Archive for the 'That Taint Of Usefulness' Category

Yes, It’s True

I read Gregg Easterbrook’s ridiculous and sadly verbose eruptions of cobaggery every week at his Tuesday Morning Quarterback gig. Of course he thinks to himself that his stories are the most commented on every week, so he must be doing something right. I would argue that you are not necessarily a player, even with a boatload of haters. I read him every week so I can read 100-1000 comments talking about how stupid he is. On top of that, his cheerleader jones makes him look sadder than Hinderloaf at Powerline. For the ultra awesome in non-player hatin’, I bring you the ESPN Ombudswoman, Le Ann Schreiber, who frankly would do an awesome job at the Washington Post, or editor-in-chief of the Times. She doesn’t post that often, but she is a real journalist and she doesn’t pull punches on the clearly market driven choadery at teh ESPN. I think she and everyone knows that ESPN isn’t becoming more like a real news outlet, everyone else is fakening more like fake-real ESPN. Allow me to excerpt her taking Easterbrook to school RE: his Patriots obsession (consider Eastie a talentless Tacitus, and Belichick his Tiberius, and you’ll get the hint):

Extremes of opinion varied from Sean Salisbury’s “the media is making way too big a deal of it,” voiced on both ESPN TV and ESPN Radio, to columnist Gregg Easterbrook’s inflammatory piece, prominently played on the front page of ESPN.com, claiming “the situation with the National Football League is a lot worse than people realize” and forecasting the demise not only of Belichick but the entire NFL. “Belichick’s head might be necessary to preserve the integrity of the game,” Easterbrook concluded.

The amount of opinion was so vast, its range so wide and contradictory, that it was beyond hard for readers and viewers to get their bearings within it. It was clear Belichick had violated a league rule, but what kind of “cheating” did that amount to, what kind of unfair competitive advantage could it bestow? Reporting might have answered that crucial question, but the question was tossed to the realm of opinion. If you search the archives of ESPN.com, if you remember the scores of opinions voiced on dozens of different programs, you are free to conclude: (A) It bestowed no competitive advantage whatsoever; (B) it might have provided the winning edge for those Super Bowls, which would then warrant a Bondsian asterisk in the record books; or (C) nobody knows, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from choosing option A or B because having an opinion about it is all that matters.

And feel free to custom design the opinion of your choice out of rumor, speculation and twisted logic, as Tuesday Morning Quarterback Easterbrook did, not once, but twice, in manufacturing extended false analogies between Richard Nixon’s Watergate and Bill Belichick’s tapegate, as if stonewalling to the press is the same as stonewalling to congressional investigators, as if violating a league rule is the same as violating federal law, as if he didn’t promptly hand over to the commissioner all the material that was asked of him and accept his punishment.

Easterbrook is entitled to his opinion, to his logic, to his analogies, however strained I think they are, but what is not OK is cloaking opinion in the camouflage of reporting. In his Sept. 18 piece, “Dark days for NFL,” Easterbrook indulges in several speculations about Belichick’s spying, couching his imaginings in “perhaps” and “might have beens” and “the rumor mill says,” which leads him to suggest “the Patriots’ cheating might have been more extensive than so far confirmed.” That “so far confirmed” is sneaky, implying there is only a small gap between his imagination and fact. Well, all right, sneaky implications are within bounds for a column. It is when he vaults from speculation to posing this question — “What else is there about New England cheating that the team or league isn’t telling us?” — that he goes out of bounds. Not what might there be, but what else is there. That’s where the line is — the line between the grammar of speculation and the grammar of implied fact — and he crossed it.

Ironically, in his next piece, written after commissioner Goodell had demanded not Belichick’s head but $500,000 from the coach and a draft pick from the Patriots, Easterbrook accuses NFL spokesman Greg Aiello of trying to pull off a sneaky Nixonian “non-denial denial” by using the verb “is.” “There is no such evidence,” Aiello had written in response to Easterbrook’s asking whether the Patriots’ material had shown evidence of Super Bowl cheating. “But wait,” Easterbrook writes, “three days earlier, the NFL destroyed the evidence.” Because the NFL had shredded the tapes and notes Belichick surrendered, of course they could say there is no such evidence, but maybe there was evidence. This loophole of tense allows Easterbrook to continue speculating about the Patriots’ cheating during the Super Bowl.

Asked to explain his attitude toward the use of speculation and rumor, Easterbrook said, “I’m uncomfortable with dropping the barrier about rumor mills about purely private behavior, but in this case, the rumors were relevant to something that was on the league’s plate, that was in the sports news. The way I approach it is to ask if there is some reasonable reason to believe the parties involved would be lying to avoid public disclosure, thus forcing people who want to talk to reporters onto the rumor mill.

“I had a reasonable reason to think that the parties involved were trying to keep something off the public record that should be on it. Since I can’t get them to answer the questions, I don’t know whether they are hiding something or just being weird and evasive. Believe me, I’m working on it, I know some things that are not in that column, but I don’t have them on the record yet. I hope to be publishing proof of all those things in great detail.”

My attitude is that you get the proof, or at least sources whose reliability you are willing to characterize and vouch for, before you publish. Until then, you keep your rumor-based speculations to yourself.

Emphasis mine, Easterbrookian hackery in the quoted material undoctored. I think ESPN should give Le Anne a yardstick for her to whack the crap out of these chumps.

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