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The Freeman Rant, revisited

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Jul 20, 2006.

  1. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    I came across this while looking at the sportspages archives that someone linked yesterday.  We refer to it a lot here, especially when nostalgia breaks out, but we never seem to be able to find a link. 

    I believe this originally appeared on sportspages in 2000, and was largely reponsible for the explosion of these message board becoming a real dynamo in the sportswriting business.

    Seems like we say this stuff every day here...but at that point in time, it was outrageous and stunning (or that might just be my recollection).

    By Mike Freeman
    Sportpages.com, 2000 

    Eight years ago, when I was first considering taking a job in New York, one of my closest friends, who happens to be the most honorable person in journalism I know, Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post, gave me a stern warning. "The writers there," he said bluntly, "can get pretty nasty." I reminded him that I had worked in Boston, where the media is as gentle on athletes as paint thinner on a small patch of rust. "I'm not talking about how writers treat athletes," he said, "I'm talking about how writers treat each other."

    It took only several short months to discover just how right Wilbon was. On the New York Giants football beat, several competing writers initially refused to speak to me because I had replaced one of their friends, and the icy treatment continued when another of their pals on a different newspaper was taken off the beat. Players told me stories of how competitors remarked to them I was untrustworthy and they should not speak to me. Writers regularly covertly ripped each other to the public relations staff and even to coaches.

    None of this is unprecedented in sports journalism history of course. Bad behavior among sports writers occurs from sea to shining sea, from Anaheim to Annapolis. But in New York, writers have elevated the sport of nastiness to Olympic levels, fabricating stories about competitors to the team officials they cover, portraying black writers as lackeys for black athletes, and treating some women reporters as an inferior species. We are the varsity when it comes to self-abuse; the rest of the journalism community is a bunch of amateurs.

    There is an even bigger problem brewing. Increasingly, the ugliness between writers in New York is beginning to leap onto the pages, doing a disservice to the readers we are beholden to. Our petty squabbles, jealous insecurities, and downright meanness spills into the coverage of the sports here like never before, the process resembling poisonous venom from a snake bite, slowly infecting the body.

    There is no better example of this than one of the most unprofessional scenes in recent memory. It happened inside the Jets pressroom in late October. More on that in a minute. In a recent story Chicago Tribune writer Paul Sullivan described the New York media this way: "...pushy, loud, overbearing, funny, angry and self-obsessed." He forgot vindictive, foul-mouthed (I plead guilty on that one), sexist and racist. Sometimes the behavior of New York sports writers is so horrid it resembles something from a cartoon on steroids. While waiting in the Shea Stadium lobby for a press credential one day before Game 3 of the World Series, a New York tabloid columnist yelled into his cell phone, "Here's my column for tomorrow. I'm going to write that the Yankees are a bunch of (expletive). Yeah, that's right! A bunch of (expletive)!"

    But there are worse examples than a loud mouth on a phone, and many of them are not funny. Indeed, they are an indictment on the quality of some of the individual writers working in the New York area--stressing the word some, not all. The numbers of petulant jerks, however, are growing like weeds. A Newark Star Ledger football reporter spreads the vicious, and untrue, rumor that a competing journalist pays players cash for information. Two New York baseball writers during a game watch pornography on their computers. When a woman writer objects, they actually become angry at her, loudly chastising the reporter for complaining. A Daily News columnist regularly uses his Sunday writings to take cheap shots at other New York journalists, like readers care about such inside minutia.

    Some beat writers on the Yankees won't speak to one competitor, simply because his work ethic and connections produces scoops. In New York, any black writer who has a good relationship with black players only has it because of the color of his skin, not because of skills, or so go the murmurs. In New York, if a female writer is having a conversation with a player in the locker room, the two must be making dinner plans, or so go the rumors. (In fact almost every woman reporter in New York is more professional than her male counterparts. But to be completely honest there are some bad apples among the women as well. One woman writer here won't speak to other women journalists who are physically attractive or are a threat career-wise.)

  2. 21

    21 Well-Known Member


    The Jets beat in New York has been among the most brutal, and is a perfect example of how the lack of professionalism seeps into the coverage. The New York Daily News often berated (and still does) former Jets wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, partly because Johnson had a better relationship with a competitor when he was in New York, and Johnson once screamed at one of the newspaper's columnists in the locker room several years ago. The New York Post wrote a scathing article this summer about Johnson's agent, Jerome Stanley, saying Johnson was unhappy with Stanley and planned to fire him. Johnson promptly called a telephone news conference and denied the story.

    The foundation for the article's bitterness stems from the fact that the Post was beaten by competitors like the Newark Star Ledger on Johnson stories. (That Post story quoted anonymous Jets officials. The Jets hate Stanley because the agent has vocally criticized the team over how it has handled several of his players. So on that matter could Jets officials be trustworthy sources?)

    Six years ago, while covering the Giants, I wrote a story about how Jets defensive lineman Jeff Lageman had seen a series of specialists about concerns over possible long-term spinal problems. The fact I learned of this while covering the Giants, and the Jets writers knew nothing of it, infuriated some of them. They spent half that day tearing into me, with some going further, running inflammatory Lageman quotes ripping me personally in their news stories. That was a case of retaliatory journalism, long a New York staple, like Mark Messier or bad taxi drivers. You-beat-me-but-instead-of-working-hard-to-catch-up-I'll-just-rip-you-any-chan ce-I-get.

    Years later, not much has changed on the Jets. Many of the beat writers are the same, and recently, some of their actions demonstrate bitterness does not decrease with age. This month, like several New York writers, I wrote about a halftime tirade by Jets Coach Al Groh during their game against Miami. The only difference being that my story had slightly more detail, including players quoting Groh, with some claiming he screamed "the nation is watching a bunch of pathetic losers."

    For some reason, this one quote from a one-thousand-word story rift with specific details about Groh's outburst seemed to set off the Jets writers. For much of that day, in the pressroom, according to several people there (I was not present), it was a rip fest, and I was the main course. The ringleaders were Rich Cimini from the Daily News, Bob Glauber from Newsday, Mark Cannizzaro from the Post, Randy Lange from the Bergen Record and Barry Wilner from the Associated Press. The Jets writers have ripped me many times, as they did with the Lageman story, and when tales of their antics are reported back to me, it is normally easy to laugh things off as a bunch of childish rubbish.

    But this rant took on a more sinister tone. The writers decided among themselves that the quote was inaccurate and as a group, also decided they were going to get Groh to deny it, said several people who were present. Wilner even said, "I've had to chase a bunch of Times football stories. I think this is a good time to stick it to them for once." Getting a head coach or player to deny a controversial remark after they see it in print is about as difficult as making a ham sandwich, and Groh was all too happy to do so, as was center Kevin Mawae, the consummate team player. After Groh's denial, according to witnesses, some of the writers actually celebrated in the pressroom. "You would have thought they had just won the Pulitzer Prize," said one writer.

  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member


    Groh has refuted stories before. When the Times was the first newspaper to report the Jets were trying to trade Johnson, in the weeks following the story, Groh insisted the team had every intention of keeping him. Of course, that was a misleading statement. When reports surfaced that there was tension between Groh and some of the Jets veteran players like quarterback Vinny Testaverde over how he was running training camp practices, Groh, in an interview with WFAN radio, called those reports "total fiction." That statement was also deceptive.

    In the locker room that day, Jets writers ripped me to players. Glauber ripped me to Groh. And Wilner said in order to "zing" me he was going to write a wire story about Groh's denial. The main tenor of the writers was that I was unprofessional. Really? I have never, as Cimini has done, back stabbed writers to players (and not just me), or used the journalistic process to exact revenge on a player like Johnson who gave information to a competing newspaper but not to Cimini. I have not, as Glauber has done, gone on national radio and talked about how good friends he and Groh are.

    I guess Newsday readers won't see too many unbiased stories from Glauber about his coaching pal. (Several days after the Johnson trade news broke Glauber quoted Groh as saying the Jets wanted to keep Johnson.) I have never, as Glauber has done, made sexist comments, on at least two occasions, to women sportswriters. I heard one of those remarks firsthand. I have never, as Cannizzaro did, borrowed--that's the kind way to put it--a quote from the Times that Baltimore owner Art Modell gave solely to me, the first on-the-record confirmation of the Johnson trade talks. I could go on. And on.

    I called Wilner's supervisor at the Associated Press and asked for an explanation as to why a wire story was warranted over a disputed quote. An hour later, Dave Goldberg, one of the true pros in the business, called me back. "I want to apologize for the unprofessional behavior in the press room," Goldberg said.

    Could the real reason some on the Jets beat come after me and others on the paper with such venom be because they have applied for jobs at the Times--and been rejected? Or could it be, as many New York black writers have discussed privately for years, that white journalists here target blacks because of some crude belief that black writers do not deserve their jobs in the first place?

    None of this is meant to paint all of the Jets writers, or all writers in New York for that matter, with a broad stroke. There are dozens of New York journalists--some on the Jets beat--that possess large amounts of integrity. But there are still too many here unwilling to take responsibility for their own laziness or bitterness. In New York, problems between people are not worked out with a talk in the corner of the press box or a phone call. Immature conduct and nasty rumors from the shadows have replaced reasoned discourse.

    Mets pitcher Al Leiter said he does not find that dealing with the New York media is "like a root canal." No. More like a prostate exam. A longtime veteran of New York, speaking of the harsh fights between journalists, said recently, "I wish but for a small piece of civilization." Even if it lasted just a New York minute.

    --Mike Freeman New York Times

    The opinions expressed in letters are not necessarily those of Sportspages.com.
    Copyright ©2000 Sportspages.com
  4. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Stories like this make me wonder why anybody would ever want these jobs. The competition is tough enough to deal with, but having to constantly look over your shoulder at your "colleagues" has got to be a nightmare. Are a lot of major beats like this?
  5. dixiehack

    dixiehack Well-Known Member

    It's tamer than it used to be. Ask spnitned to tell you his stories from working the N.Y. Highlanders beat.
  6. leo1

    leo1 Active Member

    i remember reading it over and over back in 2000.

    reading it now, i wonder if freeman's subsequent uh, problems, mean this should be taken with a grain of salt. not that his problems were related at all to what he wrote about but it makes me question his judgment a little. i don't doubt that the general tenor of his rant is true though.

    i wonder if any NY beat writers can tell us if things are still this bad on the jets beat. shockey? anyone?
  7. chubster

    chubster Member

    What's the point of brining this up?
    Freeman debuts on SportsLine, and coincidentally this thread pops up?
  8. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Not that I need to explain, but yes, coincidentally, there was a discussion about this a week ago, regarding the origin of the board. I imagine Mike Freeman will somehow manage quite successfully at SportsLine, despite it being posted here.
  9. JME

    JME Member

    Man, that whiny column just reeks of running to tell the teacher.
  10. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    the jets beat is like every other in n.y. someone writes a story, it's your job to get it confirmed or denied. i've had to chase several freeman stories in my day. he nailed it sometimes, whiffed or wildly embellished some others.

    but his infamous, whining tirade on this board was a disgrace and did a disservice to those jets beat writers, who are some of the finest people -- forget journalists -- i have have been lucky enough to know.

    given freeman's resume embellishments, just consider the source here. thank you to whomever drudged up this six-year-old tirade. ??? ??? ???
  11. FreddiePatek

    FreddiePatek Active Member

    As for Freeman's column on CBS ...

    Leak plays in the South, in the SEC, and believe me, despite the influx of black quarterbacks in the conference, race is still a factor in both. Only naïve dupes or bamboozled fools don't know this. Part of the evidence of how race, at least partially, is relevant when it comes to Leak is how some Gators fans -- not all, just some -- treat Leak. He has an opportunity to break several significant school records by Danny Wuerffel, who is white, and there are Gators fans who hate the idea of a black thrower shattering the marks of a white Wuerffel.

    Yay! Another race angle! Leak's black! That's why no one in Florida loves him! Danny Wuerffel is the Babe to Leak's Bonds!

    What. Ever. I don't doubt there are racist folks out there. However, I dare say most Gator fans and Leak's detractors have other concerns about Leak than the color of his skin.
  12. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    typical freeman b.s. listen, i don't doubt there is stil racism vs. black qbs in the south. that's between freeman and gator fans.

    but leak isn't the golden child qb like brady quinn in the eyes of the nfl because leak is listed at 6-0, which makes it highly doubtful he's even that tall. quinn is a legit nfl prospect and helped resurrect the most storied college franchise ever. if he was black, he'd be every bit the man. typical play of the race card, littered thruout with assurances that not every gator fan is like this. just some. it's unassailable that way. cripes.

    but don't mind me. i've  just got an axe to grind, right?

    p.s. -- leak is espn.com's 11th-rated senior qb.
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