The Media Column: Patriots' unprecedented success in face of unprecedented scrutiny shows Kyrie Irving and David Price the press doesn't break up locker rooms

Alex Reimer
July 25, 2019 - 11:48 am
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So far this year, two of our biggest sports stars have launched petulant crusades against members of the media, blaming them for stoking division among teammates and spouting ad hominem attacks. An aggrieved Kyrie Irving dedicated his last act in Boston to lambasting the NBA press, from insulting cameramen to claiming sportswriters routinely break up locker rooms for kicks. 

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“People don’t realize on the outside that a lot of the things that are said get into the locker rooms,” Irving told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in February. “Like a lot of things that are put into headlines, get into the locker rooms. Media has broken up locker rooms. It’s been done before.”

Price, who’s always treated the Boston baseball writers with apparent scorn, tore into Dennis Eckersley last week for the second time in three summers –– all over the word “yuck” and a sharp no-comment in a Boston Globe Magazine profile. "Honestly, I just think it’s trash,” Price said to reporters about Eckersley. “He had an unbelievable career, 25 seasons and he’s a Hall of Famer. I saw his special on MLB Network. It was cool. The one thing that stood out to me was that he had zero former teammates in that interview. Not one talking about him. It was him talking about himself. If anybody ever does a special on me after baseball, I won’t need to go on that interview. I will have former teammates. I will have former coaches. They can all vouch for me. He didn’t have that. To me, that is all you need to know.”

Irving and Price’s irritability stands in stark contrast to the seeming indifference we’ll see expressed towards the press in Foxboro this week, where the defending Super Bowl champions withstand crisis and controversy every season. The Patriots show us the media absolutely does not break up locker rooms, or at least those that are capable of ignoring provocative headlines and talk radio caterwauling. 

Over the last six years, the Patriots have dealt with the following scandals, with one of them literally involving life and death: Aaron Hernandez getting convicted of first-degree murder and charged with double murder (before committing suicide in prison), Deflategate, Tom Brady’s very public rift with Bill Belichick, Brady, Belichick and Robert Kraft’s love affair with Donald Trump, Brady vs. Jimmy G, Alex Guerrero’s shady past, incessant Gronk retirement speculation, Malcolm Butler’s inexplicable Super Bowl benching, and Julian Edelman’s PED suspension. 

Yet, through this incredible stretch of turmoil, the Patriots have won three of four Super Bowls and reached the AFC championship every season. Brady shredded the Seahawks at the onset of Deflategate and completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history just months after serving his draconian four-game ban. 

Irving, meanwhile, couldn’t handle speculation about his free agency on Twitter. What a plight.

Even this offseason, which was relatively quiet in comparison to recent years, featured the owner getting charged with soliciting prostitution and the greatest tight end of all-time hanging up his cleats. De-facto general manager Nick Caserio also nearly bolted to the Texans, and oh yeah, Brady is in the last year of his deal. No progress has reportedly been made on an extension. 

“I am not going to talk about player contracts or any other contracts for that matter,” Belichick said Wednesday when asked about Brady’s situation. 

Hours later, the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian came out with a report suggesting Belichick is the one impeding the Brady negotiations. But the story is settled –– at least for now.

Belichick does not supply the media with any information unless it suits him, which is why he launched his full-blown “Mona Lisa Vito of footballs” defense at the onset of Deflategate and then proceeded to ignore reality surrounding Josh Gordon’s acquisition last year. But that doesn’t mean there’s a universal stranglehold on gossip emanating out of Fort Foxboro. Brady spoke candidly about his seeming displeasure with Belichick’s austerity, ruminating about lost conviction and pleading the fifth when asked about their relationship. A myriad of leaks came from Team Gronk over the years, including his well-known wavering about retirement. 

But the Patriots have been able to put all of the noise behind them when they take the field. Alex Guerrero wasn’t a topic last season at all, even though his status with the club dominated headlines for the better part of 10 months. 

By the end of the year, Brady and Belichick were once again embracing each other with the Lombardi Trophy in hand. Their spring and summer of discontent was nothing but a distant memory. 

No team in professional sports faces more scrutiny than the Patriots. They use the criticism to drive them, as they showed with their Rob Parker and Max Kellerman-heavy hype videos last postseason. 

As Price demonstrated last October, it is possible to reach great heights with rabbit ears. But year in and year out, the Patriots show media coverage is inconsequential when it comes to team performance. We are nothing but a boogeyman.

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Ortiz case will likely never be solved: The Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated each came out with extended exposes this week surrounding the David Ortiz shooting. Both publications concluded few Dominicans believe law enforcement’s mistaken identity theory, but failed to identify another plausible explanation for why Ortiz was shot in the back at close range in a Santo Domingo bar last month.

In the initial aftermath of the shooting, the Daily Mail and New York tabloids surfaced rumors, citing Dominican sources, about how Ortiz was carrying on an affair with a drug kingpin’s wife, model Maria Garcia, leading to the apparent assassination attempt. There is more than conjecture to the story: paperwork shows Ortiz purchased Garcia a luxury Lexus one day prior to the incident, and she was filmed getting into an altercation with members of Ortiz’s posse outside of his hospital room the night of the shooting. Garcia has admitted to being family friends with Ortiz. 

Weeks ago, Globe managing editor Jennifer Peter told me the paper doesn’t “report rumors,” and that its reporting on the matter was ongoing. Hohler’s piece, which primarily focuses on Ortiz’s past association with some shady characters, doesn’t offer much clarity in terms of the circumstances surrounding the attack.

“The doubters don’t have much to go on, in terms of evidence,” Hohler writes. “Instead, it comes down to a general distrust of the island nation’s law enforcement and to this question: How could perhaps the most unmistakable man in the Dominican be a victim of mistaken identity?”

Hohler declined an interview request about his story.

SI’s Danny Gold went a bit further, describing the infamous hospital tape involving Garcia, but not naming her. “A video would later emerge of a woman getting into a screaming match in the lobby, leading to rumors of a love triangle,” he writes.

Gold also contacted one of the island’s most notorious drug peddlers, Cesar El Abusador, who told him on Instagram “everything has been cleared up.”

Given the corruption of Dominican law enforcement, and their apparent propensity to protect star baseball players and drug kingpins, it’s hard to see where the reporting on the Ortiz case goes from here. There are lots of interests to serve, and getting to the truth seems to be relatively low on the list.

Globe’s Pete Abraham turns on Red Sox: Pete Abraham, who once called one of Price’s critics a “Klan member” on Twitter, doesn’t seem to be waving the pom poms for the hometown nine this summer. The Globe’s beat guy has taken a noticeably critical stance against the Sox in recent weeks, with columns suggesting they should undergo a massive fire sale and dismissing their chances of World Series contention.

Wednesday's game story, for example, contained this line about the importance of the Sox’ upcoming jumbo-set against the vaunted Yankees: “The standings tell you the Red Sox are very much in contention for a wild-card playoff spot. But nothing about their season to date suggests a satisfying outcome.”

Ouch.

Earlier this week, Abraham declared that “even if the Red Sox make the playoffs, they won’t be there for long.”

When a plugged-in beat guy like Abraham –– who also works for John Henry’s paper –– goes overtly negative, it’s worth paying attention. There could be a forthcoming cavalcade of stories about this dysfunctional club, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Pete Abe authored some of them.

Mut shoulders on: Count me as somebody who is eagerly anticipating Mike Mutnansky’s return to nights, and that’s not just because he’s now my Mon-Fri savior at the station. The Mut Man had his first show Wednesday since his demotion from morning drive, and carried himself with aplomb. As he said in his opening monologue, we all experience disappointment with our jobs, and we have a choice to either sulk or move forward.

Here’s hoping for an extended run of success for “Mut at Night,” and a return of the beloved “Planet Monkey” theme song. 

Related: The Media Column: David Price, and only David Price, is to blame for rebirth of ridiculous one-way feud with Dennis Eckersley