Callum Borchers' Blog

Sociologically significant sports (and class assignments)

Posts Tagged ‘football

Tighe-ing up a legendary career

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Written by callumborchers

November 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

Vick’s success ignites war between sentiment, sensibility

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Michael Vick has resurrected his career after spending 21 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring.

As I drove home from class last night with Kevin Harlan chronicling Michael Vick’s unprecedented football exploits on my radio, my sentiments were at war with my sensibilities. The Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback staged one of the greatest gridiron shows of all time: 333 passing yards, 80 rushing yards and 6 total touchdowns in a 59-28 win over the Washington Redskins. No QB had ever before passed for 300 yards and four scores, and run for 50 yards and two TDs in a single game.

The NBA is not the only place where amazing happens.

Nor, of course, is it the only place where bad behavior happens, and Vick’s transgressions are among the most despicable in recent sports memory. Then the NFL’s highest-paid player, Vick pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal dogfighting charges and spent 21 months in prison. The details of his animal cruelty remain gruesome memories for me and, I’m certain, many others.

When the longtime Atlanta Falcons quarterback made his comeback with the Eagles last season, there was some debate about whether he deserved a second chance or eternal condemnation. But, to be honest, I didn’t contemplate my own feelings toward Vick because he was virtually invisible, standing on the Philly sideline as Donovan McNabb’s backup.

His position seemed the perfect compromise: back in the league, but well below his former status.

Now, Vick is playing as well as anyone in the NFL and has led his team to a first-place tie atop the NFC East. He might be better than ever. And now, I have to decide whether to cheer or boo, whether to hope he earns a new contract this offseason or winds up balling for the Omaha Nighthawks.

Ignoring Vick is no longer an option.

At the moment, I’m in the cheer-for-Michael-Vick-in-the-game-of-life camp. I hope he’s genuine when he says he’s a changed man, though I’m skeptical when I read about shootings at birthday parties.

But I’m still not sure whether I can cheer for Michael Vick in the game of football. After last night, I really need to make up my mind.

Written by callumborchers

November 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Newton story brings out best and worst in comments

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No ongoing sports story has generated more comment fodder than that about alleged recruiting violations surrounding Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. A Mississippi State booster and other sources claim the junior’s father Cecil Newton solicited money from that school during his recruitment last year. Cam Newton spent two years at Florida as Tim Tebow’s backup then transferred to a junior college in Texas. Auburn and Mississippi State were Newton’s top two choices when he planned to return to FBS, and his father allegedly demanded $100,000-$180,000 from the latter. There have been no substantiated reports about a payment by Auburn, which Newton has lead to an 11-0 record and No. 2 BCS ranking.

This story involves a black quarterback, lots of money, and SEC football — three components sure to elicit the best and worst in online commenting., of course, boasts some of the fullest comment fields on the Web. A Newton article it posted last Thursday drew 3,857 published responses, for instance. To my pleasant surprise (As a rule, I completely ignore comments, so I’m unfamiliar with the environment of even my favorite sports site), the content — if not the grammar, syntax or punctuation — of the dialogue was pretty reasonable. Readers engaged one another in legitimate debates about Newton’s knowledge of his father’s alleged solicitation of money, Newton’s Heisman Trophy candidacy, whether Auburn might have to vacate wins, and other related topics.

Some readers wrote several hundred words at a time and included not only their own opinions but also material from other publications. Many of the posts were critical — of Newton, his father, the schools, the NCAA, and even ESPN — but none I read were hateful. Readers are required to register with before they can comment, and they can report message board abuse by their peers to the Web site. The system seems to work, fostering legitimate conversations among readers.

By contrast, the SEC Rant message board at fosters brain disease. The Tigers referenced in the site’s name are the LSU, not Auburn, breed, so naturally most of the comments weren’t terribly supportive of Newton. One post simply read, “Death Penalty!” and one commenter goes by the screen name CoonassBulldog.

As best I can tell, anything goes on this site.

As mentioned, I am not a fan of comments, in general. I believe they hold very little value and are often nothing but anonymous, venemous nonsense. However, I recognize many people do read and participate in message boards, and the sense of Web site  ownership engendered by interactivity constitutes just enough value to make comments indispensible. I think a news organization that returns to one-way communication by eliminating comments altogether risks alienating readers.

Therefore, the best way to maintain two-way communication but prevent digital depravity is to require commenters to use their real names. An outlet with tremendous resources, like, might pull off anonymity, but I doubt the ability of most others to do the same.

Written by callumborchers

November 15, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Live Tweeting helped me, if no one else

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Gotta admit, I kinda liked it. On Saturday afternoon, I live Tweeted the fourth quarter of a high school football game between Newton North and Norwood on my cell phone, and I must say that the stream of Tweets I generated proved to be extremely valuable — to me.

I can’t imagine anyone else was following my feed, partly because I didn’t tell the Newton TAB, for which I was writing a game story, about my Tweeting; and partly because people who really care about high school sports typically attend events themselves.

However, reviewing my own Tweets did help me write the article. The clarity of text on a screen beats that of my handwriting on a notepad every time, and it is very possible that I am a faster typer — even on a cell phone keypad — than I am scribbler.

For selfish reasons alone, I actually might do this again in the near future.

But, of course, we don’t Tweet for ourselves, so the question is What value does live Tweeting hold for readers? Well, I think that for big games — say, Thanksgiving or playoffs — there might be an audience, even at the high school level.

For instance, I spent Friday night at a family get-together that included my 16-year-old sister-in-law. She goes to Medway High School, whose football team was hosting Westwood that evening in a battle between two of the four teams tied atop the Tri-Valley League. She couldn’t attend the game in person, so a friend texted updates throughout.

It wasn’t Twitter, but it was the same thing — a game-goer using a cell phone to keep another fan in the loop. Pretty cool stuff.

So, it appears some people might use a Twitter service like the one with which I experimented Saturday. And, if not, at least I will.

Written by callumborchers

November 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Delving into Deadspin

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It’s certainly not journalism, but in the world of sports media, its influence is undeniable. I’m talking about Deadspin, the irreverent, rumor-laden website owned by Gawker Media that thrust itself into mainstream consciousness this month when it reported that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had sexted a New York Jets game hostess when he played for that team in 2008.

According to the report, Favre sent unsolicited photographs of his genitals to Jenn Sterger’s cell phone and also left inappropriate voicemails for the former model. Deadspin’s story prompted not only extensive coverage by other outlets but also an investigation by the NFL, which is still ongoing.

It is the Favre saga that compelled me to learn more about Deadspin for a class assignment. I was introduced to Deadspin in the summer of 2006, when I was an intern at The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show on WEEI. Those guys loved the site, which was only a year old at the time. I know other sports reporters who read it religiously, but I’ve never been a regular follower. I’m just not into its tabloid-style.

But, like it or not, I cannot ignore Deadspin. The site averages 1.2 million visits per day, according to It drew more than 5 million visits on Oct. 7, the day it broke the Favre story, and more than 7 million the following day.

To its credit, Deadspin doesn’t purport to adhere to journalistic standards. Site editor AJ Daulerio told The New York Daily News that his site paid a source — not Sterger — for the photos and voicemails. And, yesterday, Daulerio authored a post about the Deadspin Sources’ Gold Club that would make an ethics professor weep.

“In exchange for their consistent dispensing of useful and accurate information, they become, in some ways, privileged figures in the Deadspin universe,” Daulerio wrote. “… Any tips or gossip related to them (or their friends) will be shared with them first before they hit the site in any full-blown capacity. For example, if we receive a photo of a Gold Club member (or acquaintance) drunk in a bar, or maybe an accusation of office rumpy-pumpy or of noteworthy drug use or something worse, he or she will be informed and will have the opportunity to respond, and in some cases the item will be dropped altogether.”

Awful, but honest.

Deadspin’s approach allows it to acquire and publish information that traditional news agencies couldn’t and wouldn’t. And, I must admit there is some value to its work. While I can’t condone the manner in which Deadspin collected Favre’s photos and voicemails, I believe the story those materials produced — a superstar athlete exploiting his position to sexually harass a young woman — is newsworthy.

It’s not the sort of writing I’d like to practice — or even consume on a regular basis — but I can’t deny Deadspin is both fascinating and important in today’s media climate.

Written by callumborchers

October 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Moss coverage not as unfair as receiver predicted

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What Randy Moss said in his postgame press conference Sunday, after the Patriots opened the season with a 38-24 win over the Bengals, was wrong. Not what he said about his desire for a new contract before his current, three-year, $27 million deal expires at the end of the season; not what he said about feeling unappreciated by team ownership. I’m talking about his prediction that sports reporters would pillory him for his complaints.

Moss’ statements included generalizations like “anything that I may say will get blown out of proportion” and “anything that I say is going to get spun around.” The seven-time Pro Bowl receiver passed judgment on the coverage of his comments before the stories were written—before his comments were even completed, in fact.

Certainly, some media members fulfilled Moss’ prophecy. Those of us listening to the Pats’ postgame show on 98.5 The Sports Hub heard host Gary Tanguay characterize the presser as “idiotic” only moments after it ended.

But while preparing this post, which I planned as a counter-current defense of Moss, I discovered the current is, in fact, not flowing as strongly against the star as he forecast.

Ron Borges of The Boston Herald wrote Moss may be “the last honest man in pro football.” “Not many Americans like the truth anymore because it’s often inconvenient,” Borges added. “It’s not a cartoon or a simplistic homily. It’s not black or white. It’s complicated, nuanced, seldom what you think it is. That is especially true in pro sports, as Moss made clear.”’s Jackie MacMullan penned a critical column, but managed to appreciate Moss’ candor, even as she objected to what she deemed poor timing and lack of tact.

“It’s called diplomacy, and it must have been a course that Moss skipped during his lengthy NFL education,” she wrote. “Give the man points for being honest, but then subtract almost as many for making it all about No. 81 on a day when [Wes] Welker completed an unfathomable comeback from a career-threatening knee injury to catch two touchdown passes.”

And Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe, though he dedicated much of today’s column to the inconsistencies between Moss’ personal and professional rhetoric, opened the piece by writing, “Randy Moss will forever be inscrutable. I don’t have a problem with that. Do you?”

No, I don’t. And, it turns out, neither do many reporters. So my biggest beef with Moss is that he condemned sportscasters and writers for the universal spinning and blowing-out-of-proportion he was certain would follow when, in truth, their analysis has been quite thoughtful and fair.

Written by callumborchers

September 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm