…to bring you this link to the ESPN Ombudsman’s response to the network’s over-the-top coverage of Spygate.

Le Anne Schreiber pulls no punches in analyzing her employer’s coverage of the Patriots taping scandal. The column touches on many of the gripes that New England fans have had about the sensationalistic and speculative coverage dedicated to the episode.

Commenting on the statements made by Mark Schlereth and Cris Carter following the release of the tapes turned in by Matt Walsh, Schreiber notes:

For an hour and 15 minutes preceding the Goodell news conference, this SportsCenter Special was a runaway train of inflammatory speculation that had Schlereth and Carter placing asterisks on all the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins under Belichick.

Several times, Wingo tried to remind viewers this was simply the analysts’ personal opinion, but Schlereth resisted the notion that his opinion was debatable. Nothing short of a flashing red “Speculation” sign filling half the screen for a full 75 minutes would have had any chance of counteracting the effect Schlereth and Carter were having.

She has a quote from former Boston Globe sports editor Vince Doria on the incident:

When I described the Spygate Special to Vince Doria, ESPN senior vice president and director of news, as a runaway train of one-sided speculation, he said, “I can’t tell you your characterization is incorrect. That is just the nature of us sometime, in an unscripted, we-don’t-know-how-substantive-the-news-is-going-to-be, we-don’t-know-when-the-news-is-coming situation. It is hard in our format to come in and out.”

Apparently ESPN had actually made an internal effort to resist putting more speculation out there, but in the end they simply couldn’t resist. This section is interesting:

“What we told columnists,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN.com vice president and executive editor, “was, ‘Don’t jump to any conclusions that we cannot support with facts.’ We wanted to make sure all commentary was based on new information, not new speculation.”

And new information was hard to find.

“There was a lot of rumor and innuendo coming into us,” Stiegman said, “and we were filtering that through the enterprise unit, and through [reporter] Mike Fish, who spent a lot of time reporting on things that didn’t pan out. There wasn’t much new to report after the Super Bowl beyond the status of Matt Walsh’s negotiations with the league and whatever [Senator Arlen] Specter was saying.”

You might recall that Mike Fish was one of the reporters I was most critical of in my post Why Spygate Is The Most Disgraceful Episode In Recent Sports Media History, and the fact that he could provide us absolutely no new information throughout the entire episode. Now we have one of the network executives telling us that Fish “spent a lot of time reporting on things that didn’t pan out.”

It’s nice to have a little validation for what most New England observers felt was ridiculously one-sided coverage by ESPN of the entire affair.

(Approval ratings scheduled for 1:00pm)

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10 thoughts on “We Interupt This NBA Finals…

  1. Whatever, the damage has been done, is ESPN going to spend five months distributing apologies to the Patriots for an average of 2 hours a day to counteract they over the top way they heaped blame for the same amount of time? This is like the NBA coming out the day after Barry got fouled in the the waning moments of a SA LA game saying he should’ve gone to the line. Too late idiots, this episode is a big stain on the reputation of ESPN and they’re going to have to live with it. Now when is Spector going after the NBA for shady officiating?!?

  2. It would be nice if these Ombudsman articles had any impact on ESPN whatsoever. No one’s going to apologize, especially not anyone like Schlereth or Easterbrook. Her articles should be required reading for everyone at that network.

  3. My email to Ms. Shreiber:

    Thanks for the badly needed smackdown on the spygate coverage. But here’s the thing: They could have used half of their 90 minutes to break down the three Pats Super Bowl victories and then answered the question: if the Pats were using the tapes at half time why did each of those games get tighter after half time? It would have been a better use of the time and the “expertise.”

  4. A better question for LeAnne would be, why did your network devote hours upon hours of a team using video-tape illegally, and not devote anywhere near the same amount of time to the Doneghy allegations? Especially when they came out hours before Game 3, a game that ended with a weird offensive foul call on Odom, that negated a 3 pt play by Odom, which would have covered the spread for the Lakers.
    Matt Walsh, a career liar, is treated as an honorable person, but Doneghy is looked upon as ‘saving his ass’. Does it have anything to do with ABC having a huge contract w/ the NBA?

    1. This is the same network that was responsible for the fortunately short-lived Barry Bonds reality show.

  5. Honestly, I could just hug Le Anne Schreiber. She’s the best thing that ever happened to ESPN. And I agree — everything she says is totally ignored by Bristol. But at least she tries.

  6. It would be more effective if they had to read that statement at the beginning of every SportsCenter.

  7. This was Mark Schlereth’s email to anyone that questioned his comments:

    It’s Illegal to tape signals…The Pats have been doing it for 8
    years…building a file on all teams. Do you think they were doing it
    for fun? If you could read the defensive signals and call your offensive
    plays accordingly, could it be an advantage? This is not about the
    Broncos or anybody else who has been caught circumventing the rules.
    It’s about what the Pats did, and if you think it could be ban
    advantage…Don’t be angry with me because I feel that they gained an un
    fair advantage over their opponents…This is not biased reporting or jealousy, I have 3
    world championship rings…It’s just my opinion that people who don’t
    live in Boston will always wonder about the Pats Championships and if
    they cheated to get them…

    The truth hurts and I think deep down Pats fans know something went down
    and it hurts…I appreciate all the passion of the Pats fans and if you
    want to hate me for my honest opinion be my guest!

    P.S. This is a canned response trying to answer the major points brought
    by the Boston Nation…Over the last 3 days I’ve returned over 200 emails
    and I will be away from a computer for the next few days.

    T. Thanks for the emai I’m sorry for your disappointment. Listen if you
    want to tarnish my years in Denver thats something you have to decide.
    Just like you have to decide if 8 years of illegal taping could be an
    advantage…All the best…Mark

    Is there anyone that honestly thinks that Mark Schlereth is going to retract what he said on the air or in hundreds of emails because of Le Anne Schreiber?

    He most assuredly will not. The damage is done and neither Mark Schlereth or ESPN gives a damn. Their goals were accomplished. They wanted to crucify the team and they spent hours doing exactly that….and continue to do so at every opportunity. It’s become their mission. There won’t be any repercussions.

    1. I love how he characterizes the Broncos rule violations as “circumventing the rules” whereas the Pats “gained an unfair advantage” and deserve to be questioned because of taping.

      This was surely a “canned response” to people who questioned his false accusations that the Pats used the tapes in the same game, and he can’t even muster up a rationalization – he just ignores it and says “it’s illegal…they’ve been doing it for 8 years.”

      The worst part about this is that most people want to hate the Pats and New England, so people like Schlereth will never be forced to explain hlmself.

  8. I thought her beatdown of Easterbrook after his “Pats vs. Colts = Evil vs. Good” column last November was good, but this beatdown is even better.

    Alas, everyone else here is correct. This article will have ZERO impact on what goes on in Bristol.

    What I find most amazing about this column is the quote from Trey Wingo that he, Schlereth and Carter had a “visceral response” when they first viewed the Walsh videotapes.

    Did those guys even realize that what was on the Walsh tapes was EXACTLY what was on the Matt Estrella tape confiscated in the Meadowlands last season, and that the Estrella tape was shown nationwide on Fox just a week later?

    Incredible….the World Wide Leader in Sports indeed!!

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