I had seen William Rhoden’s column in The New York Times yesterday, and like this emailer, I was somewhat surprised to see it get remade at the same URL following the Patriots beatdown of Jets.

Hi Bruce,

I’m a regular BSMW reader, and as such I thought you might be interested in something I caught in the NYT coverage of the Jets-Pats rivalry. On the Times’ site yesterday, I saw this column from William Rhoden.

That article no longer exists on the Times’ site; it’s been replaced, at the same URL, with this. (The modified article went up within a few minutes of last night’s game ending.) You’ll notice the new headline no longer references the Patriots’ “crumbling empire;” similar changes are made throughout the article.

Now, to my mind, these are both cases of pretty crappy journalism, using the thinnest of pretenses to bring up Spygate without really saying anything new. However, it’s my understanding that the Times’ policy is to note corrections, changes, or updates to articles like this instead of just throwing lines like “The shift has occurred: the Jets are in ascendancy, while New England is in retrograde” down the memory hole.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.


PS: One more amusing modification. Rhoden, pre-game: “The shift was set in motion three seasons ago by a moral misstep by Belichick. The Patriots empire began to unravel the day New England was caught cheating.” Rhoden, post-game: “If New England does not win another title under Belichick, critics can say that a shift took place three seasons ago.” Hedging his bets, I guess.


34 thoughts on “Odd Column Changes From NY Times

  1. For several years now the Times editorial policy seems to be "make up the news as we go along". Why would the sports desk be any different than the "real" news desk.

  2. Remember, it was two NY Times sportswriters who penned that ludicrous book, "The Selling of the Green" in the early 90s, which basically parroted the long-time Spike Lee narrative that the Celtics are/were a racist organization, and that they went after so many "white" players in the 80s in order to make their racist fans happy, and to make money. Yeah, it had nothing to do with the fact that Walton, Bird and McHale are all Hall of Famers, and Ainge and Wedman were All Stars at one point or another in their careers. Rhoden, if I recall correctly, never gave the Pats credit for winning Super Bowl 36, even before the non-issue of Spygate came up years later, because he believed the "Tuck Rule" call made all of their subsequent accomplishments illegitimate. So clearly, he's got an anti-Pats agenda to begin with.

  3. Mr. Rhoden and the NYT clearly violated journalistic integrity in this instance. Forget about the shoddy and weird timing of the Spygate references. How does one erase 50% of one's publicly submitted work on the NYT website in order to change it all 8 hours later when one is proven wrong?

    He wrote it. He publicly submitted it to his readers. His newspaper is supposed to be SERVING the reader. Here he (and they) are saying "Never mind, I was just fooling around".

    Sorry. That is not responsible journalism and deserves Mr. Rhoden's public explanation.

    Not that any will be forthcoming, I'm sure.

  4. As in much reporting in history much is mis-reported. First, the Patriots were fined not for filming the Jets but because the Patriots were repeatedly in the wrong location.
    I have seen the film and the Jets had THREE members of the Coaching staff simultaneously signing signals to the Defense.
    Which of the signalers was legitimate and which were sham and how often did they change from legitimate to fake? Impossible to resolve all this in less than 30 seconds.
    I submit all this was, for the Patriots,to develop a "library" for future study of Jet tendencies.

    1. Tom,

      I've always felt that's why the Pats were doing it in the first place; to build up a library not only on that team's tendencies, but on the team's coaches' tendencies, should any of them move on to other clubs and the Patriots had to face them say, three years hence. The reason I believe this is because the Pats were allegedly "caught" (but not turned in) filming the Lions' sidelines during a 2006 regular season game in Foxboro. Now, why on earth would they film the Lions? Did they believe they would see them again that season in the Super Bowl? Hardly. But they probably felt that maybe one of their coaches would end up a head coach somewhere else–perhaps even in the AFC East–three years down the road and they wanted to get a headstart on preparation (the folks at Scouts, Inc., by the way, wrote what should have been the definitive article on "Spygate," in which they said the Pats' only "advantage" gained from filming the signals would have been to cut down their preparation time by maybe a few hours, perhaps a day; in other words, they didn't gain much, if any, advantage).

        1. they were on for hours on ESPN and NFL Network, the day of Goodell's May, 08 PC on Walsh, courtesy of the league.

  5. Can't really blame Rhoden – the guy isn't too bright and, like all things New York, believes hype to be gospel and cannot make an intelligent observation if it bites him in the a$$. He's a Ryan guy (and whoever the next coach of a NY team will be). He's not writing for a national audience – he's out Post-ing the Post but in a condescending sort of way. Kudos to him for having to eat $hit.

  6. Sent to the Times, with scant chance of publication:

    As noted on ESPN and not-enough media outlets, your Mr. Rhoden's column on the relative state of the New York Jets and New England Patriots was published online, then removed, significantly edited in light of the outcome of last night's game, and then re-posted. I find this to be not only a shameful bit of revisionism by Rhoden, but an unethical action by your editors. How disturbing to know that in the Times' world of today, there would be no more "Dewey Defeats Truman," because apparently your analysts are never wrong in hindsight.

  7. "Normally unrestrained in heaping praise on his team, Ryan was careful with his remarks about Belichick and the Patriots. It was as if he wanted to play down the perception that a shift in power was taking place.

    Too late. The shift has occurred: the Jets are in ascendancy, while New England is in retrograde, though it has nothing to do with one game, one season, injuries or upheaval.

    The shift was set in motion three seasons ago by a moral misstep by Belichick. The Patriots empire began to unravel the day New England was caught cheating."

    "In explaining the differences in the fines in a recent conference call, the N.F.L.’s general counsel, Jeff Pash, offered a chilling indictment of the Patriots. He said the league believed the Denver episode was isolated and perpetrated by a single person who did not receive direction from a superior.

    “You have a single incident as opposed to years of activity,” Pash said.

    Years of activity."

    Those are the parts that got "erased"

    1. They also left out that part that should have said: "Years of activity by New England–and several other teams in the NFL–that was finally stopped by all but one team (New England), after the NFL decided to re-interpret via memo and then enforce an obscure rule that had never before been enforced in all the years the obscure rule against videotaping existed." That would have made the NFL's weasel-esque statement much more accurate, especially given the fact that the VAST MAJORITY of the Patriots' taping incidents occurred before Goodell and the new regime took over the commissioner's office, which should have, really, rendered anything that happened before 2007 completely moot, given that Goodell was the first commissioner to ever care about that rule being enforced in the first place.

      Look, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Patriots' greatest crime was ignoring the "clarifying" memo, and not the act of filming signals; filming signals is a trivial infraction akin to jaywalking. But defying Commissioner Red Light's memo? That's a felony offense and that's what brought the wrath of the Gridiron Godfather down upon them.

      1. They didn't ignore it. They interpreted the memo to say that it was illegal to tape signals to be used in the game being played at the time they were filmed. Since the Pats were using them for future reference, the rule didn't apply.

        That's being a little too cute by half and if they had any questions, they should have contacted the league office just to make sure. That's what the commish was so pissed about.

        1. That's because Goodell didn't use 'exact words' in the memo. Great turn by Belichick as Greg Brady and by the commish as Mike Brady (naturally, Tom played himself).

        2. I'm not disagreeing with you, and I think we are in agreement that Goodell's punishment was more about disobeying his memo than it was about the severity of the "crime," which wasn't severe in any way, shape, fashion or form. That said, I think BB kept doing it because there was no way he ever imagined that the penalty would be so harsh. I mean, the guy had been in the NFL since 1975 and that rule had never been enforced. He probably felt any punishment would be a slap on the wrist, not a sledgehamer to the side of the head.

        3. That interpretation contradicts the defense of the Patriots put forth that it was impossible to use the video during the game. Why would the league distribute a memo saying it was illegal to do something that was impossible?

  8. Pats are cheats, pure and simple. Makes sense for the NYT to cheat on their coverage of them. They would never have won anything but for the cheating. 'Belichek is a genius. It's like he was in the Steeler huddle'. Indeed.

  9. The NY Times is in error if it thinks changing the substance of an article after publish is acceptable journalism.

    Now that aside, to you Pats fans (of which I count myself), you need to stop defending spygate. If the coach broke the rules and gained no advantage from it, then he's stupid. There had to be some advantage, and that advantage was not gained legally. Admit it. Move on. It's been a great run and based on this year, looks like there's no end in sight.

    1. I think most Pats fans would gladly move on if the rest of the free world would move on. The reason this is being discussed is because a non-Pats fan (Rhoden) it up. As many often done in quite contorted fashion. Mostly, the point seems to be that anything related to the NEP past present and future is the result of 'cheating'. Not exactly a nuanced position. As one Pats fan, I'm not in the least concerned with having some 'moved on' medal pinned to my chest if some idiot is dragging up Spygate again, especially when its in relation to this year's team. I'm not sure its Pats fans that haven't moved on.

    2. Read the Scouts, Inc. article about Spygate from 2007. That explains what "advantage" the Pats gained. (Answer…not much of anything, just saved them som game preparation time, if that)

  10. Response to email I sent to the NYT public editor (asking among other things if they'd be letting their political analysts revise their election-day columns the next morning). The public editor's response is responsive and sympathetic, but let's not kid outselves — Rhoden was trying to cover his tracks and not look so stupid after the game:

    Thanks for emailing the public editor with your concerns about the William Rhoden column on the Jets and the Patriots. A number of readers expressed similar concerns. I asked the sports editor for his comment and he said he could understand why readers were confused by changes between the two columns. The first column was written for the earlier, pre-game deadline of the national edition and was revised for the later edition of The Times. The sports editor said it would have been better if the first column had been on a different topic, or if the second column had been something totally new from the game.

    As it was, the revised column, in my view, failed to deal with the fact that events on the field seemed to demolish a central tenet of the first column — that the Jets are in ascendance.

  11. He also loses credibility when he says we replaced Faulk with Green-Ellis. No, we replaced Faulk with Woodhead. We replaced Taylor with Green-Ellis.

  12. Its worth pointing out that the original column was just dumb.

    Tom Brady > Mark Sanchez
    Bill Belicheck > Rex Ryan
    Pats 2010 draft class = their best draft class in a very long time

    I like Rhoden but his emotions got the better of him on this one. A reasonably
    bright objective NFL fan would not place this Jets team ahead of this Pats team.

  13. The funniest part about the new article is the note at the bottom stating that the article has been revised, but the revision has nothing to do with the issue at hand, but some nonsense about the number of rings Belichick has.

    And on top of that the note misspells "Belichick." I guess the revision needs a revision. The Times is a joke.

  14. The funniest part about the new article is the note at the bottom stating that the article has been revised, but the revision has nothing to do with the issue at hand, but some nonsense about the number of rings Belichick has.

    And on top of that the note misspells "Belichick." I guess the revision needs a revision.

    The Times is a joke.

  15. There really is nothing to see here. It is normal practice for articles to be written on deadline for early editions, and then modified for later editions.

    Besides, Monday's result does not mean that the Jets are no longer ascendant. In 2007, the Jets were 4-12. In 2008, the Jets were 9-7 and missed the playoffs. In 2009, the Jets were 9-7, made the playoffs and won two playoff games. In 2010, the Jets are 9-3 with four games remaining. Monday's result does not change the fact that the Jets organization has been enjoying a clear upward trend.

    1. Brian I get what your saying about having a couple of columns ready to go. But, by publishing the first article, especially in this day and age, makes the Times look very bad. They have already taken enough hits. They should not be opening themselves up for more.

      1. The difference is the Internet. In the old days, the early-edition column would be fishwrap. Now, it lives on. I just don't think there's anything nefarious going on. It's not like William Rhoden was trying to cover something up. It's not fact; it's opinion. Once the game had been played, he had more information, and his opinion changed accordingly.

  16. Be careful of the fallacy that holds that "whatever just happened is what will continue to happen," especially in the NFL. The 1-7 Cowboys beating the red-hot Giants, the Raiders beating the blistering Chargers, the disrespected Bears beating the hyped Eagles– fortunes change from week to week in the NFL with regularity.

    As dominant as the Patriots' win Monday was, it was one game. It no more established that the Pats are superior to the Jets than the Jets' 2-touchdown win over a rattled Brady and the Patriots in Week 2 established that the Jets were superior to the Pats. Belichick and Ryan have met four times as head coaches, and each team has won twice.

    1. Brian I agree with you about it being just one game but the trend with Belichick's championship teams is that Thanksgiving on they played their best football. They have now had consecutive woodshed games against Detroit and the Jets. I know some will say look at 2007, but remember they were slaughtering the opposition the first eight games. Teams eventually started closing the gap from week 9 on, with the exception of Pittsburgh.

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