With the release of his new book Scribe: My Life in Sports last week, Bob Ryan has been doing media interviews as part of the publicity campaign for the book.

One of the reappearing themes from the interviews is how treatment of the media by the teams and leagues has changed over the years, specifically the NBA.

Last week he talked to Ben Golliver of SI.com.

SI.com: There’s a great picture in the book of you typing from a courtside seat with a group of fans looking over your shoulder. How important was proximity to the quality of your writing, and do you hold out any hope that NBA owners might reconsider their decision to move writers away from courtside and up into the bleachers?

Ryan: Without question, the treatment of the media and the elimination of media courtside seating has adversely affected the writing ability of anyone who is covering the game, the way we were able to cover games. Not only was I able to see the game unimpeded, but I was able to hear – the oral part of the game was a very big deal. You could hear things, you had rapport with referees and coaches during the game. It was so vital. It kills me seeing some 5-year-old kid eating ice cream, sitting in a seat that I should be sitting at or some beat man should be sitting at.

It all started with Jack Kent Cooke moving the beat writers off the floor. In hindsight, if the Los Angeles Times had boycotted the Lakers and said, “We’re not covering you until you put our people back where we belong,” we would have headed this off at the pass 45 years ago. But they didn’t and it gradually took root, and one team after another after another eliminated courtside seating. Now you have what you have: you can’t see the game properly. In places like Boston, they don’t even treat local radio with respect. Local radio sits in the same angled corner where the media sits. I could never have written the stories I wrote and did as well as I did writing game stories — that’s what it was all about then, that’s not what it’s about now — if I did not have that courtside seating. They’ve wrecked the opportunity that we had.

Ryan did an interview this week with Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead, and added some more to this topic:

RG: It might be the case that I don’t have an NBA franchise that I really root for, and I just watch the league as a whole, so I’m probably thinking about it more as a writer.

BR: I’m speaking as a fan who happened to write. And I happened to have season tickets for 22 years — from 1978-2000. I still have Red Sox tickets. So I always relate to the fan experience. As far as writing, it’s very annoying what they’ve done to us. They treat the writers like cow dung. They care not one lick about the print press. They are so close to charging us to get in that it’s frightening. That’s a whole other matter.

RG: Wait, at this point in your career, you go and get credentialed and they send you into crappy seats?!

BR: I’m no better off than any other writer. At the Boston Garden they put me with the regular press, which is a terrible seat in the corner. That’s the regular press. The beat men for the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and any of the other New England papers or visiting writers are stuck in the corner. Even home radio is stuck there because they don’t care about either entity anymore.

They care about one thing: Filling the courtside seats with people who have enough disposable income to overspend for them. And they care about television. That’s it. Everything else is a bother.

It should be emphasized that Ryan is mostly talking about basketball here, and the importance of being courtside for someone who is reporting on the game. For other sports, it isn’t as important to be right there, and in fact, the view for the other sports is probably better from a higher angle.

Speaking of other sports, Ryan has had about enough of football.

My personal premise on football is that it wouldn’t bother me at all if they stopped playing in the next five minutes. I can live without football. The sports smorgasbord has any number of other activities that could satisfy us over a 12-month period. We don’t need football.

He goes on to explain why – mostly the impact it has on the well-being of the participants later in life.

Grantland had a tremendous column by Bryan Curtis on Ryan, which examines the legacy he is leaving behind in the world of sports media.

He also mentions something I think is very important, and which is something that gets a finger-wag from media types today. The rooting aspect.

“[Sportswriters] say, ‘I never root. I only root for the story,’” Ryan said as he drove through town. “Not me. I want the team to win.”

Ryan was a writer-fan. In Boston, this wasn’t uncommon. “They all are out there,” said Larry Bird. “Not just Bob. They cared. They just wanted you to win. In New York, they want you to lose so they have better stuff to write.”

Ryan’s colleague (and competitor) Dan Shaughnessy may have invented the “rooting for the story” catchphrase, as it is a tenet that he lives by. Curtis explains though, that Ryan rooting for the team did not mean he wasn’t critical.

Now, a rooting sportswriter tends to get people flexing their J-school diplomas. So it’s worth explaining just how Ryan’s fandom manifested itself. He wasn’t Johnny Most yelling into a microphone. Ryan was the kind of Celtics fan who demanded good play and personnel management. Anything less he took personally — and litigated in the Globe.

Now, to me, that is what I want. Too often I’m accused by some of simply wanting cheerleaders for reporters. That’s not the case, I want the media to demand excellence from the teams that I root for, as Curtis explains, there is a difference between wanting the team you cover to win, and homerism. I don’t want homers or cheerleaders. But I don’t want the reporters and columnists seemingly rooting against the teams I follow.

Is Bob Ryan the last to understand this? At the very least, he’s among a dwindling few.

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44 thoughts on “Nuggets from the Bob Ryan Publicity Tour

  1. In 2014 we have the anti-Bob Ryan’s: Shank, Volin, Wilbur,
    YARM, Borges from New Bedford, Benz, Guergian, etc.

    Calling what they do, “rooting for the story” is the same as calling what Ryan did Homerism.

    They don’t root for the story and they don’t remain neutral/objective; they nitpick every little possible negative thing to death.

    Here’s a great example:

    Matt Pepin retweeted

    Thomas Fant

    @Winston_Wolfe

    ·

    Oct 12

    @shalisemyoung @mattpep15 The last time Brady completed a pass to Amendola….

    Matt Pepin

    @mattpep15

    ·

    Oct 12

    Tom Brady hit 10 different receivers today, none named Amendola. Love Tim Wright’s line: 1-1-1-1.

    Eric Wilbur retweeted

    Andrew

    @AGDFRD

    ·

    Oct 12

    @BestofBSMW @GlobeEricWilbur @mattpep15 why do you have to ignore a story because they won? Amendola is a story. He’s useless

    View conversation

    0 replies

    Matt Pepin is the Sports Editor for the Globe.

    We get it dude, Amendola sucks. Not every signing pans out. The team moved Lafell ahead of him on the depth chart after week 1 and with this two TE / two WR set, they’re simply phasing him out. This is a story every week? To me, Amendola is already a non-story. He’s like the forgotten man. I think, one would have to be obsessed with nitpicking the signing to death, to think it still a weekly story.

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    1. Borges from New Bedford

      Is that Ron’s name he gives to the screener? Danny from Quincy and Steve from Fall River would like to know.

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  2. just put on spazzy and fledgler ,, at 229 , clicked off at 231 …. baseball is too long blah blah blah ,, these 2 don’t even watch sports on tv ..

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    1. I heard Felger say in the intro. that he’s never heard anyone complain about the length of NFL games or about the pace.

      Now I suppose that maybe this is true. But he also said that he himself doesn’t have a problem with it.

      Batters repeatedly stepping out of the box and pitchers dilly-dallying is bad television, but two 60 second or less segments of NFL game play (and standing around) sandwiched by multiple commercial breaks (which is seen often near the 2 minute warning, the end of quarters and anytime a team scores) is good television?

      It’s illogical nonsense and I don’t think Felger actually likes baseball.

      The biggest sports radio critics of MLB gameplay and production are always the first guys to do a two hour segment celebrating the commercials during the Super Bowl. (see Toucher and Rich, Fatty and Forehead)

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      1. Well I think the difference is football gives us replay and analysis of what just happened, or didn’t happen, and why, before the next play. Baseball it’s just tedious nonsense that literally wastes time for no reason at all. A WR needs to jog back to the huddle and get the next play. Why does a batter have to step out, adjust his gloves, helmet, and jock, when he didn’t even move. Why does a pitcher have to circle the mound, adjust his cap, etc etc. Stay in the box, get on the fukking mound, throw the ball and let’s move it along! There really isn’t any “standing around” by NFL players. There may not be a play happening but they are always moving with a purpose. Getting lined up, etc. The right fielder might move once in 5 innings.

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        1. StoJa–have you ever seen a live NFL game at the stadium? There is lots–I mean lots–of standing around. The commercial breaks are way waayyy waaaaayyyyy longer than anything the players need to get on or off the field. You wind up with players standing in circles just waiting for the signal to resume. Do you seriously think teams need 2-3 minute breaks at every change of possession or kicking play? Of course they don’t. And the 2-minute warning serves no football purpose whatsoever. It’s nothing more than an additional advertising timeout.

          In a lot of ways pro football is better viewed at home, where you can go to the john in less than a minute, or at least be distracted by commercials. It gets downright boring at the stadium. But that’s the price of sculpting the game so hard to fit the demands of television.

          Baseball is ridiculous now. Nomar-type OCD behavior by batters plus delay-and-get-in-his-head nonsense by both pitchers and batters. It’s silly. With a few rules changes, umps could absolutely start cracking down on both.

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          1. The first time I went to a game, I thought it was very funny that the players just kind of stand there, milling about on the field, waiting for the ref to tell them that the play clock is going start (during the TV commercial breaks). I would think as a player, it’s really gotta kill the rhythm of the game, I know it does as a fan. I can’t think of anything else like this in the other team sports.

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    2. Listened to Paul Perillo for the Debbie Downer Radio hour. The three of them had a pity party for THEMSELVES and how they are treated by fans coming off the Bills game, in which Perillo admitted he picked Buffalo to win!

      The team can’t win, so to speak. They were supposed to beat Buffalo and they did and now the media isn’t happy that they won. Not only does Mazz hate offense, but now Felger says the defense relies too much on turnovers. And to wait till they play a “real team.”

      At this point I’m convinced there is no way the Patriots can win a game to satisfy these miserable assholes.

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      1. “The three of them had a pity party for THEMSELVES and how they are treated by fans coming off the Bills game”

        Yup…

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      2. They never give the defense any credit for forcing all of these turnovers. They always portray it as the other team throwing up on itself and giving the ball away. If you look purely at yards, the Pats’ defense is typically not at the top of the league, even in those Super Bowl years. But they are good at holding the other team from scoring too many points (“bend but not break”) and forcing turnovers. This has been the case since 2001. To act as if the Pats’ defense has sucked for years and years and that the turnovers are all the other team’s fault is completely disingenuous. Let us not forget that when they won those Super Bowls turnovers was a big part of their defense as well. I think they were rated something like 24th in the league in defense in 2001?

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        1. Funny thing is, I looked at the stats yesterday and the Patriots are at minimum a Top 10 defense in EVERY category, and top 5 in most. And the offense is Top 10 now as well. But don’t let the facts prevent the sky from falling, 1-5, on 98.5 Boston’s home for sports, The SPorts Hub!

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  3. First, Love Bob. Grew up reading him and always got the feeling he was a fan and was speaking behalf of fans. Saying what we felt. Many times that was critical talk.

    You’re 100% right, Bruce. Felger and his ilk always make it a zero-sum game. If you say good things about a team that is winning, your a footy-pajama-wearing fanboy. If you hate on the team non-stop, constantly, despite many facts that disprove your argument, then you’re being “objective”.

    We fans are looking for writers like Curran and Reiss, who point out the positives about a team that wins all the time and yet, are very often are critical of the team when warranted. Curran was very critical of the way the team was built around Brady and Reiss has been all over the O-line preparedness. But when they happen to (God forbid) mention anything positive about a unprecedented run of success, they’re labeled homers

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    1. I don’t know if anyone else catches Reiss’ chat’s on
      Thursday, I usually enjoy them, even if they sometimes have the same awful
      questions from fans who are clearly uniformed. (The year Moss left and the year after were filled with “when are they going to bring Moss back”, every week.)But lately he has been taking
      mild shots at sports radio hosts, and HOTSPORTSTAKES in general. Last week in
      particular he seemed to include a lot of submissions questioning him
      specifically. I love the fact that he’s starting to stand up for himself. I think
      that little tiff with Felger last year over Welker was good for him.

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      1. When I’ve caught his chats before, I’ve seen what you mean.

        The point brings me back to when Ryan Hadfield, writing here, sometime earlier in the year, doing a mailbag. I had emailed in an example of the F+M “cap is crap” influence that is so prevalent, someone asked about it on Reddit. Now, asking dumb questions on the internet, as you say, isn’t unique to anywhere, including Reddit, but I used it as Exhibit A in the problem I have with the “cap is crap” but more on hosts (media) in the market who espouse any view like it.

        I bring this up because those types of questions are things I’ve heard when out somewhere and striking up conversations with random folks. I’ve heard the “cap is crap” stuff dozens of times. How the hell can you discuss team/personel matters in the NFL if you don’t get the cap?

        Like or dislike Reiss, I hope we can agree that he’s a pretty mild person–very button-downed and matter of fact. If Reiss addresses such things, to me, it means he’s genuinely pissed off, just won’t say as much. You brought up the Felger/Reiss incident when they basically trashed his work and credibility, to the point of him having to call into the station. That’s bad and pathetic on F+M’s part. I don’t expect Reiss to drop some huge rumor from the Krafts, maybe like a Glazer or Florio would, but I think we can appreciate his approach because he sticks away from the stuff that many of us dislike enough with the media to write about here.

        So, with the chats, I have to think ESPNBoston makes him do it and he’ll take any and all reasonable questions, but he’s probably like Belichick where he’d rather be asked intelligent questions than folks who are too uninformed, thanks to too much sports talk and not enough fact checking, to ask them.

        I think the bigger problem is the approach to journalism that big outlets take by choice or are forced to take due to contracts. If you don’t shill for the team/league and basically act as their PR firm, you have to be a Jim “Inferno #HotSportzTakez” Rome clone. Neither of those approaches embody what I thought journalism is supposed to be (see entertainment).

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        1. And more shots at the peanut gallery from Reiss:

          … As for Amendola, I have to be honest: I can’t get over the overall anger that comes across in these chats and mailbags. It’s overwhelming. Let me say this: Amendola has not worked out the way the Patriots envisioned. There is no debating that. It has been a disappointment. That said, to call him useless is off the mark and more fit for the sports-talk-radio circuit or knee-jerk Twitter forum. He just isn’t producing the way he or the team envisioned when they overpaid him. But you can’t tell me he isn’t helping in a niche role, because it’s just not true.

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  4. meh… ain’t feelin’ the love.. Maybe “back in the day” but in recent years I’ve seen Ryan play the part of the buffoon way too many times, especially when it comes to the Patriots. As quoted above, “My personal premise on football is that it wouldn’t bother me at all if they stopped playing in the next five minutes” …don’t think he’s, “relating to the fan experience” there. He’s also another one who drops “Spygate” references at the drop of a hat and seems very butt hurt Belichick won’t play nice with him…. Wouldn’t bother me at all if Ryan stopped writing/appearing on TV in the next 5 minutes.

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  5. Yep. I think my distinction is that the beat guys should be slightly more objective, whereas the columnists are paid to put opinion into things.

    However, either one of them, I want them to be on the team’s side, long-term. Dubious but not over-critical when they do something wrong, urging them to do it better, and interested and engaged when they do something right.

    Taking them on just to take them on may make for Drama, but it’s going to wear out your welcome eventually.

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  6. Unrelated topic, but interesting all the same, are the stories out today about Bill Parcells pushing his new book, and the “revelation” that he and Belichick feuded for years over BB resigning from the Jets’ job to take the Pats’ job two days after Parcells quit. To paraphrase Parcells: “He (BB) made a deal and then tried to get out of it. You break a deal, you’re going to pay.” Not sure what he meant by BB “paying,” but I do know the Pats had to fork over their 2000 first rounder to the NYJ in order for the NYJ to let him out of his contract. Maybe that’s what Parcells meant? Anyway, it will be interesting to see the local media’s reaction to that “money” quote, since the guy who said it seemingly made a career out of signing, and then trying to get out of long-term coaching deals going all the way back to the week after he won his first Super Bowl with the Giants in January of ’87, when he allegedly had contact with Tampa Bay about their coaching job but was told by the Giants, in no uncertain terms, that he had a valid contract and that they weren’t letting him out of it. Folks around here know, of course, that he asked Kraft to “alter” his original five-year Pats deal signed when Orthwein was the owner, after the 1995 season, so that ’96 would be Parcells’ last contractually obligated season in NE. Then, of course, came the phone calls (which we found out about years later) he made to the Jets’ Hempstead, NY facilities from his New Orleans hotel room during Super Bowl week in ’97. So….it will be interesting to see if the anti-BB media hacks simply regurgitate Parcells’ storyline, or if they actually call him out for his blatant hypocrisy about the sancity of coaching contracts.

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  7. Ryan wouldn’t mind if football stopped playing five minutes from now but how much money did he make off of this beauty?

    http://www.amazon.com/Road-Super-Bowl-Bob-Ryan/dp/157028136X/ref=asap_B001H6GQU4_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413473720&sr=1-7

    I read the book when it first came out, it was pretty sub par for mid-late 90’s Ryan standards and the one thing that stood out to me then, and still does, is that he just latched on to the hot story. The C’s and B’s were last place teams and the Sox were in a state of flux. This is what people wanted so he wrote a (fairly poor) book about it.

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  8. Given a few days to digest these comments and the comments of fellow BSMW posters I think my response to Ryan would be…you and your ilk are paid to be excellent. Not good, not average, not regurgitators of force fed pr department ramblings, not cheerleaders, not hyper critical wankers….no you are paid to be excellent. You are paid to give information to the fans that they don’t have access to. You are paid to complete the story that we see unfold on our tv or on the field from the stands. Where you sit should not affect your ability to do your job. It evidently has given you and your ilk a sense of entitlement that is off putting.

    I like Bob Ryan. I maintain that any 3 hour show that he is guest hosting, especially when he works with Dale Arnold, is 3 hours of must listen to radio. I find that when I actually sit down to read something that he wrote it is well written and thought provoking (not that I necessarily agree). What I don’t like is that Bob has taken the Globe’s meme “when in doubt complain about access” and run with it. I expect that crap from SMY or Rob Borges or Dan Shaughnessy (who is still bitter he was not invited to a beat writer breakfast back in 1996…when he was a columnist). I expect more from Bob Ryan.

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    1. As someone who used to be a beat reporter for basketball (albeit in college, and Div 3 at that, so… grain of salt and all), I can tell you that it matters TREMENDOUSLY where you sit when you’re reporting on the game, at least for hoops. From the cheap seats, you see a pass go awry, and it’s just a turnover stat in the books. From courtside (which, yes, is where I sat to cover games, because I was usually doing double-duty as an official scorekeeper as well), you hear the guard call the play, see the forward looking away and hesitating, and see the angry glare at the forward from the guard as they jog back to get on D after the dead ball whistle. And when you see it happen again, you’ve got the beginnings of a story: these two aren’t on the same page at all. And you start noticing things…

      From the cheap seats, you’re not seeing/hearing that kind of interaction. The team has just turned the ball over. The reason for that — the story — will only be uncovered if someone wants to say something to you about it. Which isn’t always the case.

      It’s also different from baseball and football (I covered the latter as well), because it’s a much faster moving game, and because of that the player interactions are more subtle. (Simply because they don’t have time to be demonstrative as football players do in the long pauses between plays.) It’s just plain easier to see things in football games, believe it or not, even though there are more players.

      So it does make a significant difference to the reporter. It’s not “oooh, I’m special, I want to be close to the action”. There’s a legitimate interest in being close to the game.

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      1. Dave…you might be right…I went to a school that had neither hoops nor football but I did cover the local professional wrestling scene in the Pac Nor West while in college…that closeness to the game makes a difference. You will never convince me it makes a difference in Football, Hockey, Soccer, Baseball, Cricket, America’s Cup Yachting, Ping Pong, or any other sport that grownups follow. More importantly my criticism is more global…whether it is a hinderance or not…he should not be kvetching about it to anyone unfortunate enough to tune into or read an interview he gives expecting witty insight and classic insider stories.

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        1. You’re basically correct – but like I said above, he knows full-well that this comment will get people talking, complaining, etc., and that generates discussion = sales.

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      2. You’re 100 percent right, but of course it’s easier for people to go with the “NO HES ENTITLEDZ AND THIS IS OUTRAGEZ FOR CHILDRENSZ” comeback.

        You want nuance, and this is America, and we don’t do that here.

        (I covered sports in school, and agree becuase it’s obvious – basketball, courtside = best; football = up high between 40s; hockey = also up high)

        Obviously, Ryan is trolling a bit – he knows exactly how it will sound, how people will take it, and it will be the soundbite that generates interest and “discussion.” Point, set, match.

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  9. It’s not easy to have a battle of wits with an armed opponent:

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  10. It figures that a sports media hack would see himself as so ‘entitled’ that he’d think nothing of yanking a seat out from under a child. Nothing epitomizes the industry more than that.

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  11. 30 seconds into the postgame show and I have never wanted to punch somebody in the fukking face as much as I want to punch Gary Tanguay right now. He makes Mazz seem like Jerry Thorton. I expect Gresh to throw him threw a window out onto the Mass Pike before the show is over.

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    1. Honest to god….how has some Boston sports fan not literally murdered Gary Tanguay in the deli section at Shaw’s yet? This guy is f**king incredible. And that’s the furthest from a compliment I can be. Wow. Just….wow. WOW.

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    2. As bad as Felger is, Tanguay has become worse. I totally agree. I know it’s an act designed to drive ratings, but I could at least respect him a little if it was a good act. It’s not. It’s a very bad act and he’s a very bad actor. I mean, who wants to watch a guy throwing hysterical fits on TV every night, even when the local teams win? Apparently some viewers like it, because somehow the guy manages to keep his job.

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    3. I agree with you. I also tuned in last night and lasted one commercial break. I couldn’t take the Tormented panic voice anymore. I switched to the real boring post game show. Yikes.

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    4. Kinda summarized with his reaction to last night’s winloss.

      @Gary_Tanguay How can anyone feel good about a two point win over the Jets? @GreshandZo @Toucherandrich

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  12. During a commercial on NFL Radio this morning, I flipped on WEEI. I lasted three minutes….

    “You should blame Ernie Adams for that game being so close last night. He’s supposed to be brilliant, why didn’t he tell Bill to challenge the catch along the sidelines?”

    This strawman argument went on until finally the producer jumped in with “It was inside two minutes, it is a booth review.”

    SCREEEEECH!

    “They shoulda called a time out to give the NFL a chance to look at it!”

    –Quick subject change–

    “They could go 1-5 over the next six if they don’t get better.”

    Get ready for 10 days of “what will Matt Forte do to this team?” hysteria.

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