The narrative of the national sports media never ceases to astound me.
On false reports and leaks to well-placed reporters, Tom Brady and the Patriots were villainized, accused of cheating, and became a national story leading the evening newscasts.
The media was eager to lap it up and proclaim Brady and the Patriots guilty and demand their removal from the Super Bowl and the record books.
Within days, the majority of people believed without reservation that the Patriots had cheated. For many of those, nothing that came afterwards would sway their opinion.
During the Super Bowl broadcast, the topic came up numerous times – even with under two minutes left to play and the game on the line.
Over an alleged few puffs of air – of which, the veracity of such claims has been proven to extremely questionable.
The case against Tom Brady involved false leaks to reporters, a sham investigation which has been mocked by scientists and a federal judge and lies by the Commissioner of the NFL.
Now we come to Peyton Manning.
A report comes out linking Manning to Human Growth Hormone. The initial report comes from Al Jazeera, which, fair or not, probably plays a part in the perception of the story.
After numerous neck surgeries, including one overseas because no one here in the U.S. would perform it, Manning was treated by a doctor with a checkered past, who had a history of putting his patients on HGH. Manning’s wife was also a patient and shipments were sent in her name to the Manning house.
The difference in coverage between Boston and Indianapolis of two stories which have some similarities is startling. Both involve a star quarterback and someone with a sketchy past who has helped with their recovery from major injury and/or training.
The Indianapolis Star has dug into the past of Dr. Dale Guyer and advanced the story admirably, but have been very careful to not to tarnish the reputation of Peyton Manning, keeping his (and his wife’s) involvement on the periphery of the story.
The Boston Globe (and Boston Magazine) dug into the past of Alex Guerrero with the sole purpose of trying to tarnish the reputation of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This was reflected in the tone of article and the insinuations that besides legal issues, the situation was violating the NFL salary cap, of all things.
In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz, who was spoon-fed the deflategate scoop by a malicious NFL source, and proudly proclaimed it the biggest story of his career – had actually been treated by the same Dr Guyer, and had been prescribed HGH – but didn’t deem it worthy of any sensationalism.
Old friend Gregg Doyel who was at the forefront of the pitchfork-wielding mob that was out to lynch Brady, (and to this day – literally, today – still believes it.) has had only one stance on this Manning story.
Can you fathom a writer, any writer tweeting, “I ride with 12.” ?
Nationally though, this Manning report, is not being viewed with the skepticism that we would’ve hoped the whole deflategate case would’ve been, even though there is more evidence here that something happened then there was ever on the deflategate case.
When the original source of the story Charles Sly recanted his story after it became public – his original claims having been filmed by an undercover reporter – out of fear, embarrassment, or whatever, many people took that as enough evidence that the story was bogus. When Manning told reporters how angry he was about the report, for many, well, that was all they needed to dismiss the story, despite several very compelling unanswered questions.
It’s interesting to see the media used in the opposite way from the Brady case in this Manning case. Take, for instance, the fact the when the Broncos were playing a national game on CBS, this story was not mentioned at all.
This is what Jim Nantz said when asked why he didn’t mention it:
This quote from Jim Nantz to Mike Francesa Sunday about not discussing the Peyton Manning/HGH story is astonishing. pic.twitter.com/pYlK6TVmmQ
Let’s pose a hypothetical:
Instead of deflategate last January, what if it came out that during his recovery from the ACL tear in 2008, that shipments of HGH were sent to Tom Brady’s house, addressed to Giselle.
What would the reaction have been? Would the national media have called it “a story that on all levels is a non-story?”
I think we know the answer.
Finally, this week, a large media outlet looked into this story The New York Times set about Finding a Common Thread in the Al Jazeera Doping Report
With the help of my New York Times colleagues Ken Belson and Doris Burke, I scrutinized the list of names, and it soon appeared less random than at first blush. Nearly all of the athletes Sly named are clients of Jason Riley, a fitness trainer based in Sarasota, Fla.
Riley and Sly founded Elementz Nutrition and had an impressive stable of big time athletes using them.
The conclusions are very interesting. On the undercover interview with Sly:
But what to make of Sly? In the end, this story hinges on his credibility. A man who operates in the athletic shadows, he was confronted with his hours of undercover interviews and recanted. He proclaimed himself an idle boaster.
What was he supposed to do, if what he had said was true? Acknowledge it and allow his words to become his manacles?
Mitosomal growth factors, stem cells and pig brain peptide: He talked of all with a chemist’s ease. His network, as he described it, extends from Germany and Switzerland to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Chad Robertson, a pharmacist, said Sly was a savant of doping.
The other obvious question is, if he really was a savant of doping, and knew all these things, why would he just boast about random athletes even if he was just trying to look impressive to the person he was talking to?
So is anyone going to do anything about it?
The Al Jazeera documentary was only the latest report to reveal sports doping as a spider’s web that stretches across continents and oceans. You wonder if the pro league chieftains, Rob Manfred in baseball and the N.F.L. sachem Roger Goodell, have paid attention, and have the stomach to pursue these strands.
Then comes the killshot. A brilliant way to end the story, as it is a true drop-the-mic ending.
They might want to hurry. Last week, Elementz Nutrition voluntarily dissolved and closed its doors.
Remember the NFL leak to Stephen A Smith about how Tom Brady destroyed his phone? A leak that was completely malicious, and designed to again taint public perception because it was scandalous on the surface, yet immaterial to the case. Yet people still bring it up. Just a few days ago Mark Schlereth, while trolling Patriots fans, brought it up.
In this Manning case, the company owned by the source of the story shut its doors. Think about that. The entire company! You can image the paper-shredding and hard-drive erasing that is going on there.
Yet, where is this story? Jim Nantz won’t talk about it on CBS. ESPN hasn’t published a single thing about this story since December 29th.(Too busy breaking federal laws?) NBC put out Manning’s side of the story giving him the chance to tell Peter King how angry he was about it. How he was “probably” going to sue. Which he hasn’t done yet, despite two other athletes doing so already.
Like Chris Price wrote, I don’t care if Peyton Manning took HGH to aid his recovery from injury. Athletes do what they need to do to keep their careers going. I don’t really begrudge them that.
For me, this story isn’t really about Manning. It’s about the coverage of the allegations and the blatant hypocrisy of many in the national media. Once again, they’re showing their true colors, this time by their silence.