A (Nearly) Perfect Day For Boston Sports

There was a triple-header on tap for Boston sports fans yesterday, with the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics all in action, one after the other. From noon until midnight, it was a perfect day for Boston fans, as the Patriots and Bruins won, the Colts decided to not go for the undefeated season, and the Celtics looked ready to put away the Clippers (more on that later).

The Patriots looked strong in a 35-7 pasting of the Jacksonville Jaguars that wrapped up the AFC East for New England, and put them back into the playoffs, where they will host a wild card game in two weeks.

Adam Kilgore has the Patriots bouncing back from adversity uncommon in Foxborough to wrap up the division and get back to the postseason. Ian R. Rapoport has the Patriots using perhaps their most complete game of the season to wrap up the AFC East. Shalise Manza Young says that despite the AFC East title, there wasn’t exactly a celebratory mood permeating the bowels of Gillette Stadium. Tim Whelan Jr. has fun times returning to Gillette yesterday. Glen Farley says that it was business the way it used to be at Gillette yesterday. Jennifer Toland says that All’s Well in New England. At least for now. Mark Farinella says that the Patriots actually looked like a team deserving to be in the playoffs. Jeff Howe has the Patriots wrapping up the East and getting the dirty work out of the way. Tom E. Curran says that these Patriots might have a shot at being pretty good after all. David Pevear says that the season still doesn’t seem like much fun. Tom King has the Patriots reclaiming their throne atop the AFC East with a physical beating of the Jaguars.

Bob Ryan says that success is relative, as 11-5 couldn’t even get the Patriots to the playoffs last season, while 10 wins is enough to win the division this season. Ron Borges says that this team has reached its fullest potential – anything it does after this point should be viewed as a bonus. Bill Burt says that the Patriots were awesome yesterday, resembling the “December Destroyers of Patriots Past.” Jim Donaldson has Randy Moss and the Patriots finding redemption in the big win. Kirk Minihane looks at the reasons why we might be optimistic that the Patriots could be gearing up for another title run. Chris Warner on Patriots Daily has the Gut Check for this one.

Albert R. Breer asserts that it is time now to give the players who need a rest the week off against the Texans next Sunday. Karen Guregian has Tom Brady with a look of contentment rarely seen this season following the division-clinching win. Mike Reiss says that suddenly, the Patriots postseason chances look a lot brighter. Christopher Price jots down the ten things we learned from yesterday’s win, including the fact that Voltron is now fully reconnected. Danny Picard has the Patriots happy to be ruling the AFC East once again. King says that after a rough patch, Everyone’s smiling now for the Patriots.

Brendan Hall has Brandon Meriweather and the secondary making some big plays to spark the Patriots. Dan Ventura has James Sanders again making an impact alongside Meriweather. Andy Vogt looks at a dominant day for the defense. Rich Garven has the division title very satisfying for Leigh Bodden, who came over from the 0-16 Lions. Farinella has the Patriots starting safeties standing tall in this win.

Monique Walker has Wes Welker with 13 more catches yesterday, adding to his own team record for catches in a season. Welker currently sits at 122 catches, despite missing two games early in the season. Dan Duggan has another extraordinary performance just becoming the norm for Welker. Robert Lee has Welker continuing to defy the odds. Forsberg has more on the receptions record set by Welker yesterday. A Gatehouse news story says Welker should get a Gold Glove following his 13-13 performance. Farinella has 13 as a lucky number for Welker.

Steve Buckley has a fan with a Randy Moss mask and afro getting the attention of Moss, and the entire stadium. Gregory Lee Jr. has Moss enjoying himself during and following the win, in which Moss hauled in three TD passes from Tom Brady. Chris Forsberg has Moss winning the fans over with his performance. Tim Weisberg has Moss making amends for his lackluster performance in the Patriots previous home game. Steve Krause has Moss removing his mask of unhappiness following the win.

Dan Duggan has the offense not skipping a beat when Sammy Morris was inserted into the game. Reiss notes that the tight ends were featured prominently in the passing game after being ignored for much of the last few weeks. Brian MacPherson has the offensive line enjoying the renewed emphasis on the running game. Farinella says that the other members of the Patriots stable of running backs were ready to go after Maroney’s fumble. Michael Hurley says that there is reason for excitement after the peformance of the offense yesterday. Picard has Maroney stepping out and Morris taking over following the fumble.

Borges selects the Best and worst from yesterday. Ventura’s Play of the game was the Meriweather interception following a huge hit from James Sanders. In Hector Longo’s Two Minute Drill, he’s glad that Jerod Mayo finally decided to show up for a game this season. Robert Lee’s analysis is that It was all Patriots yesterday. Curran gives us his top five from yesterday.

Walker’s notebook has the backup running backs picking things up after Laurence Maroney dropped the ball on the opening drive. Rapoport’s notebook has the hard work by the defense paying off with big plays in yesterday’s game. Young’s Patriots journal has Fred Taylor getting the better of his old mates. Whelan’s notebook has more on Taylor facing his old team. Farley’s notebook has Maroney dropping the ball once again. Toland’s notebook has Moss getting some vindication yesterday. Weisberg’s notebook has more on Taylor facing the only franchise he had played for prior to this season. Krause’s notebook has Belichick saying that success is all relative. King’s notebook has Taylor returning just in time to face the Jaguars.

 Bruins

Fluto Shinzawa has Tim Thomas and the Bruins starting slow but finishing strong in their 2-1 win over the Panthers yesterday. Joe Haggerty has the Bruins waking up after a sleepy first period. Stephen Harris has the Bruins going to work over the second half of the game to get the win. Matt Kalman has a balanced attack paying dividends for the Bruins. Neil Keefe has Tim Thomas and the Bruins getting the job done. Graig Woodburn says that this was far from a classic for the Bruins.

Shinzawa’s notebook has Derek Morris returning after missing the previous three games. Harris’ notebook has Milan Lucic hoping, though not confident, that he’ll be on the ice for the winter classic at Fenway on Friday.

Celtics

The Celtics found themselves tied with the Clippers at 90, with 1.5 seconds remaining. Rajon Rondo was at the free throw line for two. He missed both. The Clippers grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 1 second remaining. Despite Mike Gorman’s warnings, the Celtics let Baron Davis get the ball, and he had exactly enough time to nail a turnaround jumper at the buzzer, giving the Clippers a 92-90 win over the Celtics, ruining the perfect day for Boston fans.

Gary Washburn has Rondo getting the better of Davis for much of the night, but Davis getting the last laugh. Steve Bulpett has the Celtics going from ecstasy to agony in a Hollywood minute with Davis’ shot. A. Sherrod Blakely says that this loss is not all on Rondo’s missed free throws, the entire club did not execute down the stretch. Jessica Camerato has a few other things to take away from this one. Chris Forsberg has Doc Rivers lamenting his team’s complete lack of mental focus down the stretch.

Tim Weisberg says that the last 10 years have seen it all from the Celtics.

Washburn’s notebook has the Celtics depth paying off right now. Bulpett’s notebook reports that Paul Pierce will not be joining the club on the road trip.

Misc

John Tomase has the Red Sox putting themselves in position to do things their way this offseason. He also says we need to blow up this “bridge talk” in 2010. In the greatest decade of Red Sox baseball, Jon Couture looks back at the 10 worst Red Sox of the last 10 years.

Mark Blaudschun has Boston College looking to build on this football season, and remain one of the better programs in the country. Eric Avidon has BC laying a foundation for the future this season. Steve Conroy says that BC has the pieces in place for an ACC title next year.

Advertisements

A Decade of Sports Media Change

I’m pleased to present this guest column from Roy Reiss.

There’s an old saying that nothing ever stays the same. Over the last 10 years the local sports media has undergone many, many changes that has dramatically affected the local media landscape in a myriad of ways. Let’s look closer at some of these developments, what’s happened, and what it means to the information hungry sports public in Greater Boston. .

Sports on local TV News programs.

Back at the turn of the century this was the way most fans got their latest news. Bob Lobel, Mike Lynch, and Gene Lavanchy were the envy of most young aspiring sports broadcasters. They would deliver the latest up to date scores, highlights and breaking news. Lobel, in particular, would be a power broker in the Boston sports community with sources developed over a 20 year career. As the decade moved along, these positions became less and less important as cable developed their own sports related shows with local highlights. You didn’t have to wait until 11 to get the highlights, you could watch 30 minutes of all sports highlights, scores, and interviews on NESN and in November 2009 Comcast threw their local sports program into the ring. Special shows were created to satisfy the sports crazed fan for late Sunday night over and above the regular news show. The truth is with the “new sports” media evolving, most of the highlights on news shows were “old news” by 11. And with the departure of Butch Stearns from Ch. 25 earlier this fall as well as the redesign of NECN news and sports in November, you might be seeing the start of a bold move by the other local affiliates to de-emphasize the sports portion of their local news programs. What used to be a dream job could become an endangered species.

The downhill trend of print journalism.

For a whole generation of sports fans, there was and is nothing like getting that morning Globe or Herald and devouring the sports sections. Box scores, game stories, strong opinions in columns would satisfy the appetite for this sports starved generation. Back in 2002 you couldn’t wait for the February 2nd edition to read everything about the Pats first Super Bowl title. Ditto for 2004 when the Sox finally won the World Series. Trouble is the newer generations of sports fans aren’t as dependent on the print media as that older generation since new technology and means of disseminating material has made sports a “real time” business. Game stories are much less relevant because now you may see highlights and have opportunities to discuss what happened almost immediately following the action. Insight and unique value added information has trumped details of how things happened and pushed game stories to the back burner. Late start times for maximum TV exposure further hinder the print media as they struggle to have 100% of their readership receive the latest news. Newspapers nationwide face some difficult decisions on how to cover their local teams in this new era given all the different media forums, the spiraling cost of travel, mixed in with the loss of circulation and advertising dollars. That along with the challenge to develop a multi level media platform (video, audio, print) remains giant obstacles for the print industry as they try to stay relevant in the changing world of sports coverage.

The continued growth and impact of sports talk radio. 24/7.

Entertain. Shape perceptions. Rush to judgment and paint a picture as quickly and decisively as possible. Never has sports talk radio been as powerful a resource as it is today. Hosts are entertainers who succeed or fail based on how many people listen to them. They need to get people engaged, tap into their emotions, develop controversy, and keep people tuned to their particular station. Talkers like Glenn Ordway are masterful at their craft. And latecomers to the talk radio field like Mike Felger epitomize the new wave of pot stirrers. As we reach the end of the 10 year run, these stations have become more important than the local TV stations sports segments, and one could argue they’ve even replaced the print columnists. They’ve become the power brokers in the sports community. If you need proof look at the number of sports talk stations in each major market. The common thought used to be Boston could only support one sports talk station, but with the emergence of WBZ FM, WEEI now has a very formidable opponent. Down the road there’s even speculation that ESPN will enter the sports radio battle in Boston. Who would have ever thought 3 sports stations could survive in this sports crazy region? Need any more proof of this powerful force and where it stands in sports coverage in Greater Boston.

The emergence of the multi faceted internet.

This is all 3 of the above rolled into one powerful platform. Real-time information. Analysis. Insight. Video or audio easily seen or heard. Plenty of print and entertaining data with no space requirements. Interactive capabilities like chats and mailbags to allow the fans to have a powerful voice. And who knows what else future technology will bring to this intriguing tv/radio/print triple threat combination. There’s growth potential that will be determined by how quickly technology develops, and thus the rush to be on board in this rapidly developing media. In the last 20 months, Boston has seen the emergence of competing local websites, WEEI.com, ESPNBoston.com, and CSNNE.com, join the battle for the local sports fans eyeballs. Throw in the Globe, Herald, NESN, plus the individual pro teams sites and you have a plethora of destinations to cull news from. There’s never been a better job market for aspiring journalists or sportscasters who seek employment in this ever changing media business. If history teaches us one thing, the only constant in this sports media business is that by December 2019 the landscape will be dramatically altered again!

Roy Reiss is a former Channel 7 sportscaster who started in radio working for Curt Gowdy Broadcasting. He is also the father of Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com.

Week Log: Dreaming of a Partisan Christmas

This week is not the misery Michael Felger makes it out to be, but between bumper-to-bumper traffic, long lines at the register, and various ill-wills we hurl at each other in a Christmas panic exacerbated by last weekend’s snowout, one thing is alarming. Folks, when did Boston become a five-team sports town?

Parking lots with rear windows covered in ‘NY’ decals. Kids walking the mall with unbuttoned pinstriped jerseys hanging down below their too-low pantlines. Worst yet, my treasured sports retailers allowing Yankee merchandise to spill over from once-tolerable end caps to entire sections of store now. Yesterday, I looked on the wall of one prominent retailer to see five banners hanging – Pats, B’s, C’s, Sox, and – yes – Yankees.

Hopefully, a wave of partisan cleansing can wash over New England with the New Year and some new championship runs, but it’s not just the Sox. For starters, there are entirely too many Patriot haters in our midst, so let’s check in with their championship run first.

Patriots

Okay, baby steps en route to the Super Bowl, but a win is a . . . Well, let’s just say Pats Chowder isn’t exactly worried about how Coach Belichick will spend the 32nd pick of this year’s draft yet. Sunday was triply great for Patriots Gab – a road win, the re-emergence of Randy Moss, and a D that befuddled the Bills. The Trenches says the Pats’ serious pass rush against Buffalo was as effective as anything they’ve done this season. But Felger (he gets another shot since he’s going on vacation next week) says the secondary was inconsistent and, BTW, where is the second half offense? Tom E. Curren says the offense’s inability to close out an opponent makes for a confounding and maddening subplot to 2009. PatsFans says it’s a miracle the Pats have beaten the Bills 13 straight times.

Pats Pulpit offers one picture and a thousand words of praise for Laurence Maroney’s turnaround. The Rap Sheet has OL Dan Connolly, whose contract was extended yesterday, coming a long way. It Is What It Is says Connolly has given the Pats a lot of good snaps this season.

First And Ten From Foxborough thinks it a tall order to ask Tom Brady to repeat his performance the last time the Pats played Jacksonville during the 2007 playoffs. Extra Points now has Fred Taylor trying to back his way off Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio’s bulletin board.

NCAAF

BC Interruption spends Five Good Minutes with a left coaster as they preview this Saturday’s Emerald Bowl matchup between the Eagles and USC Trojans. Soaring To Glory thinks USC’s talent surplus will carry it past a non-BCS bowl letdown and the Eagles, although they’ve been wrong before. Eagle Insider has USC coach Pete Carroll guaranteeing his Trojans will play like it’s the national championship game. NE Patriots Draft runs down the top NFL prospects playing in this year’s Emerald Bowl.

Mark Herzlich’s winning battle against cancer is tops among BC Draft‘s ten best things to happen to the Eagles this year. It also tops Eagle In Atlanta‘s ten distinctly-BC events of the decade.

The UConn Huskies have a little more time before their next game as their PapaJohns.com Bowl date with South Carolina isn’t until the new year. Ramblings From The Runway has Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier impressed with the Huskies. JSilver’s UConn Blog has the Huskies winning the FWAA Courage Award for perseverance in the aftermath of Jasper Howard’s killing. And even though the 2009 season is more than a week away from concluding, UConn Football is looking ahead to 2010 and forecasting the biggest QB battle in school history.

B’s / C’s

Caveman Strong is see-sawing after a 1-1-1 road trip that leaves them realizing the B’s are not a Stanley Cup champion right now. The Black & Gold might be back on track after downing the Atlanta Thrashers last night at TD Garden for their second straight victory, but Joe Haggerty will tell you there were plenty of uncomfortable moments in this one. Bruins 2010 Draft Watch feels the yuletide spirit as the B’s gave their fans a Christmas win against the Thrashers while Phil Kessel gave Toronto fans bupkus.

Marc Savard’s first assist in nine games during the B’s win in Ottawa on Monday reminds I’m Just Sayin’ of the glory days of the Savard line that included Kessel. Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk would make Boston forget about Kessel, but James Murphy says it’s a little too early to put him in black and gold. Something’s Bruin asks Santa Chiarelli for a goal-scorer this Christmas. Naoko Funayama marvels at the clarity of Milan Lucic’s complexion this late into the hockey season.

After a bad loss to Philly on Friday the C’s got it back together on Tuesday night, downing the Pacers at TD Garden before heading out on a four-game road trip. Green Street says it was a half-hearted effort against Indiana and that won’t cut it in Orlando on Christmas Day. A. Sherrod Blakely says Tuesday’s win was the first in a line of games the C’s plan to play without KG, but Red’s Army is suspicious over Danny Ainge’s use of the word “structural” when referring to a bruise on KG’s thigh. In his new exclusive arrangement with Celtics Blog, Paul Pierce traces his roots with KG back to their AAU days.

Red Sox

We’re going to close with an abbreviated check on the Sox. Forget the Mike Lowell thumb injury says The Crowe’s Nest, who think Lowell is a better one-year fit at third than Adrian Beltre anyway. Utility Lou says that when it comes to Lowell, the damage has been done, but it’s not to his thumb.

And if Lowell can come boomeranging back to Boston, Surviving Grady wonders if Jason Bay is far behind. Extra Bases thinks that bringing back Bay can only be the precursor to another move. And Better Red Than Dead bemoans John Kruk offering John Henry a luxury tax-free bond in 2010.

That’s going to do it this Christmas Eve as a final shopping run awaits me. You can be sure there’ll be nothing with pinstripes under my tree tomorrow morning. From the gang here at BSMW, may your holidays be full regardless of whether or not your tree is, and we’ll see you back here one more time before the New Year. Follow me on Twitter for any last minute rescheduling.

#4 Plagiarism Scandals

The decade was rocked by two major plagiarism scandals involving newspaper sports reporters in Boston.

In February, 2005, the Patriots were in Jacksonville, getting ready for their third Super Bowl of the decade. Ken Powers was covering the team for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, when we learned on the morning of February 2nd, that he had been sent home from covering the team. The Editor & Publisher reported that Powers had been accused of lifting material from a Peter King Sports Illustrated story.

Later that day, with the help of a couple BSMW readers, I posted a side-by-side comparison of what King had written and what Powers had written.

Powers was promptly fired by the paper, after an investigation turned up “at least half a dozen” cases of plagiarism. He responded by telling WBZ-TV – “The termination is a terrible injustice to me.” – even as more cases were being posted here on BSMW.

It ws discovered that Powers had copied Michael Smith of ESPN.com and even his friend Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

BSMW got a mention in The New York Times during that week. Here is also the Associated Press story on the incident.

Since that time, Powers has been working as a reporter for The Community Advocate and Central Mass. Sports Insider.

Two years later, in a Sunday Football Notes column for The Boston Globe, Ron Borges used numerous passages originally written by Mike Sando of The News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington. The passages had been submitted by Sando to a “notes-sharing network” used by sports reporters across the country. Borges did not credit Sando in the notes, but there was a disclaimer at the bottom of the column (which ran most of the time in those Sunday notes columns) that “Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.”

Borges was then suspended for two months from the Globe, and barred from making outside media appearances.

Some have defended Borges, claiming that what he did was not really plagiarism. However, the Globe editor specifically stated in the announcement of Borges suspension that “The Globe does not tolerate plagiarism.”

Here are a couple of link collections about the story from that time period.

Media Reaction on Borges 

Borges Suspension Followups

After serving his two-month suspension, Borges wrote one column, relying on fired Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, who had been operating a bed-and-breakfast in Idaho prior to taking charge of the Oakland offense, to tells us that Randy Moss was washed up, that his skills were in decline, and Moss was “in denial of those eroding skills.”

Five days later, Borges “retired” from the Globe. He was hired by WEEI.com during the summer of 2008, and then bolted WEEI.com in September for a gig at the Boston Herald, where he remains.

In 2003, Hartford Courant college basketball writer Ken Davis was suspended for a month after he lifted nine paragraphs from a Syracuse sports writer. (Journalist Plagiarism/Fabrication Scandals – also used for background on the Powers and Borges cases.)

These scandals put a black eye on sports coverage, and journalism as a whole, and certainly were among the biggest stories this decade in the Boston sports media.

Thursday Quicklinks

A few links from this morning while you finish up whatever you need to do today.

On Moss: Media thinks they know, but they don’t  – Randy Whitehouse of the Lewiston Sun Journal takes on the “pack of agenda-driven members of the Boston media” who wouldn’t know hustle if it hit them in the face. This piece is actually a few days old, but was brought to my attention last night.

 A unique family business – Ron Borges with a nice look at three Patriots: Matthew Slater, Shawn Springs and Bruce Davis, Jr., who each followed their father into the NFL.

Patriots eye two-for-one deal – Mike Reiss  figures that if the Patriots win on Sunday, they’ll use next Sunday in Houston to get their veterans some rest.

Patriots looking for their own Christmas bonus – Mark Farinella says that the Patriots seem to have had a renewal of  a sense of purpose over the last two games.

Bruins take advantage – Fluto Shinzawa has the Bruins using the power play to defeat the Thrashers 6-4 last night at the Garden.  

Different rules in Yankee swap – Michael Silverman says tha the Yankees matched toe-to-toe every move the Red Sox have made this offseason.

New pitchers to make interesting matchups in Red Sox-Yankees’ rivalry – Daniel Barbarisi says that the offseason starting pitching acquisitions by both the Red Sox and Yankees should make for some very intriguing matchups in 2010.

Rob Bradford says that the Red Sox are still talking internally about presenting another offer to Jason Bay, while ESPNBoston.com says that a Bay return would be a long shot.

Celtics are spending another Christmas on the road – Jim Fenton has the Celtics used to not being home for the holidays.

It has come time to lean on bench – Gary Washburn says that with Paul Pierce (and Marquis Daniels) out, the Celtics bench needs to really step up.

Jeremy Gottlieb on Patriots Daily goes Around The League for another week.

#5 The Brady/Bledsoe Decision

This is number five on my list of the top episodes in the Boston sports media this decade.

When Drew Bledsoe was hit in the chest by the Jets Mo Lewis late in the second game of the 2001 season, and a second-year QB named Tom Brady trotted out on the field, who of us knew that the decade had then really begun for Boston sports? 

Three Super Bowl championships later for the Patriots, and two Super Bowl MVPs and a regular season MVP, along with a record-setting 50 touchdown undefeated season in 2007 later for Brady, the decision to stick with Brady over Bledsoe even after the latter was healthy enough to return that season seems inarguable.   

It was anything but at the time.

Drew Bledsoe, while at times maddening on the field, had developed a strong relationship with the press. Bledsoe was always there after the game, win or lose, whether he had played well or poorly, answering the questions from the press, and taking responsibility for losses (Even though he didn’t make changes in his game to improve what caused those losses). It was said he talked to the media quite a bit off the record as well, becoming a primary source of information “behind the scenes,” “back channel” communication for writers like Ron Borges, Kevin Mannix and Nick Cafardo.

Bledsoe-BradyWhen Bledsoe was hurt, the Patriots then fell to 0-2 on the season, and there was speculation that coach Bill Belichick, in his second year with the team, could be in jeopardy of losing his job. With Tom Brady under center the next week, the Patriots routed Indianapolis 44-13, but then lost in Miami 30-10 the following week, to put the Patriots at 1-3. Things seemed grim. The San Diego Chargers, led by Doug Flutie came to town the following week, and after trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Brady led his first fourth quarter comeback in the leading New England to a 29-26 OT victory.

During this time, the airwaves and newspapers were filled with debate as to whether the Patriots should stick with Brady, or give Drew Bledsoe his job back when he was ready to play again. Bledsoe himself talked about getting “my job” back.  Media members took sides. Pete Sheppard was an early Brady adopter, while Glenn Ordway was a Bledsoe guy. In general, it seemed that the younger media set were with Brady, while the older set, who had been around the team longer, and perhaps benefited from Bledsoe’s “back channel” information, sided with Bledsoe.

In mid November, the Patriots sat at 5-5 following a home loss to the St. Louis Rams. The next day, on Monday, November 19, Bill Belichick announced that Tom Brady would be his starter for the “foreseeable future.” Bledsoe had been cleared to return to action, but would not be getting “his job” back.

The Bledsoe backers in the media immediately went on the offensive, blasting Belichick, with Borges claiming that the coach had outright lied to Bledsoe. Borges later bragged on the radio that he himself had counseled Bledsoe during this time.

While the sports radio hosts and newspapers columnists were talking non-stop about Brady-Bledsoe, the real shows came on the Sunday night TV sports shows, specifically Sports Final on WBZ, which often had Borges, Cafardo and a young Herald reporter named Michael Felger on. These segments had a WWE-feel to them, as the three of them pulled no punches in debating this topic. Borges and Felger would shout at each other during these segments, while Cafardo’s role was mostly to roll his eyes while Felger was talking, throw up his hands periodically and mutter “Bledsoe” over and over.

Even after the Patriots had won the Super Bowl behind Brady, this episode continued on. It actually continued on for at least two more seasons.

When the Patriots traded Bledsoe to the division rival Buffalo, it started all over again. Borges and Cafardo would denigrate Brady while saying how huge a mistake it was, not just to get rid of Bledsoe, but to trade him within the division.

During the 2002 preseason, Borges was heard on Sports Final declaring that Damon Huard should be the Patriots starting QB, based on the performances in the preseason. The Patriots struggled in defending their Super Bowl championship, finishing 9-7 and out of the playoffs. Brady threw for 3764 yards that season with a league leading 28 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Bills jumped from 3-13 in 2001 to 8-8 in 2002, with Bledsoe throwing for 4359 yards with 24 touchdowns. His performance was lauded by his media supporters, while Brady was dismissed as a “system quarterback” who didn’t have the arm to make a deep throw.

The 2003 season began with the Bills routing the Patriots 31-0, days after New England had released Lawyer Milloy and he had signed with the Bills. In that opening game, Brady struggled, throwing for only 123 yards with four interceptions. Bledsoe meanwhile, threw for 230 yards and a touchdown.

Feeling his oats, Cafardo wrote that week about not hearing from the Bledsoe bashers, who “tend to hide when he plays well” and how he’s never “seen a team do so much to help a competing team within the division get so good so fast.” He said felt a long way from the 10-6 he predicted for the Patriots prior to that season. The Patriots finished 14-2 while the Bills fell to 6-10.

It wasn’t really until Brady won his second Super Bowl MVP following the 2003 season that this argument began to die down somewhat. But not completely. Borges continued for years to stick up for Bledsoe, and insisting that he was wronged by Belichick. Ron would make quite a stir whenever he could get a radio station  (usually Eddie Andelman’s show on 1510am) to give him an outlet for his madness.

It’s easy to forget now, with all that Brady has accomplished in his career, and how huge of an icon he has become, on and off the field, but Bill Belichick’s decision to stick with him as his starter was one of the most intensely debated incidents of the decade.

Wednesday 10-Spot

Actually a pretty tough day in which to find 10 articles to highlight. Maybe I should’ve just made it five… 

Brady Has Negotiated A Brutal Stretch In 2009  – There has been a whole lot of bellyaching and criticism aimed at the Patriots this season. Kerry Byrne wants you to know one simple fact: The Patriots have faced an unbelievably tough and statistically improbable collection of defenses this year. And given this slate, Brady has outperformed every quarterback in football in 2009.

For Brady, all routes lead to Welker, Moss – Albert Breer is going in a different direction, noting that since the Patriots added Randy Moss and Wes Welker, the offense isn’t as balanced as it was earlier in the decade.

Wes Welker defies odds as one of NFL’s best – Ian Rapoport with a mini-feature on the Patriots “little engine that does.”

Who’s naughty, nice among possible Patriots’ playoff opponents – With two games still to go in the regular season, Shalise Manza Young trots out the list of possible first-round playoff foes for the Patriots.

Paul Pierce never gave up – Mike Fine has the Celtics captain overcoming a tough shooting night to still lead the shorthanded Celtics to victory. 

Familiar look without Kevin Garnett – Steve Bulpett notes that the absence of Kevin Garnett was very obvious in the first half last night, but the team did overcome the void in the second half.

A Not-So-Subtle Reminder – Paul Flannery has three points of discussion from last night’s win.

 Much still up in the air for Lowell – Notable only because most of the material Amalie Benjamin uses in this piece comes from WEEI.com. (Which she does give credit to.)

For ex-PawSox player Lombard, trip to Indianapolis pays off with job offer from Boston – Joe McDonald has the 16-year playing career of George Lombard resulting in being named the hitting coach of the Single-A Lowell Spinners.

Bergeron ready for next big assignment – Mike Loftus has Patrice Bergeron back in his pre-concussion all-purpose role for the Bruins.

Also check out the 50th Anniversary Minute – the 2006 Patriots from Brendon Rosenau on Patriots Daily.

You probably weren’t going to go out of your way to find him anyway, but you’ll want to avoid Mark Farinella today. Dated Belichick/Spying references, snide future scenarios involving Tom Brady’s kids, recommended drugs for Randy Moss’ habit of “dogging it” and a shot at Charlie Weis.

Check back later for number five on our list of the biggest Boston sports media episodes of the decade