Monday, August 31, 2009

Unretired Numbers Are Just as Easy to Remember

The job of any linebacker basically consists of two assignments. Find the football, and stop whatever it is the offense was doing with it. The details of those chores can get complex, but Tedy Bruschi had an almost unequaled ability to boil his position down to its essentials and then create them.

The cliches, "Nose for the football," "knack for the big play," "able to execute, etc.," all of which Bruschi exemplified in spades in his 13-year NFL career, are an admission by the coaches who use them that the ability they describe is fundamentally mysterious. There are certain minimum levels of physical size, speed, strength, and reaction time needed to play pro football. But there are plenty of guys in the upper percentiles of those qualities who can't play a lick, because they are never in synch with the game. Bruschi, who was below the median physical requirements of his position, excelled because he had the football gift. It's more than understanding, or study, or even desire. Bruschi was at one with the game out there.

Small wonder Bruschi found the sport such a fulfilling experience. Who among us is at one with their work, even a little bit? Smaller wonder Bill Belichick, equally fulfilled in the sport, was so obviously moved at the thought of Bruschi's retirement.

I am seldom moved when a pro football player hangs 'em up. I am relieved. In many ways, retirement day is the luckiest day of a player's career. The traumatic collisions are over. Existing physical conditions may deteriorate, but they won't be jarred into potential system failure.

Quarterbacks can get old and have their skills fade and still play a little if they master the art of error avoidance. At the hitting positions, this is impossible. When a linebacker starts to lose reaction time, he starts to lose the collisions. Getting run over regularly is no way to earn a living.

A proud man as well as a true gentleman, Bruschi evaluated his situation and decided there was an unacceptable chance that the above paragraph represented his fate in 2009. He was always an honest interview, and there's no doubt in my mind he's honest with himself, too.

New England is still old-fashioned enough that a retired sports hero IS a hero in these parts, an honored minor celebrity. That speaks well of us. That Tedy Bruschi will become one of those retired heroes here speaks to how lucky New England has been.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Injury Report: The Coach is Always Day-to-Day

If Bill Belichick were more dishonest, he wouldn't have such a bad reputation with some people.

Yeah, I know, he broke a rule and got caught. That's not the kind of dishonesty we're discussing here. The coach of the Patriots has a stern if somewhat unusual moral code about his trade. He won't tell lies. He seldom even spins the truth. Yet, like all coaches, Belichick regards knowledge as power and wishes to keep public information about his team to the minimum required by NFL rules.

So confronted with direct questions he'd rather not answer, Belichick stonewalls, evades, and parses words like Bill Clinton on acid. This makes some reporters angry, which is childish on their part, and often makes Belichick look ridiculous, which is unfortunate.

Belichick's remarks yesterday on Tom Brady's health were an excellent example of this phenomenon. To anyone with the slightest familiarity with pro football in general and Belichick in particular, the facts of the situation spoke for themselves as follows.

1. Tom got an owie in his shoulder when Albert Haynesworth fell on him.
2. The owie was not severe enough to require a medical procedure which Belichick would have to make public or get in trouble with the league.
3. Therefore, by virtue of temperament and several good reasons, Belichick wasn't going to say squat.

(A brief pause to explain a very good reason for not revealing too much detail on a minor injury to a vital player. It's a good way of turning it into a major injury. Why not just paint a target on it? Defenses SAY they respect stars like Brady too much to try and deliberately hurt them. Pro football history says otherwise.)

So Belichick stood in front of the microphones and gave his best impression of Michael Corleone testifying before a Senate subcommittee. He's an excellent non-answerer, and the press corps never laid a glove on him-until the bout was over. ESPN News re-ran highlights of Belichick's dodging on an almost continuous tape loop, and frankly, the anchors made little pretense of hiding their laughter. "Here's the great coach being weird. Isn't it funny?"

You know, it is, really. Belichick did look weird. But so what. All football coaches are weird, and the greater they are, the weirder they tend to be. It's an occupational hazard. Wide receivers tend to be high-strung. Linebackers have been known to be hostile. And coaches go paranoid -- on the job anyway. All of them.

There can't be a coach in football with a more different public image than Belichick's than his immediate predecessor with the Patriots, Pete Carroll, the wildly successful coach of USC. Carroll is seen as bubbly, enthusiastic, open, pretty much what Jerry Garcia would have been like if he'd picked up a headset and clipboard instead of a guitar. There's some truth to that image. But let me tell you a story.

When Carroll coached the Pats, the old Foxboro Stadium was still around, and the media work room was one of the end zone so-called luxury boxes overlooking the field. Before the start of actual practices on Wednesday, Carroll would stage little walk-throughs of plays he deemed important on the field before everyone booked over to the Wrentham school fields.

If you've never seen a walk-through, it's pretty much what it sounds like. The scout teams on defense and offense walk through the most salient plays of the upcoming opponent at a speed slightly slower than a square dance. After this, everybody stops, and coaches speak to them. It's gripping viewing.

You may recall that in Carroll's first year, the Pats started off 4-0, than ran into difficulties. After the second loss, we came into the work room one Wednesday to find that the windows had been covered up. Clearly, the Patriots were losing because we the media could watch Carroll describing the enemy's plays to his own troops. Otherwise, I guess, the enemy would not have been familiar with its own plays. In what I thought was a nice touch, the windows were at first covered with old sports sections. Postmodern secrecy.

That's nice, candid Pete Carroll. His predecessor, Bill Parcells, would look you in the eye and point to the west where he saw the sun rise if he thought he gain an advantage. Frankly, as a reporter, I always preferred a stonewall or evasion to a fib. You can extrapolate the truth from the former more easily.

Making fun of football coaches is easy and satisfying. I've done it myself often enough, God knows. Because he takes football so seriously (and why not?), and because of his mastery of the non-response response, Belichick is eminently mockable, which I've also done myself, and I think a lot of fans have too.

But it's really not fair to coaches, and I'm trying to cut back. Coaches are engaged in the endless and futile struggle to create order out of a sport that is essentially chaos with a clock and scoreboard attached. They're paranoid and secretive because their job makes them that way. Mocking them for it is akin to laughing at bomb disposal experts who don't like loud noises.

It's not as if any further information on how Brady's shoulder feels today is going to answer what's the truly relevant question here. If Belichick knew how Brady will feel September 14, he wouldn't be nearly so evasive.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why I Wouldn't Be a Very Good Talk Show Host

I'd like to think it's a wellspring of nobility in my soul, but in truth, I'm just easily bored.

Tom Brady said that when NFL quarterbacks sign big contracts, that's good news for other NFL quarterbacks such as Tom Brady. This modest economic insight doesn't exactly translate to big news, or any news at all. A rising tide lifts all boats, and Brady's about the biggest boat in the pro football ocean. Of course he was happy about it.

So it was with dismay that I heard my former colleagues Tony Massarotti and Michael Felger, who were both good sportswriters and good teammates, attempt to spin Brady's remarks into a four-hour fear fest for Pats fans. Brady's unhappy with his contract!! Brady plays hardball!!!! Good-bye salary cap and Super Bowls!!!!!!

Farewell, sanity. The obvious truth is, Brady makes a lot of money today playing football, and when his time for a new contract comes, he'll make a lot more. It is almost as certain as anything can be in this shifting temporal plane that the New England Patriots will be the franchise giving it to him. Really, it'd be much more realistic to spend time in Boston sports talk fretting about how the impact of a comet on the Earth would disrupt the Red Sox' pitching rotation for the playoffs.

Nah, that wouldn't work. The first caller would say that if Varitek catches, the comet would miss the Earth.

Now, Mike and Tony know the score as well as I do. So why'd they pretend otherwise? You'd have to have actually been on the radio to know the answer. Nothing matches the primal terror of the possibility of a nanosecond of dead air. Anything that prevents such a moment is an imperative, reality be damned.

Manipulation becomes the order of the day. Sports fans, by definition, are emotional. Talk radio listeners are the most emotional of the lot. A topic need not be real to yank their chains. It need merely be the stuff that fears or rage are made of.

I know there are a lot of fans out there who say they'd love a lower-key sports talk show which went easy on the hysteria. I'm one of 'em. But I also know that the people who would listen to such a show would not call it. They'd expect the hosts to carry the ball. Four hours is an eternity of talking. Four hours five days a week of solo talk is an eternity as envisioned by Dante.

In the interests of their OWN economic standing, then, talk show hosts are obligated to throw as many rocks at as many hornets' nests as they can. It's not an edifying pursuit, journalistically speaking. Or as pure entertainment, I think, but many disagree.

Don't think for a second I'm above it on some moral grounds. My reasons for never having attempted sports talk radio are not high-minded. They're personality quirks. I could not bear to come into the studio and discuss the same stupid crap day after day, except on those happy days when I had made up some new stupid crap to discuss. If that's a good day at work, it's not work I could do. I liked being a columnist because of the variety of experience it offered. Sports talk hosts are essentially assembly-line workers with very high salaries.

Mass media's a miracle. Any fan can spend all the time they choose watching or listening to all the sports they wish. Why talk about them instead? Isn't better to watch a game with someone else, and talk to them?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Age Is More Than Your Birthday

Jim Rice was very unpopular with many sportswriters in his playing days. They didn't understand him.

Rice was not a hostile man, as was commonly supposed. But as his remarks yesterday about Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (?) make clear, Rice was, is and always will be a profoundly stuffy man. He was an old baseball fuddy-duddy when he was young, strong, terrorizing American League pitchers and possessed of a future of limitless promise, most of which he went on to fulfill.

One thing about covering baseball. It is a given that x percent of old-timers you meet will despise the modern game and players. By listening closely to active players, one can determine pretty easily which ones will become the most vehement denouncers of the future game when THEY become old-timers. I've had Rice on this list since 1979.

That's not a sin. Pomposity is neither good nor evil. It does not, however, cause the world to beat a path to one's door.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Heidi Watney's Agent Should Read This Post

In one of the media trade mags I read in my day job, they had a list of the ten baseball teams with the highest average local ratings for their games until about the halfway point of the 2009 season. It will not surprise you that the Red Sox were the "American Idol" of the diamond -- by a lot.

The Sox had an average rating of 9.4, and the second highest rated team had a 7.4. That is proof that New England has a great many Red Sox fans, and that it is a place where it makes far more sense to watch baseball on TV in April and for May night games than it does to do so outdoors.

Nor will the identity of the runner-up shock many readers. It was the Cardinals, whose large, loyal following has been around for many decades. They're actually about as smug about their fanhood as Sox fans are, but being Midwesterners, aren't so pushy about their moral superiority to followers of lesser franchises.

The identity of the third-highest rated team on local television WILL surprise you. It surprised me enough to write this blog post on the topic. So here's a quiz. What was the franchise with the third-most loyal (or, alternatively, third most in need of more in their lives) fan base?

(Insert "Jeopardy thinking music here.)

Time's up. Sorry, you're wrong. The correct answer is, your Milwaukee Brewers, a team that has functioned in utter obscurity for decades, ignored in both leagues. In Wisconsin, they're gods. Maybe Bob Uecker's agent is the one who should read this post.

To those of you who answered "the Brewers:" no, you didn't. And even if you did, no one will believe you.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Would It Help If They Discontinued the Comeback of the Year Award?

Brett Favre would've made a much better contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" than will Tom DeLay. It would be a reach to say that the former Congressman would've made a better quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings than will Favre, but for damn sure DeLay, or any number of potted plants, can do a better job than whoever is making the decisions for that franchise.

Twelve million bucks for a quarterback who's older than the stadium and who hasn't had a really good year since before the Iraq War, a guy who pretty much vanished in a cloud of disinterest from his team last year, and oh, yes, has a "small" tear in his rotator cuff. Vikings, meet physics and biology. "Small" tears in surfaces do not tend to remain small when that surface moves about a bit, you know, like when throwing a football.

Compared to this move, the Eagles signing Michael Vick was prudent, nay, praiseworthy risk management. Death and taxes will be easier to evade than the circus disaster film awaiting the Vikes this season.

The above sentiments are hardly original, I know. Perhaps the following two are.

Drop an editor's curse on whomever writes of Favre "This will not end well." It's already not ended well. Twice.

The saddest part of Favre's signing is that I'll bet the Raiders are jealous.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Golf -- Study & Teaching

There is nothing Tiger Woods can tell us "average" (the game's euphemism for "lousy") golfers about the game -- except for one thing, and I'll bet he doesn't really have an answer.

We'll never be able to hit those 350-yard drives, or 300-yard fairway wood stingers off the tee. We'll never be able to hit 6-irons 20o yards. But all golfers, no matter what their ability level, face 6-foot putts. And no golfer except perhaps Jack Nicklaus has made more 6-foot putts he needed than Woods has.

If I made as many 6-footers as Tiger, I'd take five strokes off my handicap, and so would any golfer who isn't lying. It's really too bad that I once asked Woods this question at a major (2002 Masters, for those of you scoring at home) and he answered it honestly.

Paraphrasing, Woods responded that, a) he practices a lot, and b) he was good to start with.

A Dilemma for NESN

Jerry Remy is an excellent baseball broadcaster. His recovery from cancer is a development to be cheered to the skies. Remy is also very sarcastic, a quality I admire in people.

As we have seen, however, Dennis Eckersley is just as excellent a baseball broadcaster, and because we haven't been listening to him for 20 years, has the appealing quality of freshness (that's not criticism of Remy in any way. There's a lot to be said for knowing you'll get a consistent performance, too). Sending Eck back to the studio to exchange sweet nothings with Tom Caron is a waste of resources.

If I was in charge of NESN, as Red Sox owner John Henry effectively is, I have no idea how I'd handle this embarrassment of riches. Three-in-a-booth just doesn't work for baseball, as ESPN proves on a weekly basis.

Remy's status in New England is his meal ticket. Fortunately for Eck, his is not. I propose that Red Sox fans begin a campaign to get Eck a REAL national TV gig, not that TBS thing. Because when the competition is Morgan and McCarver (disclaimer: know and like both guys), there's room for a new voice.

Even my mom, the only baseball fan I know who LIKES Morgan as an announcer, wants Eck to get more work.

Brief Observation on Pinch-Running

Sending in a starting pitcher to pinch-run in a game-deciding situation, especially an American League pitcher, is the sort of thing a manager does when he is neither happy with nor confident in the 25 guys he sees getting dressed in the clubhouse.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Remind You of Anyone, Patriots Fans?

Today's Quote in Coaching: "One of my jobs is to keep this team off the back pages" -- Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United soccer team. three time defending English Premier League champions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Story Pitch

Recent news about the private life of Rick Pitino of the University of Louisville reminds me I've simply got to set up that lunch meeting with David Mamet. If ever a man was right for the job of writing a script about college basketball, it's him. Hell, more than half of Mamet's male characters remind me of coaches I've known.

Remembrance of Changeups Past

In 1999, the news that Pedro Martinez would be placed in the Phillies' starting rotation would have made at least one Phils fan giddy with joy.

In 2005, it would have made him pleased indeed.

It's 2009, and the fact Pedro will start tonight against the Cubs fills me with dread. I am anticipating sorrow to come from this marriage of desperate convenience, both for the Phillies and for Martinez. As a lifelong fan of the team and as a profound admirer of the pitcher Pedro was with the Red Sox, tied with Sandy Koufax for the Best I Ever Saw Award, I am sad, not anticipatory, of tonight's game.

I hope with all my might Pedro can turn in at least one decent start for the Phillies. But I don't seen any pleasant surprises in our collective future.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Further Note on Nostalgia

Last month, for my wife Alice's birthday present, we had a weekend in New York, including fancy French restaurants and a Broadway show.

The show was the revival of "Hair." I highly recommend it to any readers who like musicals, and even those who don't particularly for them. I can theater as a genre or leave it alone, and I had a swell time.

Not the least pleasant of my experiences was skimming through "Playbill" at intermission to read the cast bios. The cast, of course, was all in their 20s. There's no part for Angela Lansbury in "Hair." One of the female leads, who was very, very good, had the following note in her bio.

"(Name here, sorry I forget) has loved Hair ever since the first time she saw it, when a version was performed during a 1990 episode of "Head of the Class."

If that doesn't make you smile, you have no real appreciation of the miracle of American popular culture.

By the Time We Got to Woodstock, the Traffic Was Very Bad

Why are newspapers dying? Consider the following lead sentence from music critic Jon Pareles in his story in the Arts & Leisure section of today's "New York Times."

"Baby boomers won't let go of the Woodstock Festival."

I didn't read any further. Couldn't take it. Pareles had bought a first class ticket on the Express Train to Bullshit Generalization Hell. This 60s veteran would just as soon have as hitched a ride with soon to be paroled Squeaky Fromme.

I'm a baby boomer. I was at Woodstock, and am glad I was. Know when I let go of the experience. When I got home that Sunday night, that's when. And on behalf of the many other people who were there who are still on top of the ground, let me say I doubt that many of them have had lives so pathetic that they cling to memories of a rock and roll show four decades past as one of their seminal experiences. Forget life partners, children, work, or spiritual development. Canned Heat, THEY'RE what made my life worth living.

Woodstock bullshit, of course, began to be disseminated even as the event was going on. I will excuse the silly things those who were there said at the event-we were stoned. What's interesting is that the very same organs of established thought-including and especially the Times-went crazy discussing The Meaning of It All way back then. And they still haven't figured it out 40 years later.

Sometimes, the Meaning of It All is there isn't any. As a sports columnist, the most horrible occasions was where I had to have an opinion on some ball game that had no significance beyond its final score. How I longed to write "The Sox forgot this one 15 minutes after it ended and so should you." I'd have been banned from punditry for life, but in retrospect, it would have been worth it.

So it is with Woodstock. I would summarize the eternal truths of that admittedly large event as follows.

1. Many people live on the Eastern Seaboard.

2. The music of the 1960s was tremendous, and well worth going to much time, trouble, and distance to see.

3. If you're going to have a huge crowd for which you have inadequate or no services, you'd better hope most of them are on drugs that aren't meth or coke.

That's it. The rest is bullshit. The success of the Woodstock movie, which devoted far too much of itself to propagating the "defining moment of a generation" myth, came from the simple truth that people are fond of looking at pictures of themselves.

The ways in which life today is better than in 1969 are almost infinite, ranging from the Internet to a refreshingly lower threat of thermonuclear war. The social attitudes of the crowd at Woodstock, for all their youthful revolutionaryness, shockingly retrograde by today's middle-American standards. Ask any of the gay folks who were there.

But the music was better then, the same way basketball was better in the 1980s than it is now. That's the moral of Woodstock. One big major chord.

I wonder sometimes. As happy as I am to have seen the show, if HDTV had existed in 1969, would I have bothered to go?

Probably not.

Green Shoots of Sanity

David Ortiz's terrible, no-good, very bad week might not be so bad for the rest of us. There are indications that the report in the New York Times (based on anonymous sources, natch) that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs may have been the tipping point in the Great Drug Witch Hunt/Freakout of the 2000s.

In their halting, legalistic, ass-covering ways, both Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players' Association, a/k/a "the moguls" and "the union," used Ortiz's press conference yesterday to indicate they'd had it with the slow drip of leaks from what was supposed to be a confidential document, and are increasingly willing to let the past remain the past, while they operate under the drug policy of the present.

Excellent. This won't stop the Times or the other Glorious Guardians of Baseball Good from leaking more names and writing/broadcasting more tendentious editorial comments on the meaning of it all, but it moves us all closer to the moment when the response to news of PED use before 2004 is "So what?" and news of PED use in the present is "What a dope Player X must be."

Ortiz's misery may have done his sport a service. I doubt that's much consolation to him. Maybe karma will leave him a line drive or three as a more tangible symbol of approval.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

You Can't Go Home Again-Or On Road Trips, Either

For the first time in several years, I attended a sports event in person last night. There was entirely too much self-revelation involved.

The event was hardly a biggie. It was a Cape League game between Brewster and Chatham at Veterans Field in the latter town. The game was the capstone of a family outing to Chatham, where when our kids were younger, we rented a place each summer from about 2000-2004.

I love Chatham. If I was considerably wealthier, I'd retire right now and live there full-time. We had a magical day. Picnic lunch on the beach, trip to the Fish Pier to watch 'em unload today's catch, etc, nature walks, etc. After a superb dinner at the Squire, it was game time.

Cape League games are such concentrated doses of wholesome Americana they'd send Norman Rockwell's blood sugar off the charts. Between watching the always-impending four-alarm fire in the concession stand, checking out the elaborate manners through which teenage girls pretend not to be checking out the college-age ballplayers, and the maniacal swarms of small children racing for foul balls (free ice cream to whoever returns one), it is a festival for the senses.

Then there's the game.

Evan Longoria, who was a member of the Chatham team in 2005, had a little blurb of honor in the program. In my estimation, it will come as a considerable shock should any member of the team I saw last night have a similar blurb in the 2013 program. Chatham came into the game with a team batting average of .220 and nine homers in 41 games, and Brewster's team batting average was a lusty .218. These stats could not be attributed to the transition from college baseball's metal bats to the wood used in the Cape League, either. Breaking balls, and in particular, the change-up, were beyond the powers of both lineups. Hitters would front-foot themselves, lunge, and take cuts combining the worst of both aggressive and defensive swings. It's wonder none of 'em suffered a spine injury.

But I didn't go to the game expecting to see tomorrow's big leaguers today. I went to have fun. And I did, except for one thing-one thing's that still bothering me today-the pitchers and my reaction to them.

Chatham's pitcher (all names erased because I forgot 'em) had something pretty close to a major league fastball. He also had a bad habit. He is one of those twirlers who when a man gets on base, slows his pace down to that of a Congressional subcommittee marking up legislation. There were frequent consultations with the catcher, long stares at infielders, and what appeared to be yoga breathing exercises whenever the count reached two strikes. In style anyway, he was ready for American League middle relief. After the third inning, I didn't like this kid anymore.

And I HATED the Brewster pitcher. He began the tilt with 11 consecutive balls (Chatham's leadoff hitter stole second, third, and was out trying to score on a ball in the dirt with nobody otu, but I digress). After three innings pitched, the young man had the singular pitching line of 3IP, 0H, 0R, 6BB, 6K. By that time, the umpire's strike zone had widened to go from foul line to foul line in the hopes the game might end before dawn.

Under my breath, I muttered "God, how I loathe walks." I was overheard.

"Daddy," my daughter said. "I've been watching games with you for years. You say that every game."

Self-knowledge hurts. I am not a sportswriter anymore, and yet, I cannot escape the business. The habits of a career bred during many, many night baseball games are impossible to break. What did I care if the Brewster pitcher walked the ballpark? I had no deadline. I was there to have fun, which I was in many ways. But I wasn't having as much fun as the fans around me, because the wildness of young pitchers, an eternal fact of baseball they accepted as such, was driving me around the bend. Somewhere in my subconscious, there was an imaginary copy desk waiting for me to file, and those bases on balls were a threat to my identity.

That's nuts. All fans are nuts, of course, but I' m not a fan anymore. I'm not a sportswriter anymore. I'm in between. This has been a valuable experience in many ways. I think, among other things, it's made me a better writer.

But when pitchers can find the plate, I live in the worst of both worlds. And I always will.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

New Media, Otherwise the SOS

Michael Vick had a full career with the New England Patriots yesterday, considering it only lasted four hours and existed exclusively in cyberspace, or to be more precise, in the wide acreage of cyberspace inhabited by the excitable and delusional.

Bill Belichick's philosophical refusal to give categorical answers about possible personnel decisions finally bit, or at least scratched him on the ass, as the Patriots' coach's hypothetical evaluation of Vick as an employable football player was transmogrified in no time to reports that Vick was in Foxboro working out for the team's coaching staff. With photos yet. The New England franchise , whose office personnel was probably threatening mass violence if they had to keep fielding phone calls from pet lovers, eventually denied the report-not that that will stop people from believing it right this second.

"Falsehood Sweeps Internet" is not a page one, or page 52F, headline. Millions of pixels of fantasy sweep through every computer on earth each day, propelled not so much by technology as by the immutable law of demography that there's a sucker born every minute. Sports fans, whose calling requires high levels of both emotion and the willing suspension of disbelief, are particularly susceptible to taking hearsay as gospel. I wouldn't mention this odd little afternoon of rumor-mongering if it weren't for one thing.

Among the excited and delusional rumor-mongerers was the "Miami Herald," which posted an item on its Web site as a straight news story saying that it could, as an institution, confirm that Vick was somewhere in Foxboro throwing footballs at the behest of the Pats.

Major American newspaper makes fool of itself, alas, is news-at least to me. I have no idea (although plenty of suspicions) as to how this report came to be published in Miami. Probably it had a lot to do with the fact that many newspaper management types such as senior editors have not yet wrapped their brains around the truth that placing a story on the Web site is EXACTLY the same as printing it in the paper. It's your information, and your organization is responsible for it. The fact that the Internet allows stories to be altered or erased as quickly as they're posted doesn't matter. Ever hear of screen shots? Putting up the day's hot gossip because it's "out there" is, from a business point of view, insane. The Miami Herald is not, repeat not, in competition with Internet competition to be first with the most intriguing bullshit is not a game newspapers can win. They shouldn't play.

In its collective slow-motion suicide, the newspaper industry has forgotten one of its most important functions. What large news-gathering organizations determine is NOT true, and hence they don't report, is as or more vital to maintaining a well-informed citizenry as what they do publish. The ancient military maxim that the first reports are always wrong is a guiding principle of journalism. At least, it used to be. Now, skilled reporters take trade deadline gossip which once upon a time would've been lies swapped with baseball executives in hotel bars and make it minute by minute Twitters of speculation.

This is ten time the work to produce one-tenth the actual factual information. That hardly seems cost-efficient. From a marketing standpoint, it couldn't be more counterproductive. The more pretentious members of traditional news organizations always say that the true value of the old media is their superior journalistic technique and scrupulous attention to making sure they have the facts and nothing but.

Not in the Miami Herald's sports section yesterday, it wasn't. To me, anyhow, that newspaper now has the same credibility as None to speak of. This makes me sad, and not a little mad as well.

The City News Bureau of Chicago, Illinois was a wire service that covered that fascinating community for decades. On the newsroom wall was a slogan: "If Your Mother Says She Loves You, Check It Out."

The City News Bureau went out of business awhile ago. So did its slogan, I guess.