Deadspin owes an apology to Jim Miller; miscast remarks on gay players

This must be my day to write about Deadspin.

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I was driving to Louisville Tuesday and heard Jim Miller address the issue of gay players in the NFL with Danny McNeil and Matt Spiegel on WSCR-AM 670 in Chicago. The former Bears quarterback talked frankly about how religious players would have a hard time accepting a gay teammate in the locker room.

Miller, who can be heard on SiriusXM’s NFL Radio, said:

There are some religions that are just not going to accept a gay individual in the locker room. So now, are you as an organization going to bring that element into your locker room and think everything is going to be OK?
Last time I checked, whether it’s Christianity or Muslims or other religions that are out there, they’re just not going to accept it. They’re just not. It’s just not realistic for Mike Florio or any progressive or liberal to think that everything is going to be OK in the locker room and we should all just wise up and accept it.

Deadspin just focused on the above comment from Miller. Yesterday’s post written by Barry Petchesky had this headline: “Who’s The Latest Person To Say Dumb Things About Gay Players In The NFL?”

Petchesky writes:

This is third-hand dogmatism. Miller won’t say he wouldn’t accept a gay teammate. He won’t even say other guys won’t accept a gay teammate. But instead it’s those other guys’ religions (be it “Christianity or Muslims”) that’s the only thing standing in the way of an openly gay NFL player being feted—as if this isn’t a discrimination gay non-athletes face every day. It also takes as a given that players will or should have any say in the demographics of their locker room.

Won’t say he wouldn’t accept a gay teammate? Well, perhaps Petchesky didn’t read the entire Chicago Tribune story that was linked to the post. It included this passage.

Asked his stance on whether gays should be accepted, Miller said, “I could care less. You can play football or you can’t. I’m just giving you my point of view that certain factions of a locker room will not accept it. … That’s the reality of the situation.”

Seems like a fairly definitive answer to me. Miller “could care less.”

As I said, Miller was talking about the culture in the locker room based on his years of being a player. It was a frank and interesting discussion. The possible reaction hardly seems to be beyond the realm of possibility.

Deadspin, though, portrayed him as being anti-gay. It sent out this tweet to its 368,000 followers:

Former Bears QB Jim Miller has opinions on gay players in the NFL. Spoiler: He’s not a fan.

Meanwhile, readers roasted Miller in the comments section, although a few people noted Petchesky missed the point of the interview. Unfortunately, the majority of people who read the post or saw the tweet now think he is a gay basher.

So will Deadspin apologize to Miller for the gross mischaracterization? He probably shouldn’t hold his breath.

 

 

 

Why did Deadspin editor call me a troll, moron?

Actually, I was a labeled as a “concern troll” and my viewpoint was moronic, according to Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs. But I believe they are one and the same, and I wanted an excuse to run a picture of a troll on my site. I decided to use a healthy one.

This week, Craggs did a much discussed Q/A with Manny Randhawa of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana. The Deadspin editor answered questions about the criticisms stemming from its coverage of the Manti Te’o soap opera.

Here’s the link if you want to read the entire interview. Obviously, I want to focus on the part that included me.

Here’s the entire passage:

Q: Ed Sherman wrote the following about a quote toward the end of the Deadspin story on the Te’o girlfriend hoax: “If I’m the editor, I don’t let that quote go through. Who was this friend of Tuiasosopo? Was this person also involved? Friends have a tendency to talk out of school. Maybe this person exaggerated the quote just to be part of the story?” and “So now you’re running an incredibly damning quote from a single source who likely doesn’t know the complete story. 80 percent sure is long way from 100 percent sure in this instance.”

How do you respond to that? What’s the rationale behind adding that friend’s opinion in the piece at all? In light of ESPN’s report that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo admitted to the hoax and that Te’o was not involved in it, does the quote in the Deadspin story accomplish anything other than leading the reader to believe that Te’o was somehow involved?

A: This is a concern troll’s complaint. It’s moronic. That’s a quote from a source who knew both the hoax and hoaxer better than anyone we’d spoken with. It contains its own grain of salt. Eighty percent is not 100 percent: congratulations, Ed Sherman, you can understand the basic English words and number concepts that went into the quote. Yet 80 percent is nevertheless “incredibly damning.”

There are 2,000 words of context preceding that quote, context that was perfectly understood by everyone who read the story except committed Notre Dame truthers and certain willfully dense journalists who were determined to remind people that Deadspin isn’t real journalism. When the story broke, almost none of the people who gleefully jumped on Manti Te’o pulled out that quote to make the case. Only retroactively did people decide this had been the prosecutorial pivot of the piece.

Here’s what we knew at the time we wrote the story:

1. Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend was a hoax.

2. Manti Te’o had told lies about his dead girlfriend to help create the published stories about his dead girlfriend.

The evidence supported–and, frankly, still supports–a degree of skepticism about the Manti-as-duped-romantic story. We wanted to relay our source’s belief and be transparent about his uncertainty. There is nothing outrageous about that. A newspaper would’ve written it up as “a source strongly believes etc.,” and no one would’ve said [anything]. (Take the fourth graf here, for example: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/sports/football/super-bowl-jerome-bogers-probable-pick-as-referee-is-questioned.html?hp&_r=0&pagewanted=all)

Again, I know why that criticism is being leveled. It’s not an epistemological issue, even though it’s being couched smarmily as one. It’s just a way of saying, “Don’t forget–Deadspin is still scurrilous crap.” If it hadn’t been the 80 percent quote, it would’ve been something else. (I’ve seen a handful [of] journalists bitching that we didn’t give Manti or Notre Dame enough time to respond, which is ridiculous given both the observer effect of reporting a story like this and the fact that both Notre Dame and Manti were prepared to go public with the story.)

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OK, Craggs likes to couch any criticism under the category of “Don’t forget–Deadspin is still scurrilous crap.” In other words, old-timers like me, not to mention a good old boy (hope you’re reading, Jason Whitlock) doesn’t understand Deadspin. That seems to be a fairly constant defense tactic employed by Craggs.We just don’t get it!

Craggs neglects to mention that I was very complimentary of Deadspin’s ability to break the story by using many elements of social media and other new-age Internet devices. I thought there was some ground-breaking journalism here.

However, journalism is journalism, old age or new age. As others have pointed out, Deadspin simply was wrong to use the “80 percent” quote.

When you accuse somebody of participating in a conspiracy, it better be “100 percent.” As I said, this really was a damning allegation. If it was true, the fallout is much, much worse for Te’o.

The problem with using the “80 percent” quote is that it became a main focus of the 30-second news roundups and sound bites on radio and TV. I heard countless reporters say, “A source in the story said Te’o might have participated in the conspiracy.” All of this was based on an “80 percent” maybe from an unnamed source.

Also, this is something I failed to mention in my initial critique about the “80 percent” source: Deadspin buried the lede.

The “80 percent” reference didn’t appear until way down in the story. If Deadspin felt so strong about the source and implication that Te’o might have been involved in an elaborate conspiracy, shouldn’t that have been at the top of the story? Seems like a fairly important element, no?

If you’re going to use that “80 percent” source, you don’t wait 2,000 words in, as Craggs said, to introduce the allegation.

It’s just basic journalism.

Then again, what do I know? I don’t get Deadspin and I’m a common troll who says moronic things.

(Note: By coincidence, I just happened to stop by the NSJC yesterday in Indianapolis on the way back from reporting a story in Louisville. They reported the post generated record traffic on the site. Thanks for the exposure, NSJC and Tommy.)

 

 

 

 

 

Latest 30 for 30 short: The mystery of Honus Wagner card; Olbermann: ‘Mona Lisa quality’

Very interesting film examining the history of the famous card. It features Keith Olbermann, who manages to slide the concept of a mohel (the Rabbi who performs circumcisions) into the discussion. Fairly sure that has to be a first.

Here’s the link and the official write-up from ESPN:

The T206 Honus Wagner is the most famous baseball card in the world.  Bought and sold many times over, the card has now appreciated to nearly three million dollars but some in the card industry believe this gem may have been doctored.  From mere speculation, the accusations of alteration have risen all the way to federal indictments.  In this 30 for 30 Short, directed by Nick and Colin Barnicle, baseball card experts and enthusiasts including Keith Olbermann, Michael O’Keeffe, David Hall and Matt Federgreen discuss the history of this iconic card.

Montville on writing a column again: ‘Houses are same, but all neighbors are different’

Wouldn’t it be great to see Michael Jordan return and dump 35 on the Knicks? Or see Wayne Gretzky pull on the sweater and record two goals and two assists against the Flyers?

It can’t happen in sports. However, it can happen for sportswriters. Age won’t preclude a comeback in our game as long as the mind is sharp and the spirit is willing.

Witness Leigh Montville. At 69, he is writing  columns again for the first time since leaving the Boston Globe in 1989.

Montville is churning out a column or two a week for the Sports on Earth site. As they say, the guy still has his fastball.

Note this passage in a column on Bill Belichick:

The 60-year-old coach walked off the elevator at the red press box level of Gillette Stadium, accompanied by the team’s public relations man, continued to a podium in front of a screen that advertised Dunkin Donuts, maybe took a small breath, maybe not, and started talking. There was no preface, no ‘hey, how’re you doing,’ no first-name repartee about the warmish January weather with any of the assembled writers and broadcasters in front of him.

Some of these people have sat in these same metal chairs for every press conference in every week of the 16-game regular season. Some have sat there for every press conference in every one of the 13 seasons Belichick has been in charge of the team. Not one hello, not one first name. There was not a wink in eye contact. There definitely was not a smile.

It’s not as if Montville has been on the sidelines. He’s been pumping out best-selling sports books on Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Dale Earnhardt, Evel Knievel, among others during the past decade. However, the problem with books is that you have to wait a year or two before the next one hits the shelves.

Now with Sports on Earth, readers can enjoy Montville on a more frequent basis. A win for all of us. And let’s not forget Dave Kindred, another all-time favorite who is writing for Sports on Earth.

I plan to catch up with Kindred soon. Here’s my Q/A with Montville on writing a column again and his next book project.

How did you happen to land at Sports on Earth?

I’ve been out of the daily game for quite a while. I went to Sports Illustrated in 1989. I hadn’t written a column since then.

I haven’t been going to a lot of games. Still, I thought it might be fun to go cover some games and write some stuff. I ran into Joe Posnanski (last summer) and he told me about what he was doing with Sports on Earth. I said I would be interested in that. It went from there.

What has it been like to write again?

It’s interesting. It’s like going back where you used to live. The houses are the same, but the neighbors are all different. It’s a whole different approach.

There aren’t any real deadlines. It’s when you’re done, you’re done. I’ve found myself going home to write. By the time you get home, all the interviews are on the Internet. You can go crazy looking up all the interviews while you’re trying to write your story. It’s a little counterproductive. You want to do your own stuff, but you want to make sure you’re not missing anything.

But nobody misses anything. Everything is recorded and the PR people put it all out there.

What have you noticed regarding access? Is there a greater divide between the media and athletes?

The access is very hard. It’s all these guys standing up on little pedestals talking with everyone recording what he had to say. And when the athlete is done, they’re done.

I imagine if you cover (a team) every day, you’d figure things out. Maybe I just haven’t figured it out yet. All I know I know is that people who are out there every day complain about access. There are a lot of cameras, but not as many reporters.

What’s your latest book project?

It’s Muhammad Ali vs. the United States of America. It’s mostly about that four-year stretch when he was banned from boxing until the Supreme Court let him off the hook. I’m reading a lot of books. There’s a lot more to read than for Babe Ruth or Ted Williams.

What do you enjoy about writing the books?

You are your own boss. You’re left to your own devices. The books aren’t edited that much. What you write, you write.

It’s nice to get inside and know somebody. With columns, you’d write about people and things and not always know the real story. You’re trading on cliches. ‘That so-and-so is such-and-such. He’s a bad guy and everyone knows he’s a bad guy.’ And you wouldn’t know if he’s a bad guy, because you never talk to him. That happens a lot, especially in the blog world right now.

With a book, if you’ve read five books (about the subject) and talked to 200 people, you have a real feeling what the person is like.

 

 

 

Sports books score: Francona, Piazza books crack New York Times bestseller list

So much for the notion that people aren’t reading sports books. I can’t remember the last time when two sports titles were on the top 10 list for hardcover non-fiction.

Francona by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy checks in at seven on the latest New York Times bestseller list. Francona may be gone in Boston, but fans in the Northeast still want to read about him.

Then at nine, there’s Long Shot by Mike Piazza and Lonnie Wheeler. While the book has been rapped because Piazza didn’t come clean about steroids, evidently Piazza still has plenty of appeal in the market.

All in all, some good news for the folks who put out sports books.

 

Is staying at ESPN a good move for Big East?

I think there might have been a bigger upside in terms of exposure if the conference went with NBC Sports Network. Like the NHL, the Big East would have gotten the star treatment on the network.

At ESPN, it will remain a lower level player thanks to the Big East not being the Big East anymore.

Old pal Mark Blaudschun addressed the issue in a post at ajerseyguy.com. For starters, he made a great comment about how the Big East isn’t the only entity which saw its value dramatically reduced in the market.

The official announcement came on Saturday afternoon, with details to follow, which should include a 7-year package in football and basketball which will bring Big East schools a total of approximately $130 million.

That total of course, is far short of the more than $1.2 billion offer the Big East turned down 20 months ago, but then again the Boston Globe was a billion dollar purchase by the New York Times 20 years ago and is now being shopped on the market for approximately 100 million dollars.

Stuff happens.

As for staying with ESPN, Blaudschun writes:

What NBC was offering was exposure and a place as the guest of honor for its NBCSports Network. cable network which still needs more programming.

What ESPN was offering was the comfort of a network which is still the gold standard for broadcasts of college athletics, as well as a relationship with the Big East, which dated back to the creation of both the network and the conference in 1979.

Familiarity was definitely a factor. But so was the wide variety of outlets ESPN had. As one source at the Big East said on Saturday, “ESPN over matched the offer. The deal they offered in terms of exposure is better than the deal we have now in football. It was more than fair.”

So while there will be less money–much less money–ESPN is going to be part of making the Big East the “best of the rest”, which means not quite at the BCS level that the Big East will be part of for one more year, but a cut above, the other groups of conferences such as the Mountain West and Conference USA, who are also fighting for a seat at the main table.

 

Diversity study: Newsrooms receive D+ for lack of minority, women columnists/sports editors

A few weeks ago, the big story in the NFL was how no minorities were hired as head coaches or general managers despite many vacancies in this year’s market. Multiple news outlets shined the light and questioned the league’s hiring practices.

Well, it turns out many of the folks covering that story have their own issues when it comes to diversity in the newsroom.

Richard Lapchick, head of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, writes that he has “discouraging” news regarding the latest study of hiring practices in sports media.

Lapchick in Street and Smith’s Sports Business Daily:

Of all the racial and gender report cards produced by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, the most discouraging was the first Associated Press Sports Editors report card in 2006. Unfortunately, that sentiment is still applicable today.

It is discouraging because the percentages of people of color and women in the top-level positions in sports media remain dismally low. The hiring practices of ESPN appear to be the only factor that is bringing up the percentages.

In the report that’s due to be released this week, the grade for racial hiring practices for APSE newspapers and websites last year remained a C+, the same as in 2010. The F grade issued for gender hiring practices remained constant as well. The combined grade for 2012 was a D+

The percentage of white employees as sports editors dropped 97 percent in 2010 to 90 percent in 2012. Columnists went from 86 to 84 percent in that department.

As for male employees, it fell from 94 to 90 percent for sports editors. However, it went up from 90 to 91 percent in the columnist category.

Any increase is small at best. Lapchick writes:

Some improvements are evident. Nonetheless, if you look like me, you have a great chance for upward mobility in the sports departments of newspapers and dot-coms in the United States and Canada.

Lapchick cited ESPN for helping to raise the numbers:

In each of the reports in 2006, 2008, 2010 and now, ESPN’s statistics for sports editors and columnists raised the numbers. Without their key hirings, the statistics would be even worse than they were in 2006.

In the new report card, of the 12 people of color who are sports editors at “Circulation A” media outlets (the largest newspapers and dot-coms, with a circulation of 175,000 or more), four work for ESPN, which employed two of the six African-American sports editors and two of the four Latino sports editors. If ESPN’s people of color were removed, the percentage of sports editors in the “A” organizations who are people of color would drop from 15 percent to 11 percent.

Of the 11 women who are sports editors at this circulation level, six work for ESPN. If the ESPN sports editors who are women were removed, then the percentage of female sports editors at this level would drop from 14 percent to 8 percent.

Obviously, this is an important issue that has many different and complex angles. I know that APSE is working hard to bump up the numbers, but clearly there’s a long way to go.

I’ll have more on this story soon.

 

 

Manti Te’o to NFL Network: I can obviously do a lot better

Is there another player in the draft? All I know is that after running a slow 4.8 today, he opened a few eyes again. Again, not in a good way.

As a public service for those who can’t get enough, there’s this from NFL Network.

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Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o joined NFL Total Access on Monday following his on-field workout at the NFL Scouting Combine. He spoke with Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock:

On the NFL Scouting Combine:

“It is very exhausting. If you ask anyone out here, it is a very exhausting process. It is all about getting out there, being with the guys, showing that you can get out there and do things.”

On his performance at NFL Scouting Combine:

“I did OK. I can obviously do a lot better… do a lot better. That is what pro days are for.”

On what his 40-yard dash time was when he was training:

“I was running near a 4.6, a 4.5. Today was just a long, long day. I am just going to go and keep training and make sure when my pro day comes, I am running those numbers.”

On what to expect at his Notre Dame pro day:

“I want to run my 40 [yard-dash]. I want to get after it, be with my teammates. I am going to have a lot of teammates over there competing as well. Yes, [I will have energy going], it will be a family reunion thing. [People can expect] better numbers. [I will be] rested. One day you hit it hard and then you are done.”

On which teams he spoke with interviews:

“I spoke to 20 teams.”

He then said he did not speak with the New England Patriots when prompted by Rich Eisen. He did confirm meeting with the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Denver Broncos

On if he broke down plays during his interview process:

“That is where I am in my comfort zone. That is where I made the most strides this week, on the board, with the film. Not only telling them what I am doing, [but] what the safety is doing, why this guy has to do this thing and  for them to see that not only do I know what I am doing, but I know what the other 10 guys are doing. That is a big plus for me.”

On the best part of his performance today:

“I think I did best with my [on-field] drills. It is football. It is getting around corners, changing directions. That is why I did the best, but the thing is, I can do a lot better. That is exactly what is going to happen.”

On his sleep schedule at the NFL Scouting Combine:

“Getting to bed on average [midnight], 1:00 AM depending on when the interviews are and getting up at 4:00 AM, 5:00 AM for [testing]. This morning was the latest I woke up and that was 6:37 AM.”


SportsGrid acquired by RotoExperts; Will add more of fantasy component

Congratulations to Dan Abrams, founder of SportsGrid. He writes:

I am thrilled to announce that my web property SportsGrid.com will become the building block for a major fantasy sports media company led by industry leader RotoExperts. Fantasy sports has become a huge business with most of the major media players from ESPN to Yahoo to CBS now having a significant presence. The goal of the new SportsGrid, powered by RotoExperts, is to create the most significant independent sports fantasy media company. SportsGrid fans will continue to see the same smart, opinionated, fun stories they have come to appreciate – the only difference will be that there will also be additional fantasy news and information on, and throughout, the site as well. By this summer, we will combine (and expand) both entities on to one platform while maintaining the sensibility of each. This is a really exciting development for us and the site!

Here’s the official release:

RotoExperts, the leader in providing Fantasy Sports content, announced today a definitive agreement to acquire SportsGrid.com; the trendy, popular sports news and opinion web site from The Abrams Media Network. The acquisition will result in a new media enterprise, with a multi-platform fantasy sports and news portal, offering a complete interactive experience for those seeking the best and most up-to-date fantasy gaming information and advice, along with the most current sports news, analysis, entertainment and opinion.

“Powered by” RotoExperts, the new entity, which will live on what is currently SportsGrid.com, will provide timely, reliable coverage of both fantasy and sports news while developing and delivering new apps and games for the fantasy industry. The addition of SportsGrid will enhance revenue through the sale of RotoExperts’ popular premium products and services, while continuing to share the most exciting and awe-inspiring moments both on and off the field that SportsGrid has covered since its launch in 2010. Now for the first time in one place, sports fans can find the best fantasy sports content, along with coverage of athletes, teams and coaches that extends beyond the playing field.

Known to many from its successful program on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, RotoExperts, the authority on fantasy sports, will continue to headline one of the signature programs on the channel, occupying the 6am-11am drive slot on Sirius Ch. 210 (XM 87) while featuring popular show hosts, including Scott “The King” Engel, Adam Ronis and Dr. Roto. This acquisition will now pave the way for development of a robust video platform, providing 24-hour daily fantasy sports video content.

Louis M. Maione, founder of RotoExperts, who will be CEO of the new entity, said, “We have long been seeking to build out our web presence and create a major fantasy video channel. I could think of no better partner than SportsGrid to help us quickly turn that into a reality.”

Dan Abrams, founder of SportsGrid.com and the Abrams Media network of sites said, “Lou and RotoExperts have created a well-respected brand name with multiple revenue streams that most content creators would envy. This will offer additional avenues to monetize SportsGrid’s significant traffic and lead to a formidable and unique video platform.”

Terms between the two privately held companies were not disclosed.

Serving the fantasy community since 2008, RotoExperts has long been the leading provider of syndicated fantasy content for some of the most recognized and successful sports franchises and publications in the industry. Fueled by SportsGrid’s news, videos, and opinion about sports as seen through the eyes of the media-addicted fan, the infused company will immediately have a web presence reaching well over 2.5 million monthly unique visitors. In addition to robust fantasy content and daily blog posts, the SportsGrid proprietary “Power Grid” will be resurrected to objectively track sports figures across a multitude of categories based on their real-time relevance providing a unique reader experience like no other.

Feherty takes on Nicklaus in season debut: ‘People will see different side of him’

David Feherty opens season 3 of Feherty (Golf Channel, Monday, 10 p.m.) tackling a fairly big subject: Jack Nicklaus.

Nicklaus presented a challenge for Feherty. Golf’s most unconventional personality didn’t want to do a conventional interview with the greatest player ever.

“People might ask:  Why did you wait until the third season before interviewing the greatest golfer of all time?” Feherty said. “Well, I think I wanted to climb a few smaller hills before I tackled Everest, because what do you ask Jack Nicklaus that he has not been asked a thousand times before.”

Feherty thinks he accomplished his mission. He said “people will a different side of (Nicklaus).”

“Jack’s funny,” Feherty said. “People don’t think of Jack Nicklaus as being funny, and he’s a grumpy old man in a lot of ways.  But he has a wealth of knowledge ‑‑ between him and Barbara, their sense of family and the grandchildren and everything that sort of comes with the Nicklaus name has a really high quality, how you would like your own to be.  And it’s the humor, behind the scenes at the Memorial or in the commercial for CBS ‑‑ wearing my CBS hat; he loves it.  He loves giving people a hard time, and refusing to play with record (audio interference) or taking the piss out of people, that kind of thing.”