper. Got 44 years in you?

**********

Comcast SportsNet New England celebrates their 5000th episode of “Sports Tonight” with a one-hour prime time special beginning tonight at 6:30PM.

5000 episodes is an impressive number, and kudos to CSNNE for reaching it. However, I can honestly say I don’t watch it all that much, as it is essentially a recap of whatever subjects were debated on sports radio that day. I’ve heard all the storylines, and the debates once already, I don’t need it again.

CSNNE provides a lot of good programming (SportsNet Central, Celtics broadcasts and pre and post game, various original specials) but they also provide an outlet for ridiculousness like the ongoing Joe Haggerty-Kirk Minihane slapfight.

In case you’re not up to speed on it, old friend Ryan Hadfield provides a recap on his Out of Bounds blog on WEEI.com.

Hadfield might find it entertaining, I find it forced, staged and juvenile.

***********

That gushing Boston Globe feature on Bobby Valentine yesterday by Stan Grossfeld was embarrassing. I usually enjoy the somewhat offbeat features that Grossfeld puts together, but I thought we were done with these types of stories after spring training. Given the season that the club is having, it’s even more out of place.

***********

Same newspaper, same day:

Count me as one who missed the memo that the Red Sox are allowing beer in the clubhouse on the road after games. It’s a complete contradiction to what we were told by Bobby Valentine in February. The word then was “no beer in the clubhouse.’’ Now we’re all supposed to shrug and say it’s no big deal that the beer is still there on the road? The Sox made absolutely no distinction between home and road clubhouse rules when they made their big announcement in Florida. The notion that it was common knowledge is incorrect and sneaky.

Biggest non-story of the year: John Lackey having two beers after a Red Sox loss on the road. If you knew the team rule, it wouldn’t be a story. No alcohol in the Fenway clubhouse and no alcohol on return charters to Boston. Been that way since spring training.

The first was Dan Shaughnessy, the second Nick Cafardo.

I’m guessing that since Cafardo is around the team everyday, he actually knew what the rule was.

By the way, John Lackey is severely tone-deaf and lacking in self-awareness and good judgement, but no more so than many of the media weighing in on this whole absurd topic.

Jen Royle says that episodes like this are why we shouldn’t be surprised when players say it is tough to play here.

Globe Editor Finger-Wags Patriots. Again.

Glad to see the fearless sports editor of the Boston Globe is back in full Patriots finger-wagging mode.

Right, because making rookies go down a slip-n-slide – in full public view of media and coaches – is the same as the sexual assaults and beatings that have been uncovered among high schools.

If anything, the Patriots as showing how to initiate rookies in a fun, non-harmful manner. I might think the whole thing is silly, but it’s not harming anyone.

I just hope Sullivan also comes out and takes a stand when the Red Sox make their rookies wear dresses on the final road trip of the season. If anything, that’s more humiliating than going down a slip-n-slide.

Just Curious…

Did anyone else laugh out loud at these lines from Nick Cafardo on the Kevin Youkilis/Will Middlebrooks situation:

Sunday:

It should be Valentine’s decision as to whether Youkilis gets his job back, and nobody else’s.

Today:

The Drew Bledsoe-Tom Brady analogy is somewhat pertinent in this case. Bill Belichick had just about reached the end of the line with Bledsoe and when Brady took over and performed so well, it was an easy decision.

Those are somewhat different sentiments than Nick had at the time of the Bledsoe/Brady debate.

From November 21st, 2001.

The principals in the Confrontational Conference at Foxborough – that would be heavy-handed head coach Bill Belichick and once-upon-a-time starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe – were asked yesterday in separate interviews how they would characterize Bledsoe’s emotions in the meeting Monday in which the coach told Bledsoe he was going with replacement Tom Brady as his starter the rest of the season.

And a little bit later on in the same column:

Belichick’s pronouncement came at an awkward time, just after Brady had played his second consecutive subpar game, a 24-17 loss to the Rams Sunday night. Brady is 5-3 as a starter but has shown obvious decline in the last four games.

If Brady was performing “subpar” and in “obvious decline” it doesn’t really sound like an “easy decision” like Nick makes it out to be, 10 years later.

Valentine gets free reign in making the decision on Youkilis, but Belichick was “heavy-handed” in making his decision.

Playing Stupid And Making Big Bucks – The Life Of A Sports Media Superstar

INT. MASSAROTTI HOME – 8:00 P.M. APRIL 11TH

A weary TONY arrives home after a long, arduous day in the 98.5 The Sports Hub Studios.

TONY

Honey, I’m home!

MRS. MASSAROTTI

Hi Dear! I just put the kids to bed, and your dinner is in the oven. How was your day?

TONY
(sighs)

Just another day at the office. I made a complete and utter fool of myself, just as I am paid to do. I actually made the statement that Rajon Rondo’s 18 point, 15 assist performance against the Heat is proof that he is NOT a great player in this league!

MRS. MASSAROTTI
(confused)

Um, OK.

TONY
(squeaking excitedly)

YES! Because if he WAS a great player, he’d do that every night! See? It’s brilliant! I totally ignore the part where he’s had double-digit assists in 19 straight games – the longest streak in the NBA in 20 years! I also ignore the part where, since 1986 there have only been seven triple-doubles with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists and Rondo has the last five of them! Not a great player! I sounded so dumb!

MRS. MASSAROTTI
(placatingly)

Well honey, you know we’re still really proud of you..

TONY
(interrupts)

Wait, there’s more! I’m learning, I really am. Instead of “You’re absolutely right, Mike.” I’m learning to mix it up a little, saying things like “No doubt, Mike.” and “Listen Mike, I can’t argue that.” I’m really getting a grip on this whole “play dumb on the radio” role! I also insulted the Celtics fans, and suggested that maybe, just maybe the team is “juiced up” and then Mike and I suggested that Terry Francona is just like Josh Beckett. He’s only interested in finding the snitch, not admitting that he really was a drug-addled philanderer like Hohler said he was!

MRS MASSAROTTI
(sighs)

Well, today was payday, right? You’re such a good provider for the kids and I. Even if you do refer to them as “little monsters” in that Dragon Naturally Speaking commercial you do. How much did you make off that again? Never mind, I can see you’re exhausted from thinking so much today.

TONY
(relaxes)

Thanks honey. I do it all for you guys. It not always easy playing a complete imbecile, but the pay makes it worth it. You know what I’ve decided to post on Twitter tomorrow morning?

EXT. TONY’S COMPUTER 8:39 A.M. TODAY

[blackbirdpie id=”190418910011588609″]

Bob Ryan Bowing Out, Bruins Blanked

It wasn’t exactly breaking news, but when Bob Ryan told Bill Simmons yesterday on the B.S. Report that he will be hanging it up after the 2012 Olympic games in London, it caused quite a stir.

Ryan had hinted previously that he’d likely be scaling things back following the Olympics, and he emphasized yesterday that he won’t be going away completely. He’ll still be around for the occasional column or TV/Radio appearance, but he wants to move on, and do some other things with his life, which he deserves to do. Interestingly he cited the demands of blogging and tweeting in this modern age as things he’s not comfortable with, and part of the reason he feels he doesn’t fit in anymore.

The last link to the glory days of the Boston Globe, Ryan has had a tremendous career and his weekly voice will be missed. The podcast is exhibit “A.” Even if you’re not a huge NBA fan, it is a great listen, and you really get the sense of his passion for the game. Couple this podcast with last week’s with Larry Bird, and Simmons is on a roll here.

There will be more on Ryan as we get closer to the Olympics, I’m sure.

The Bruins continue to stumble as they were shut out by the New York Rangers last night 3-0.

Ice dam – Fluto Shinzawa reports on Henrik Lundqvist shutting out the Bruins last night.

Where did the Bruins go? – Stephen Harris says that hitting the road might be the best thing for the Bruins.Joe Haggerty says that the Bruins have work to do.

Bruins clearly have big expectations for Johnny Boychuk – DJ Bean says that the new deal for the defenseman reflects the faith they have in him.

Peter Chiarelli proceeds with caution – Joe McDonald says that the Bruins GM would like to swing a trade.

Rockland’s Josh Hennessy feels at home in Boston Bruins dressing room – Mike Loftus has a look at the callup.

Johnny Boychuk stays a Bruin – Dan Duggan’s notebook has more on the new deal. The Globe notebook from Fluto Shinzawa and the Bruins Journal both have the same lede.

Kevin Garnett’s turn to take seat – Peter May has KG as the latest injury casualty for the Celtics. Scott Souza says that the Celtics are a team of wounded. A. Sherrod Blakely says that the KG injury might mean the first career start for JaJuan Johnson.

Ivy climbers – With the success of Jeremy Lin in New York, Bob Ryan takes a look at other Ivy League players who have made an impact in the NBA.

Reuniting Brandon Lloyd With Josh McDaniels an Interesting Possibility and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts – Jeff Howe thinks the Patriots have an excellent shot of returning to the Super Bowl.

Brandon Spikes hyped-up for ’12 – Karen Guregian says that the linebacker could be a difference-maker for the Patriots defense.

Which Patriots made the grade? – Greg A Bedard knocks out the grades for the entire Patriots roster.

Bard ready to toe the starting line – Nick Cafardo has Daniel Bard ready to give it a go as a starter.

Think what you want, the Red Sox do spend – Ron Borges dispels the notion of the alleged belt-tightening at Fenway. It was amusing to hear Tony Massarotti scream that the Red Sox were cheap AND that they overpaid for David Ortiz within the span of 10 seconds yesterday.

Red Sox spring training gets a face-lift thanks to Tim Bogar, Bobby Valentine – Rob Bradford looks at how things will be different this spring.

Beckett arrives, takes mound – Peter Abraham has Josh Beckett showing up and getting some work done in Ft Myers.

Ranking the best (and worst) TV announcers in Boston sportsKirk Minihane still doesn’t like Jack Edwards.

It’s Been Target Practice for the Boston Sports Media – George Cain looks at the current targets.

Joe Sullivan Shows Who He Really Is

Since the Bill Belichick era began, coverage from the Boston Globe has been pretty consistent.

With the exception of Mike Reiss and Greg Bedard, (who I’ve disagreed with a couple of time, but overall I think is excellent, and very objective in his coverage.) the coverage of the Patriots coming out of Morrissey Blvd has been routinely negative.

It doesn’t matter the writer, whether it is Nick Cafardo, Ron Borges, Jerome Solomon, Michael Smith (though he was OK) Chris Gasper, Albert Breer or Shalise Manza Young, the tone and attitude towards the team have remained the same. There are complaints about the access given to reporters, there are shots taken at the fans who they insist believe that Bill Belichick can do no wrong.

Where does this come from? As the saying goes, the fish rots from the head down. In this case, it is sports editor Joe Sullivan, who has been the constant among all the comings and goings on the Patriots beat in the last 10 years. It is Sullivan who sets the tone for his staff when it comes to covering the team.

A Tweet from Sullivan yesterday confirmed how he fans about Patriots fans.

The line about Patriots fans in the article that Sullivan disagrees with so much he felt the need to Tweet about?

I don’t know a New England Patriots or New York Jets fan who argues that Bill Belichick or Rex Ryan is the greatest man walking the earth, almost incapable of sin.

It was a throwaway line in the column, which is focused on the adulation of college coaches, but Sullivan jumped on the line and clearly wanted his views on the matter out there.

The “In Bill We Trust” line gets thrown out there quite bit, usually attempted as an insult to those who think that Belichick might actually know what he’s doing most of the time. However, the records speak for themselves.

In speaking behind the scenes, I can confirm that there is a general attitude within the Globe that hostile towards the Patriots. The coverage also speaks for itself. It doesn’t always manifest itself in the actual game coverage within the newspaper. But follow them on Twitter, read their chats, they always manage to find a way to get their shots in. No other outlet does this.

Where does it stem from? It’s from access. Sullivan and Globe feel a huge sense of entitlement. They demand access. Sullivan has complained to league about their access to the Patriots on multiple occasions. (That information has also been confirmed separately.) There is resentment there, and it comes through in the attitude of the paper and its personnel.

Yesterday, Shalise Manza Young held her weekly Patriots chat, and things got ugly. To her credit, she attempted to answer some of the harder-edged questions that came in, but was not successful.

Here’s an example:

Comment From Blinded
Shalise, with respect, I think you and the rest of the media really fail to put any sort of context on the Patriots drafting and personnel moves. Do other teams such as the Steelers, Packers, Jets, etc hit on everyone of their picks? Not even close. For the Patriots to be continually painted as gigantic failures in the draft and free agency really exposes the lack of perspective around here.
1:50

shalise manza young:
Blinded – Again, no one expects them to hit on 100 percent of their picks. I still have the game notes from the Giants, so right now in the time we have I can only look at them. But of the 75 players they have either on the 53-man, IR or practice squad, 33 were guys that they drafted. 19 of those 33 were drafted from 2006-2010, the same time frame I used for the Pats.

OK, so she attempts to actually provide some context and give an example. However, if you do the same breakdown with the Patriots, you find that of the players currently on the 53-man, IR or practice squad, 32 were guys that they drafted, and 16 of those were drafted from 2006-2010.

Huge difference, huh? Before you jump on me, she chose to compare them to the Giants.

Young ended her chat with a typical, childish response:

Comment From TiredofTheMedia
As usual, you miss the point. A guy who’s in over his head can’t lead his team to a 14-2 record. You think he’s in over his head because he lost a playoff game to the Jets. It’s a pretty absurd thing to think.
2:13

shalise manza young:
I think your handle says it all. Nothing I could say short of “all is right in Patriots world, this team is perfect, they’ll win the Super Bowl by three touchdowns” would appease you.

Talk about hyperbole. No one expects nor wants that type of comment or analysis. It is childish.

Before the Patriots/Belichick haters start lining up in the comments section, let me state this:

This Patriots team has very visible flaws, and some of their moves and decisions are certainly open to criticsm.

The problem I have is when reporters who really have no idea themselves what goes into decisions and what discussions are held behind closed doors or really have no more knowledge about the game than the average fan start suggesting that Bill Belichick is in over his head, it’s time to call them on it.

Moreover, when an entire sports department is guided by a hand that holds a clear grudge, and makes sure that that grudge is conveyed in the final product, and whose personal feelings are allowed to impact the product that goes out to the customers, and who delights in tweaking and annoying those same customers, is it any wonder that the Globe has struggled so much in recent years, during which Sullivan has overseen the demise of what was once the greatest sports section in the country?

Maybe it is Joe Sullivan who is in over his head.

From The PFW Archives – An Interview With Lesley Visser

This column originally appeared in the November 25th, 2009 issue of Patriots Football Weekly.

Visser no stranger to Pats success

By Bruce Allen

“Hi, I’m Lesley Visser, I know Will McDonough.”

With those eight words, Lesley Visser, the longtime CBS sportscaster voted this past summer as the No. 1 Female Sportscaster of All-Time, would approach players, coaches and officials during her first season on the Patriots beat. The year was 1976, and the 23-year-old Visser was working for The Boston Globe, yet was not allowed in the locker room, and her team-issued press credential flatly stated “No Women or Children allowed in the Press Box.” Oftentimes she would have to wait in the parking lot to interview players. There wasn’t even a ladies room available to her. Dropping McDonough’s name was the only “in” that she had until she could establish herself.

Despite her distinguished career, I sometimes feel that Visser isn’t always properly appreciated by the public for being the true pioneer that she is. In an age where more and more women are seeking careers in sports media, Visser set the standards by which they all measure themselves. Thus, having the chance to chat recently with the very gracious Visser was a great privilege.

Both her remarkable life and career began right here in Massachusetts. Born in Quincy MA, sports and football were in Visser’s blood from a young age. As a little girl, she dressed as Celtics guard Sam Jones for Halloween one year, and asked Santa for a pair of shoulder pads one Christmas.

In 1966, Visser attended her first professional football game, when the Patriots took on the Oakland Raiders at Fenway Park. The 13-year-old Visser managed to get down to the Raiders sideline where she saw future Hall of Fame center Jim Otto up close. “He was the biggest human being I’d ever seen,” she remembers, “and my eyes grew as big as his double 00’s.”

She had the goal of being a sportswriter when she grew up, and as an English major at Boston College, she obtained an internship at The Boston Globe through a Carnegie Foundation grant. Joining the paper full-time following graduation in 1975, she immediately started making her mark in a male-dominated field.

It started that bicentennial year of 1976, when Visser became the first woman assigned to an NFL beat when the Globe sent her out to cover Patriots on a daily basis.

“The first day of training camp, I think I brushed my teeth in the parking lot of Bryant college.” She recalls her biggest fear in those first days on the beat: “Working with people like Peter Gammons and Bob Ryan and Bud Collins, I was terrified I’d let the Boston Globe down with their historic decision.”

Dropping McDonough’s name became her “Magic Credential,” as she puts it. McDonough, the most respected football writer in the country, even spoke to Billy Sullivan on her behalf, telling the Patriots owner that she would work hard, and asking them to be forgiving of her mistakes.

Mistakes? She made a few, some of which pain her to this day. She recalls one incident early in her tenure when she was doing a story on Sam Cunningham, (Visser says that Sam was much more famous than younger brother Randall.) and included some notes at the end of the story. The Patriots were banged up along the offensive line, and she asked coach Chuck Fairbanks who would start at tackle, Tom Neville or Bob McKay.

In the Globe the next morning, Fairbanks was quoted as saying, “Neither one can play the position”. Visser relates: “I got a call at 6 am.  ‘Are you out of your mind?'” It was Fairbanks, shouting on the other end. “I said EITHER one can play the position!”  Visser still shakes her head at the recollection. “I wanted to move to Bimini. Instead, I flew down to Miami with the team – as all members of the media did back then. I heard about it the whole flight, and, OK, maybe the whole season. I think Dave Smith and Vince Doria, our legendary editors at the Globe, remind me of it to this day.”

All in all, she says that “The Patriots were great to me” and that first season in Foxborough was a memorable one, the team went 11-3 before losing a heartbreaking playoff game to the Raiders on the infamous Ben Dreith “roughing the passer” call on Sugar Bear Hamilton, the Patriots tackle who Visser says had watched game film with her that year, giving her an even deeper understanding of the game.

Though he was just a Patriots season ticket holder at the time, Robert Kraft had a big impact on Visser’s career even back in the 1970’s. Kraft owned the Boston Lobsters of World TeamTennis, and was the first person to let Visser into a locker room in any sport. She adds that Kraft “has been so supportive of women in this business, an advocate for more than 30 years. I’m happy to report that the struggles of Schaefer stadium are now the glories of Gillette. It’s no coincidence that the Patriots are the model, the envy of the NFL.”

With her history with the Patriots, it only makes sense that Visser’s favorite memory from her long career covering sports involves the franchise from Foxborough, MA.

“One of my most favorite memories in all of sports was Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.” She proudly recalls “I was on the field when Adam Vinatieri drilled it through the uprights, and as the confetti came raining down, I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is the team I grew up with, the team that gave me my biggest opportunity, and now I’m here for their most shining moment.'”

Visser had moved on to television with CBS in the early 1980’s, and made history there too, working almost all major sporting events the network covered, including the NFL, where she became the first woman to host the postgame Super Bowl Championship trophy presentation. She stayed at CBS until 1994. She then moved on to ABC/ESPN, where she become the first woman on the announcing team of Monday Night Football, as sideline reporter. She returned to CBS in 2000, and has remained there ever since. She currently is a reporter for The NFL Today, and writes a column for CBSSports.com. In July of this year, Visser was voted the No. 1 female sportscaster of all time by the American Sportscasters Association.

Also this summer, Visser became the first woman to serve as a color commentator on an NFL TV telecast, during a Dolphins preseason game. Visser says of the experience “It was an enormous challenge, but I was careful to stay within my experience. I’ve never been in an NFL huddle, so I never said anything I couldn’t possibly know –  I think that philosophy has helped me for 35 years. I don’t assume, I ask.”

Visser’s distinguished career covering the NFL led to the ultimate honor. In 2006 she became the first (and only) woman to be honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. Among those congratulating Visser that day was Jim Otto, “Pretty good,” he said, “for a little girl shivering on the sideline.”

Visser says that “Being honored as the first woman in the Pro Football Hall of Fame made me glad I went through all the ups and downs. I have a genuine respect for sports, I’ve always said it’s the most meritorious business in America. It doesn’t matter where your father went to college or how much money your mother has, if you hit the jumper or sink the putt or kick the winning field goal, it’s because of your talent, your will and your skill.”

Fittingly, talent, will and skill are all qualities that Lesley Visser possesses in abundance.