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Is Brady-Coach B saga trumped up?


08/08/18



If you follow national events you know the president is in fights with, well, almost everyone. But the one at the top of the list is his “fake news” war with the media. It began long before he took office and we’ll be subjected to it long after he leaves office of his own accord in 2024 or is booted out by voters in 2020, or maybe by Congress if the much-discussed blue wave materializes in November.
Now if you’re like me you take “fake news” to actually mean anything unfavorable to our touchy, ego-soaked president. And real news is the stuff he likes, much of which comes out of Fox News praising him as if he’s Gandhi. Those in the Trumpland disagree, believing instead he never gets a fair shake because the media is out to get him. In our region, where Donald Trump lost all six New England states, it’s fair to say there’s a considerable number of people who think the intense media scrutiny on Mr. Trump and his various shenanigans is a good thing.
I bring this up because Patriots fans in the scrutiny-is-good crowd are about to have their belief in the press’s freedom to cover tested by how their team is covered on two fronts. Not freedom as in free to do it, but freedom as in how they go about doing it. And it will be interesting to see how they react to all media blanketing these Patriots stories in a way they have not done before. That even includes Deflategate, where it was the local media defending the Patriots vs. a national media on the attack. Here, everyone has the same questions. So will Patriot Nation’s scrutiny-is-good crowd think the inquest is fair and right, as they do with Don Vito? Or, will they say “lighten up, it’s just sports, not something of real consequence”?
For the record, I think it’s just sports and that the sports media, especially Boston’s, often turn molehills into Mt. Everest. Like last year’s David Price-Dennis Eckersley dust-up, in part because they like the Eck and don’t like Price, which, incidentally is a textbook example of “media bias” where the actual story covered is influenced by how reporters feel about a particular person. 
The first story is the Super Bowl benching of Malcolm Butler. Yes, that was six months ago and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But there was the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy peppering Bill Belichick with one question after another about the benching at his annual opening of training camp press conference. A question he’s answered about a million times already with the familiar grouchy “it gave us the best chance to win” response. You may not agree or believe it, but it’s a legitimate if not particularly satisfying answer. Yet the questions persisted. 
That was followed by an irritated Tom Brady shutting down his Q&A with, “That’s ridiculous, I’m done” after being asked if there’s any link between Julian Edelman’s PED suspension and guru Alex Guerrero. The abrupt shutdown was not a good look and gave notice Yoko Guerrero is brought up at your peril. More ominous, however, was that after an off-season of discontent, the infection caused by Guerrero’s presence hasn’t abated.   
These are what you call distractions, the kinds of things behind why Coach B acts as he does with the media, which basically is to shut down the story before it can roar into a wildfire by giving as little information as possible. Take the Butler case. He knows a detailed explanation gets him hammered for making excuses or throwing Butler under the bus and re-ignites the “it cost us the SB” debate. All irrelevant to 2018. Instead he gives a (usually) truthful but curt stock answer and the story becomes complaints about how he does business. Since, unlike the president, he doesn’t care what the media says about him, he leaves it there and moves on to Cincinnati.  
They’ll never get more out of Coach B than that, even with Shaughnessy treating it like it was a football equivalent of Trump’s subservient meeting with Vladimir Putin. As for me, yes it was the Super Bowl and Butler may have made a difference, but after griping a bit, I add up the good on his ledger against the bad and move on. 
As for Brady, the Trump-like walk-off to the Edelman-Guerrero query is not a good sign. He’s got to come up with a better way of handling that, because after the rumors and an ESPN story looking more on target by the day, those questions are not going away. Especially if he’s not quickly on the same page with all the new receivers after his off-season act, or Jimmy G flourishes after TB-12 allegedly helped push him out. All of which will be magnified by his being 41. And if he continues with the never-seen-before surly attitude, a guy who has gotten nothing but the kind of loving coverage Trump yearns for, he’ll face a far more intrusive kind he’s never dealt with before, putting the pressure on him.   
I always downplay the hysteria that comes with following Boston sports. But for once I don’t think the story is, ah, trumped up. There’s something going on, and with Gronk clearly on TB’s side and Edelman in the Guerrero camp, if the Coach B-Brady fractures widens it has a chance to split the team, putting this season under the greatest peril since Brady went down in Game 1 of 2008. 
So here’s the question for the scrutiny-is-good crowd. With your favorite team under the microscope instead of a president you don’t like, what is the media’s job? Cover it with the usual sky-is-falling hysteria and juice every embarrassing detail like TMZ as if it’s another Watergate, or cover it with the perspective of its relative importance to everyday life? 
Oh, and if the results are ugly — will you call it fake news? Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com.  
 





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