Grantland released an article today titled Patriot Games: Deflategate and the Golden Boy That Never Was written by Charles Pierce that seems to give ex-Grantland editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons, the New York wave.
Just to set the stage for anyone who isn’t familiar with Bill Simmons:
- Bill Simmons is from Massachusetts, and doesn’t hide his passion for Boston sports. To make it more interesting, he’s a journalist, but his objectivity takes the back seat when writing about the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, Yankees, Jets, Giants, Lakers…you get the point.
- Bill Simmons joined ESPN in 2001 as a columnist, was successful enough to be given his own section for columns on ESPN called “Page 2”, started ESPN’s “30 for 30”, created the “Eye of the Sportsguy” and “The B.S. Report” podcasts for ESPN, started and was the editor-in-chief for Grantland, and had a few other notable contributions to the ESPN brand. ESPN decided not to renew his contract that was due to expire in September 2015.
- ESPN retained ownership of Grantland and basically everything else Bill Simmons created during his tenure.
Whenever Bill Simmons “reported” about a Boston (or New England) team vocally or in print, he admittedly was not very objective. He loves Boston sports as much as Rush Limbaugh loves anything a Republican says. And Bill Simmons probably made ESPN as much money as Rush Limbaugh has made with their respective styles of broadcasting.
Now that we’ve established a few things that Bill Simmons has done for ESPN and his connection to Grantland, let’s look into the article by Charles Pierce at Grantland.
First, the title of the article.
Patriot Games. Obviously Tom Brady plays for the New England Patriots, but the term “Patriot Games” was made famous by the Tom Clancy movie (“I’m sure there was a book, but why would you read the book when you can see the movie” said 17 year old Mike when the movie came out). And the movie/book takes it’s name from an Irish song about an Irish Republican Army volunteer who was killed during the Border Campaign in Northern Ireland as a rebellion against British rule. Ok, probably a little deep for Mr. Pierce, and probably not the reference he was intending. But maybe he did mean that Brady has been the rebellion against the NFL’s rule. Is Brady really going on an offensive to take the NFL down? Maybe he is, but only because he was instigated, in my opinion. Regardless, it’s a pretty ballsy analogy, if that’s what Mr. Pierce meant. Or maybe he just thought the title sounded cool.
Deflategate. I’m guilty of it too, only because it summarizes the events in as few letters as possible. But using the term Deflategate is an admission of guilt. Think Watergate, Emailgate (Hillary’s current email problems), Bridgegate (Chris Christy’s office shutting down lanes on a bridge during rush hour), Bountygate (the Saints bounty program), and Spygate (the Patriots sign video taping scandal). Aside from Emailgate, every “gate” issue is either found guilty or has an overwhelming assumption of guilt. So Mr. Pierce is agreeing with the NFL that Brady is guilty of being involved with deflating footballs, or of at least being generally aware that someone else more likely than not deflated footballs.
Golden Boy. Come on! The only people who call Tommy Terrific by the name “Golden Boy” are jealous haters and mean it to be condescending by claiming that the NFL has put Brady on a pedestal allowing him to get away with anything (think “Tuck Rule”). Really, Mr. Pierce?
Maybe Charles Pierce wrote the title with the intent to leave the reader thinking that he is a Brady fan. He obviously should be, because he lives near Boston and he wrote a book about Tom Brady called “Moving the Chains”, which the book abstract basically says is a biography of a great quarterback named Tom Brady.
However, Charles Pierce is also a writer for Esquire and frequent guest on NPR. Maybe he is an artist, the English language is his vessel, and the portrait he paints with words is too refined for a knuckle-dragger like me. I dunno.
I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time analyzing a 10 word title as I just did. So let’s move on to my next point.
There is no clear accusation that Tom Brady is the mastermind behind a Deflategate scandal in Charles Pierce’s article on Grantland. However, Mr. Pierce also doesn’t really come to Tom Brady’s defense.
Charles Pierce does do a very good job at trivializing the severity of football air pressure, and at making the NFL office look like Keystone Cops. Kudos to Mr. Pierce for that one. Nobody on either side of the Deflategate issue would argue that.
But more than anything, the article draws up emotion for both sides of the argument, and then subtly (read: blatantly) mentions that he has a book about Tom Brady for sale, in case you have your credit card in hand already with itch to buy something…anything… and wanted to take a break from reading Grantland. Very nice product placement Mr. Pierce. Bravo.
But the article does take some condescending shots at Brady:
Talking about the Patriot’s first preseason practice…
Brady…was treated like the pope on parade.
He made a nifty one-handed grab of a pass…and it got YouTube’d to a fine powder within minutes.
It is interesting that Brady…is going to be “allowed” to practice
And he finishes with this gem berating all parties, which, by the way, include Tom Brady and the Patriots:
I have no idea what the ultimate outcome of this will be, and I don’t even really care anymore. I’m with Judge Berman (the current judge on the case). Everybody just shut up for a while, please. But I have no confidence that this view will prevail. It’s summer, after all. Everybody’s just going to be crazy until Labor Day.
What does this have to do with Bill Simmons?
So, in case you haven’t been following, let me summarize to help tie this all together:
Bill Simmons is a huge fan of Boston and New England sports. Bill Simmons created Grantland and helped turn ESPN into the media juggernaut that it is today. ESPN “parted ways” with Bill Simmons and kept Grantland and everything else Bill Simmons created for them.
Then Charles Pierce published an article on Grantland that basically (1) creates a caricature of Tom Brady fans as they support him, (2) says that Tom Brady, the New England Patriots (and probably Brady fans too) should quit their whining, and probably most importantly (3) Mr. Pierce has a book for sale.
Would this happen on Bill Simmons watch?
There’s likelihood that this article would have gotten published.
There’s also likelihood that, as editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons would say something like “Hey Mister Esquire writer – did you really write a 1000 word article about Deflategate to tell people that you don’t care about Deflategate and wish people would shut up about it already? Oh, and not sure if you noticed I’m wearing a ‘Free Brady’ t-shirt. By the way, the link to your book works.”
Look, nothing against Charles Pierce. I haven’t read too much of his stuff. I’m sure he is a great guy, he’s a decent writer, and has an impressive resume. And Grantland was not created to be an extension of the Boston Globe sports section.
But his article about Brady and Deflategate on Grantland is a slap in Bill Simmons’ face. The Grantland that Bill Simmons started and led as editor-in-chief. I’m sure Bill Simmons misses his baby. And his chair isn’t even cold yet.
*It should be noted that yours truly has written about Deflategate as well, but more in the context about the ripple effect of upholding Brady’s suspension could have inside of football and outside of football. Both are written a little tongue in cheek (but I secretly think the points are relevant).