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Breaking Angles

Breaking Angles – ESPN’s Story on the Patriots (1/5/2018)

Gillette Stadium by Amy Meredith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Breaking Angles – ESPN’s Story on the Patriots (1/5/2018)

Estimated Reading Time: 14 Minutes

The happenings today caused strong reactions from members of the writing team for The Turf. We couldn’t decide who would get to write this article, so we gave it to all three people. Here are their responses.

Ned Donovan

Over the last few days, social media has been atwitter (pun fully intended) over the impending “bombshell” report on the fracturing Patriots. Today, Seth Wickersham dropped that bomb, and……


Really? This was what we were all waiting on? Forgive me if I’m a little underwhelmed.

Full disclosure: I am a diehard Patriots fan. The NFL season is my Christmas and my religion, and most nights the last thing I do is google “Patriots News”. So I, admittedly, am shockingly biased here.

But isn’t that the point of Wickersham’s hit piece?

I’ll break down my thoughts on it below, but my biggest takeaways were this:

  1. Patriots fans will hate this article. They will angrily post it (guilty) decrying the idiocy of ESPN (guilty).
  2. Some Patriots fans, caught in the entitled wave of constant winning (often dramatically), who may have been the ones screaming that Jimmy G was the future, will take this as a sign to start getting sad about their team.
  3. Non-Patriots fans will revel in this article. The Patriots are an easy target to hate, and this article feeds into what 31 fan bases desperately want to be true.

It practically reads like a fan fiction born out of the wet dream of a Jets fan. But I digress, I’m not here to write a hit piece on Seth Wickersham. Oh wait, I absolutely am. Let’s do this.

Facts generally need citation

This piece written by Wickersham is at best an op-ed. It’s an opinion piece tying together a bunch of things that have been in the news and using them to prove a point he’s concocted. It sure doesn’t read like that, though. This is meant to be taken as fact, that he has the inside scoop and he knows what’s coming. Problem, there are literally no cited facts involved. This piece cites conjecture as fact, and conveniently attributes its “bombshell” revelations to exactly no one. It does so by pointing to moments we know happened, and adding interpretation as though this was ALSO accepted fact.

The first use of this device (which in filmmaking is known as “docufiction” — I don’t know what the device is called in historical fiction so I’ll use the film equivalent) comes in the very first section. Wickersham describes the early December moment between Brady and McDaniels after a bad Brady miscue leading to the end of a promising drive.

Video of the scene went viral, with many rationalizing it as a symptom of Brady’s legendary competitiveness. Brady would later apologize to McDaniels, who dismissed the incident to reporters as “part of what makes him great.” After all, many in the Patriots’ building knew that Brady’s explosion wasn’t really about McDaniels. It wasn’t about Cooks. And it wasn’t about the Bills game. It was about the culmination of months of significant behind-the-scenes frustrations.

Really, Seth? They “knew” that? Cite it. Give us a source. Even an “anonymous source close to the situation” is better than this piece of conjecture. I don’t know it, and you’re doing is creating backdoor proof by attributing this thought to employees of the Patriots. We’ll just take your word on it, though.

Wickersham proves the opposite point before his own

For 17 years, the Patriots have withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way, knowing that if they were united, nobody could touch them. Now they’re threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within.

I can practically hear Wickersham’s erection at the crafting of that sentence. It’s a fantastic voiceover for the 30 for 30 that will happen someday about the Patriots. Here’s the problem, this piece ASSUMES that they’re not united, and cites no one claiming that. It’s literally Wickersham’s opinion. So there are two claims to the “united” front of the Patriots. There’s Seth Wickersham, and there’s the Patriots.

Obviously the Patriots were going to answer this way, but I think their track record of having “withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way”, gives them the benefit of the doubt over him.

Could someone source Guerrero as a problem to the Team?

I find TB12’s book absurd. At one point he claims that drinking water is the same as wearing sunscreen. TB12 is welcome to publish whatever books he wants, and anyone is welcome to tell him that he’s an idiot. If Guerrero had a major point in deciding that piece of utterly false science, then I’m glad the Patriots revoked his sideline rights.

Since September we’ve heard this narrative of a rift due to Alex Guerrero from everyone except anyone who seems to be involved. Guerrero gave a “no comment”. Belichick says otherwise (actually he accuses ESPN of having no sources. See my above section). Brady reminded the reporter that the cited conversations could not have been cited if they happened at all.  Jonathan Kraft says otherwise. ESPN is living on the concept of “not proving something false makes it true.” To which I would remind them that as reporters it is their job to prove something true, and for the subject to refute it once its done.

Brady (supposedly) pressured the team into trading Garrapolo

If this is true, this is certainly a bombshell report. I would remind Wickersham that the same thing I’ve said above still applies. PROVE YOUR POINT. The story is still written from a narrative standpoint, which all implies the narrator is truthful. Problem, there’s no reason to buy any of it because the narrator hasn’t earned my trust. You know who else I generally don’t trust? Barstool Sports. You know who cited “sources that are impeccable”? Barstool Sports.

Now I probably love their article because it matches my worldview, but they’re also making points that make actual sense, given Wickersham’s above statement about the team’s longevity.

If you’re a Patriots insider with knowledge about what’s going on in their building, who are you going to go to with a sexy story? Adam Schefter probably. One of the trusted beat guys like Mike Reiss perhaps. The last guy you’re going to leak it to is Wickersham

Why would Wickersham be this pariah to the New England Patriots organization? He also wrote the October article about Brady’s aging. Why might Wickersham be so interested in bombshell articles about power struggles in the NFL? Oh right, he’s about to literally drop a book about that exact topic.

I could keep going on and on about this charade of an article. But if we’re going to just accept conjecture as true now, then I can’t wait for you to read my next piece. It’s about how Jon Gruden forced the Raider’s ownership to fire Jack Del Rio because he was unhappy with his contract with ESPN and thinks another head coaching gig will get him onto Network. It’s going to be a bombshell.

I’m going to let Justin and Joseph take the reins now in exposing Seth for the WickerSHAM he is. (Yep, I’ve waited this whole article to do that).

Justin Colombo

[media-credit name=”John Raya” align=”aligncenter” width=”400″][/media-credit]

This is Justin. Born into the New England Patriots Fandom in 1989. My father would make a chalk outlined field with the Patriots logo in the endzones and I would pretend to be Ben Coates. Just, ya know, FYI. 

Deep Breath.

Seth Wickersham has put out a statement saying that the blowback he’s been receiving from Patriots fans is “just part of all the fun.”

Seth Wickersham. Senior Writer. ESPN. Trolling Patriots fans.

It has never been my penchant for calling out other writers. It’s not easy researching and pouring over every word, getting sources and corroborating them, having everyone look over your work and hearing every opinion on it, and then finally pushing out onto the ocean of public opinion once you’re finished. It’s hard, but it’s fun.

This will be the second time in 24 hours that I have had to do this, and I hate that.

This Patriots “exposé” is nothing. This is actually nothing.

So why are we talking about this?

It’s Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Tom Brady is arguably the most recognizable professional athlete in the United States, and easily makes the top 10 list in the world. Why? Because he’s very, very good at his job. How good? Here’s his resumé:
Regular-season wins by a starting quarterback (187)
Division titles (14)
Playoff games started (34)
Playoff wins (25)
Playoff touchdown passes (63)
Playoff passing yards (9,094)
Super Bowl appearances (7)
Super Bowl wins (5)
Super Bowl MVPs (4)
Super Bowl touchdown passes (15)
Super Bowl passing yards (2,071)

…any questions?

Brady’s name means big news no matter what the story is, because for a guy who has been at the top of his sport for so long the only thing you haven’t seen him do is fall. Try as you might to make it seem like that’s happening, it’s not.

Every year I keep saying Brady has 2 or 3 more years left. A couple 2 or 3 years later, I just don’t know how much longer he has because he keeps defying the odds.

Then there’s the character assassination of Tom Brady.

Now he’s the thing, I’m not gonna sit here and say that Tom Brady’s a saint. There are certain things about him that remain hazy, but in the vain of Wickersham’s article, let’s look at Brady when it comes to his team. Since 2009, Tom Brady has almost consistently restructured his contract to allow the team more money to play with. Name another quarterback who has done that.

… I’ll wait.

To say that Tom Brady is looking out for number one and wanted Jimmy Garappolo out of New England to secure his job is actually heinous. Even more so is this idea.

Bill Belichick loves signing guys to big deals.


Chandler Jones was drafted by the Patriots out of Syracuse and seemed to be a steal for their defense. He was quick, strong and tenacious on the field. The guy was awesome. Flat out. So why did the Patriots give him away for nothing?

Contracts, baby.

The Patriots new that Chandler Jones would be going into a contract year in 2017. So what did they do? The traded him at his most valuable. The Patriots traded Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals for offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, who would be placed on waivers, and their 2nd round draft pick in the 2016 draft.

That 2nd round pick would be sent to New Orleans for their 3rd and 4th round picks. Those picks were offensive lineman Joe Thuney and Wide Reciever Malcolm Mitchell. Those picks also allowed them to pick up Jacoby Brissett and Vince Valentine.

Chandler Jones got a 5-year, $82.5 million dollar deal.

Do you see how this worked out for the Patriots? Dealing Chandler Jones at the right time was the move to make, especially since they were able to get some offensive lineman, that they desperately needed for Tom Brady’s protection, as well as a deep threat and a backup quarterback.

What did the Patriots get for Jimmy Garappolo? A second-round draft pick.

Do we not see the similarities here?

[media-credit name=” John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images” align=”aligncenter” width=”930″][/media-credit]

The idea that Jimmy G. would take over the Patriots has been a long time in the making, but in order for that to happen, TB12 would have to step away. Is that happening? No. It’s not. So it’s time to move on from that. The 49ers needed a quarterback badly and the Patriots had one to offer.

Let’s also consider the idea that Wickersham brings up in regards to Garappolo’s contract dealings. The Patriots were ready to offer him 4-year extensions ranging from $17-$18 million dollars a year, which would have made him the second highest player on their roster, just to ride the bench. This would put Jimmy G in the Andy Dalton, Sam Bradford, Brock Osweiler category, as a backup quarterback. Does that sound like something the Patriots would do given their track record of contract negotiations?

No. It does not.

A lot of what I’m seeing on the internet is a lot of Patriots fans saying “There’s no way” while other NFL fans say “Well…. maybe, though” and that’s the biggest issue that bothers me. Whether or not you think Deflategate was real or not (Ideal Gas Law) what was lost towards the end on essentially all Sports News sites was the idea that the act ever happened. What Tom Brady was fighting was Roger Goodell’s authority to hand down suspensions without a thorough investigation. That’s what was happening, but legal jargon and power definitions are not sexy, so ESPN kept pushing this idea of cheating and talking about that.

In fact, their story about what happened never even got corroborated. They still ran with it and now we are still talking about how awful Tom Brady is.

That’s all this is. It’s an extension of talking about how bad the Patriots are. How there’s in-fighting, or unhappiness, how it’s imperfect in the Patriots locker room. When Zeke Elliot’s suspension got upheld they talked about how it would ruin people’s fantasy football lineups, not whether he was guilty or innocent of the crime. Tom Brady was trying to stop this kind of suspension, but we don’t talk about that.

Instead, we talk about this.

Good Sports journalism shouldn’t make you wonder “is that true?” It should prove it. And this only proves that ESPN is flailing for content and knows they can go back to the Patriots hating vein. Look at how much content it’s gotten them for so long. It’s 2018, and that was over 3 years ago… still talking about it, because it gets views.

So to Seth Wickersham I say this:

And now, Joseph.

Joseph Dalfonso

I didn’t want to do this. I wanted to remain civil on this site. I didn’t want too much of my fandom inflicting what I write. But I can’t just stand back and watch a “news” organization blatantly fabricate a story with the intention to bring down a team for clicks or views.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google Tom Brady. It’s all over the web. I won’t make it easy for you by adding a hyperlink here because I don’t want it to be easy. They want it to be easy. They want you to believe their over-exaggerations and blatant lies. I won’t facilitate that. I won’t be an accomplice to attempts of defamation and slander. If you do, that’s on you, not me.

Once you find the article at question, you’ll notice a few things:

It’s unnecessarily long. It’s boring. Probably on purpose. The author of the piece doesn’t want you to get through the whole because he knows it’s a load of BS. If you only read the headline and his hot takes in the first couple paragraphs you can leave the article thinking it’s true. He doesn’t want you actually combing through it and questioning its validity.

There are no sources. Zero. Absolutely none. Why? Because there are none. He states that he has talked to a dozen staffers, friends, and players but doesn’t elaborate any further. I can say I have sources in the organization. You don’t know if it’s true or not. If it is true, is it a high ranking official or the custodian. You have to give me a little more if you want me to believe you actually talked to someone in the organization.

And there’s absolutely no way anyone would talk to you or the organization where you are employed. Not after you lead the witch hunt that was Deflategate and made up evidence to support your claims. All which were challenged by the Patriots and members of the Boston media and they haven’t had to refute their challenge.

The speculations made in the article are nothing new in the Boston media market. There have been rumblings of a rift between Belichick and Alex Guerrero, the “health guru” Brady keeps around for training and rehabilitation purposes. We’ve known this for months now. If someone with actual connections to the Patriots, i.e. Mike Reiss or Greg Berdard, thought that this rift was going to break up the dynasty they would’ve broken the story themselves. Not some national reporter who is looking in from the outside.

The individual who wrote the article is notorious for being anti-Patriot. His previous claim to fame is writing about all the indiscretions of the Patriots. You can find that article through Google as well. My personal favorite is when he mentions the Patriots warm the opposing teams Gatorade as if that was a crime against all humanity. But hey, when you’re the best team in the league and have been for nearly 20 years, people are going to look for the tiniest things to persecute you for. I’m ok with that if that means we keep winning.

Underneath my utter disgust, there are aspects of this article I like. I love the idea that they are butting heads. It means they aren’t content. 5 Super Bowls isn’t enough for them. 200+ wins isn’t enough for them.  Being the greatest at their respective positions isn’t enough for them.

It forced them to come out with a joint statement. Kraft, Belichick, and Brady all said this was bogus and ridiculous. At the end of the statement, it said “United We Stand.” If that isn’t a war cry I don’t know what is.

All this article shows is a sad attempt at a media company, who’s been struggling as of late, to get views and clicks. What it did, in reality, is fire up a team right before the final push to a Super Bowl Championship.

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