Thursday, May 8, 2008

No Means No, Mr. Kenny

We're loathe to pile on ESPN, as there are plenty of other blogs out there already dedicated to ESPN bashing, and most of which are better written than this one. That said, we would be doing a disservice to humanity if we failed to note the "interview" of Chris Mortensen by Brian Kenny that ran during the 6:00 P.M. eastern SportsCenter on Thursday. The interview concerned the report that former New England Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh has provided the NFL with additional videotapes of opponents' signals.

To us, the interview and evinces either a mindless determination by Kenny to continue hyping the story in the face of Mortensen's calm recitation of the facts, or a signal failure by an ESPN intern to brief Kenny on anything resembling the factual background of the story. Either way the interview looked like it killed whatever was left of Mortensen's respect for his employer.

Serious notes before we begin: What follows is a partial transcript of the interview. It includes everything but the last part of the last answer by Mortensen, which related to league rule changes and which we cut to save space. We have not otherwise altered the content of the transcript. However, as with any transcript, other listeners might have differently chosen to punctuate or add indications of emphasis or parenthetical clarifications.

It's lengthy, but hang in there. As an incentive, we'll do before and after shots of the increasingly beleaguered Mortensen. Here's the before, with Mort looking wary, but resolute:

Brian Kenny: We're joined now by our own Chris Mortensen. Mort, Commissioner Roger Gooddell had said that he could consider further punishment against the Patriots. These are [tapes of] different games, and there's film now of offensive and defensive signals--is this enough now to open it up?

Chris Mortensen: No. Not based on what we know from the letter of certification Matt Walsh's attorney sent the league. The tapes are now in the league's offices . . . league hands, being reviewed.

But we need to go back and maybe make sure chronologically that we understand that, number 1, the NFL always had information that this taping took place back through 2000. There's no new revelation there. And if you go back to the September 13th release when Belichick was penalized as well as the Patriots, you will see in there that it covers offensive and defensive signals.

So, therefore, unless Matt Walsh has some new testimony that he can corroborate outside of these tapes, there's no new information. And let's don't forget that Belichick admitted to the commissioner that he had been doing this since he'd been in New England.

BK: Going back to 2000, then?

CM: Absolutely, yeah. We reported it. We reported that first week of Spygate that Belichick had admitted that. So, that's not necessarily . . . that's not a new revelation.

BK: Mort, how will the teams that were taped--especially the Steelers, in a conference championship game--take all this?

CM: Well, again, when Commissioner Gooddell met with Arlen Specter, the senator from Pennsylvania, he briefed him on on what were in the notes in addition to the tapes they had, because the notes dated back to 2000, and in those notes, as Gooddell told Specter in their meeting, it included these Pittsburgh Steeler AFC Championship games in '01 and '04. The Boston Globe reported that on February 16th, and then Dan Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steeler's owner and chairman of their board released a statement saying 'there is nothing in the tapes of our coaching signals that would have an impact on the games, and it is no issue with us.'

So, so far I'd say all that damage control has been done.

BK: Walsh says he does not have the Rams 2002 Super Bowl walkthrough tape--that's a potential smoking gun that's been reported out there. Do you think it wasn't done, or that Walsh doesn't have a tape of it, because Walsh hasn't spoken to the commissioner yet.

CM: Well, let's also remember that the only report concerning the Rams' walkthrough, Matt Walsh was never named as the guy who allegedly videotaped it. And he's never said he's had it, and I think that's one thing commissioner Gooddell really wants to speak with [Walsh] about on Tuesday is, OK, even though you were identified, this thing lingered out there a couple of months, why didn't you clarify this, why did you let this thing linger?

And so, if Walsh has information, and he can identify another videotape assistant who videotaped that Rams walkthrough, that'd be one thing. But right now there's no evidence there is such a videotape.

BK: Mort, does this change anything though around the league as far as how Bill Belichick should be viewed, now that there's this hard evidence on precisely what they were doing and it's a pattern that goes back to 2000?

CM: Not around--it doesn't change the perception around the league; everyone knows Belichick's been doing--he admitted that he'd been doing it. [Remainder of answer cut for length.]

* * *

Gee whiz, Brian, you think maybe there's no story here? Christ. Did Belichick sleep with his wife as well? Kenny better hope that Buzz Bissinger doesn't get hold of this transcript, or he's likely to bite off Kenny's ear. In any event, somebody should put Mortensen on a suicide alert--here's the "after" shot:

We all feel you, Mort. Drinks on us next time you make it out Gowanus way.

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