Wednesday, February 15, 2012

6 comments The Anatomy of an Apology of Sorts

I feel like I have become one of the official Tom Brady apologists out here on the ol' Interwebs. I have defended him from being called overrated a few times on this blog. I still feel he isn't overrated and I don't really blame him necessarily for the Patriots loss in Super Bowl 46. Sure, some of the blame falls on him, but I don't think we can point all the blame on him. I was going to cover Eric Wilbur's angry message board-type rant about the Patriots loss, but I noticed by the time I had a chance to start writing about it there had been several other developments. Wilbur wrote the article, the day next day stood by the story and then the day after that he apologized for it. So apparently he is sorry, though I don't know for what exactly. He wrote a shitty column, he didn't commit a crime of any sort, but he apologized the day after he wrote the column. Color me confused. Let's look at the original column, the "standing by my story" comments and then the somewhat forced apology seemingly made so people would quit emailing him about how bad he sucks.

This column is written about on par with a message board rant. Wilbur states he was trying to mirror the emotions of a Patriots fan in writing this. I'm not sure what holding a mirror up to the Patriots fan base would accomplish, but that's neither here nor there. What we do learn is the loss was mostly Tom Brady's fault. This screed was written on February 5th.

Sorry, Tommy Boy, this one's on you. Your hideous performance led to the Giants' 21-17 Super Bowl title win. How embarrassing for your coach, your teammates, and your fans.

Tom Brady's line from the three Patriot victories compared to his line from Super Bowl 46:

2001 Super Bowl: 16-27 for 145 yards, 1 TD, 86.2 rating.
2003 Super Bowl: 32-48 for 345 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 100.5 rating.
2004 Super Bowl: 23-33 for 236 yards, 2 TD, 110.2 rating.
2011 Super Bowl (Super Bowl 46): 27-41 for 276 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 91.1 rating.

You can clearly see his hideous performance in Super Bowl 46 wasn't too different from his other hideous performances in the three Super Bowls the Patriots managed to win.

It was one thing when you led the game off with a safety, which surely put plenty of faith into the heart of Patriot Nation, but just when you have the game, just when you might be able to run off the clock, you huck the thing downfield.

I will say again...I take Gronkowski over Blackburn in that situation. Was it a great decision by Brady? No, it wasn't. It also wasn't the primary reason the Patriots lost the game. Brady took a chance and it didn't pay off. If Manning's pass to Manningham down the sidelines had gotten intercepted everyone would be asking how he could throw into double coverage along the sidelines like he did.

fans will place the blame either way, but what happened to being safe in that situation? What happened to the Patriot Way and clock management?

The Patriots, at least from my point of view, aren't known for playing it safe and running the ball down team's throats. You have Tom Brady as your quarterback, have him throw the ball and trust him to do this well.

What an embarrassment for the Patriots organization and Bob Kraft.

Yes, losing the Super Bowl with the 31st ranked defense by four points to a team that beat you earlier in the year is the height of embarrassing. I don't see how a Super Bowl loss by four points is in any way embarrassing.

So now the Giants have taken Lombardi from you twice, and you haven't looked this bad in a playoff game since...well, two weeks ago against the Ravens.

That playoff game where the Patriots looked bad was against the Ravens. This win caused them to make it to the Super Bowl. Let's not act like an entitled brat. Whining the Patriots looked bad in the AFC Championship Game, a game they won, is acting entitled.

The Patriots haven't won a title in seven years,

Seven years! You are such a cursed city! Get Dan Shaughnessy and Bill Simmons writing articles about this immediately!

Even if Wilbur is trying to write like the Patriots fans think, this is obnoxious. The Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl in seven years? That's his complaint? There are teams that haven't made the playoffs in seven years, much less whined like an entitled brat the local team hasn't won a Super Bowl in that time.

but even worse, they're now turning into the Buffalo Bills, with the Giants being their Cowboy daddy.

Buffalo got pretty well beat in three of their Super Bowl appearances and never won one. The Patriots have been competitive in the last two Super Bowls they lost. They aren't the Buffalo Bills.

But, there you are, Tom. That's what you have become. Your legacy has been stamped, but you're turning your Joe Montana status into one of Jim Kelly.

Jim Kelly: 0-4 in Super Bowls.

Tom Brady: 3-2 in Super Bowls. Brady is exactly like Jim Kelly, if Jim Kelly had won three Super Bowls.

Granted. But when you begin the game with such a boneheaded play, then proceed to make random mistakes, sorry, Tom, game is on you.

I don't know if Brady's safety was a boneheaded play. Brady isn't the most mobile guy and if he had gotten sacked by Justin Tuck then the Giants would have had a safety anyway. So Brady threw the ball to an open area and hoped intentional grounding wasn't called. There weren't too many other options other than to escape the pocket and throw the ball out of bounds. Sure, maybe he should have been more decisive with the football, but that area of the field is where a quarterback has to be careful not to throw an interception.

These "random mistakes," I don't really get what those are. Maybe Brady was inaccurate on some passes, but I'm a little confused as to what other "random mistakes" he made during the game.

Welker was the closest thing to Asante, and the eeriness compared to the Tyree play will be discussed for decades to come.

Yes, the eerie comparison between a fourth down play which resulted in a receiver catching a ball on his helmet with a defender draped all over him and a second down play where a receiver drops a pass thrown a little behind him while he was wide open. They were pretty much the same play as long as you ignore all of the differences.

Tom, it's not all your fault, but you're the poster boy, you had opportunities, and you failed to make them. Add to that your blunders, and it all becomes about you.

The Giants didn't win the game. Tom Brady lost the game.

You denied your coach No. 4. You let down your teammates.

You aren't a real Patriot either! Ever since you married Gisele you are too focused on anything but football!

Eli and Peyton now have as many rings as you combined over the past five years.

That's right. Two Hall of Fame caliber quarterbacks have as many Super Bowl titles COMBINED as Tom Brady has. Clearly, Brady is a huge bum.

You haven't sniffed one in seven. How's that hit you?

I would say going to two Super Bowls over that seven year span is sniffing a Super Bowl, but what do I know? I'm not a reactionary sportswriter/fan.

Maybe it doesn't hit you as hard anymore, and maybe that's the problem.


The safety killed the Patriots. Killed them.

Because the game was over at that point in the first quarter and the Patriots had no chances to come back during the game. It's not like the Giants fumbled the ball three times, any Patriots dropped passes during the game nor was Tom Brady under any type of pressure when he threw the ball which drew the intentional grounding call.

And there's nobody to blame but Tom Brady.

Absolutely, the offensive line isn't at fault for not blocking. The Patriots receivers aren't responsible for not getting open. The Patriots coaching staff isn't responsible for calling a passing play that close to the goal line which resulted in no players being open. It's all on Tom Brady. The same Tom Brady that completed 16 straight passes at one point in the Super Bowl.

However hard it might be to swallow, the glory days are gone.

The Patriots will have a hard time finding any talent in this upcoming draft with only two 1st and 2nd round picks. It's all over. The Patriots only made the Super Bowl this year and are in a position to only get 1-2 impact players in the upcoming draft.

Even Montana handed off to Mallett at some point, right?

Joe Montana never handed off to Ryan Mallett. Burn! Also, the indication that Tom Brady should hand off his starting quarterback job to the backup is so stupid it doesn't even merit a response.

Then in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub, Eric Wilbur stood by his story. This was on February 6th. Wilbur still seemed defiant and stood by what he wrote. All indications are that he didn't write a knee-jerk article and really believed what he wrote. He apologized a day later in a column, but does it sound like 24 hours earlier he regretted what he wrote?

Why he thinks so many people were upset with his column:

“I guess because I dared criticize the god of New England. If he had won that game we would’ve lauded him as the greatest quarterback ever so if he messes up in the game and loses it why can’t he take some of the poison? It seems like fans can’t admit that.”

If Brady had won that game I would not have lauded him as the greatest quarterback ever. What Wilbur is doing here is proving a fake argument wrong and only looking at the extremes. If you believe Wilbur, his article was him giving Brady some of the poison for the loss. That's not what the article was though. Of course Brady is somewhat responsible for the loss, but the article put the loss nearly completely on Tom Brady. That's not "some" of the poison, that's nearly all of the poison.

If he still believes what he wrote last night now that he has had some time to sit back and reflect on it:

“I still believe it.

He would issue a mea culpa 24 hours later. So was he forced to issue the mea culpa, really had a change of heart or just issued the apology to get the fans off his back?

There were a lot of people saying ‘you know sleep on this and you’re going to look bad in the morning.’ It was a little over-the-top and I admit that but I think that was purposely so just because like I said if he would’ve won the game it would’ve been ‘oh Tom Brady’ so you know what? Let him get a little bit of the criticism. I guess that’s what people don’t get. It was a little over-the-top and purposely so but then again you don’t understand Vancouver writers either so.”

Not to mention the article got Eric Wilbur in the national discussion. How great is that for him?

Again, he fails to understand what his own article was saying. It wasn't placing a little criticism on Brady. It was placing nearly all of the blame for the Patriots loss on Brady. Remember this part?

Tom, it's not all your fault, but you're the poster boy, you had opportunities, and you failed to make them. Add to that your blunders, and it all becomes about you.

Or this part?

Sorry, Tommy Boy, this one's on you. Your hideous performance led to the Giants' 21-17 Super Bowl title win. How embarrassing for your coach, your teammates, and your fans.

So the article wasn't giving Brady some of the blame, but giving him nearly all of the blame and repeatedly saying the loss was on him.

Whether or not he thinks Welker should’ve made the catch:

“The pass was bad but he should’ve had it. I think the most egregious play was the interception that Brady threw. It was ill-advised, it’s not what they would do in the past in that situation, and was a real head-scratcher.”

Was it an ill-advised throw? Probably. Gronkowski usually gets that jump ball and it wasn't like Brady threw the ball directly to a Giants defender. It was an ill-advised gamble that didn't pay off.

So it doesn't seem Eric Wilbur really feels differently about what he had written the night before. Notice there isn't a mention of him trying to write like Pats fans think in this excerpt from the radio interview. This reasoning for the article being written magically appears in Wilbur's mea culpa as to what his aim in writing the article truly was. Speaking of mea culpa, on February 7th Wilbur writes a column where he suddenly realizes the error of his ways. It's entitled "Uncle." I see four reasons Wilbur would write his original article, back up what he was saying in a radio interview a day later and then the day after that appear to change his mind.

1. He really did think what he wrote was wrong and after a time of reflection on what was written thought he was being a tad harsh.

2. Wilbur's article had served the purpose it was intended to. It got his name in the national discussion, got him some radio interviews, and got his columns some press. So it was time to not make himself look like a huge asshole.

3. His editors asked that he issue a mea culpa. I hope this didn't happen.

4. Wilbur really isn't issuing a mea culpa, but he believes if he says he was somewhat wrong everyone will get off his back.

To the hundreds that have demanded my immediate dismissal, the fan who hoped I got clipped by the Green Line, and even the Neanderthal who wished cancer upon me, I issue a mea culpa.

Clearly, I never intended Sunday night's column, written in the immediate aftermath of the Patriots' loss in Super Bowl XLVI, to garner quite the widespread attention - and negativity - it happened to find over the course of the next 24 hours.

Because thrashing the local starting quarterback immediately after he performed slightly above average in the Super Bowl is sure to avoid any type of attention. Where did all this negativity come from? All he did was write a screed about how Tom Brady should give way to Ryan Mallett, blamed the entire loss on Brady and compared Brady to a quarterback who never won a Super Bowl in four tries. Where's the controversy?

As I've tried to convey, perhaps with illustrious failure, the over-the-top tone of the piece was intentional, meant to convey the frustration that Patriots fans had to be feeling after the crushing loss to the Giants.

So it was meant as a parody of Patriots fans? Consider your attempt at hilarity and satire to have fallen short of its goal then, which I am sure Wilbur is aware of at this point.

The biggest problem I find with this excuse is that nowhere in the article did Wilbur talk about Patriots fans or any of their feelings after the loss. Nowhere in the article did Wilbur feature any of the anger directed at the Patriots defense, Wes Welker or the bad luck of Rob Gronkowski being injured. I could probably accept this excuse if anything but how this game was all Tom Brady's fault had been mentioned. Since only Brady was mentioned, I can't believe it was meant to convey the frustrations of Patriots fans. I'm guessing Patriots fans would have more angry over other aspects of the loss, rather than just focused on Brady's performance solely.

I intended to write something while the emotions were still bubbling, creating a destination where Pats fans could vent their own frustrations over another devastating Super Bowl loss.

There are so many other various places Pats fans can go to vent their frustrations. This is weak. Also, you just wrote "another devastating Super Bowl loss." Cry me a river and stop acting like the Patriots are entitled to win a Super Bowl every four years.

I still think Tom Brady was most at fault for the loss, but it wasn't directly because of the safety as I noted.

Granted, it did lead to forcing the defense on the field for most of the first quarter, but it wasn't the quarterback who happened to be the 12th man on the field.

The day before Wilbur said he knew what he wrote was over the top, but he stood by it. Now, he is mealy-mouthing his way around not fully blaming Brady anymore.

But rational thinking doesn't come to head in such a moment, and frankly, that was my intention; to present the knee-jerk reactions of what the fan base had to be feeling at that very moment.

Even if this was the intentions of Eric Wilbur, which I don't necessarily believe, why didn't he put any blame in the column on Welker for not making the catch or for Belichick for challenging the catch by Manningham on the sidelines? I'm not saying these two plays caused the Pats to lose, but why only blame Tom Brady and then insinuate Ryan Mallett should take over as the starter? Did Wilbur not believe any of the Pats fan base would blame Welker or blame the coaching staff for having 12 men on the field? How about the Pats fan base being upset the team couldn't recover a Giants fumble? Wouldn't that be a part of the knee-jerk reaction? The original article was way too focused on Brady's shortcomings for me to believe it was supposed to represent the reaction of the Pats fan base.

As it turned out, there was little anger directed toward the Patriots. Disappointment, yes, but the anger was at a minimum.

There was little anger because the Patriots lost a close game and didn't play terribly in the loss.

That, apparently, was reserved for me.

When you pin the blame solely on a player who should not have the blame pinned solely upon him, these things tend to happen.

As many Twitter commenters noted, my avatar's four picks in a Super Bowl is embarrassing, to which I say, "Lay off Drew." But that's a debate for another time.

Lay off Drew Bledsoe, who threw four interceptions in one Super Bowl, but let's blame Tom Brady for throwing one interception in a Super Bowl game. Makes sense to me.

It was an intentional, heat-of-the-moment analysis that did not work.

Come on. This wasn't even analysis. It was an angry message board screed. It was heat-of-the-moment, but I fail to see what kind of analysis involved comparing Brady to Jim Kelly. Even though Wilbur takes this comparison back, he still characterizes this as analysis, which it isn't.

Tom Brady is not Jim Kelly. At worst, he's John Elway in reverse, but the story has yet to be completed.

Except John Elway's teams got blown out in the Super Bowl, while Tom Brady's team lost two Super Bowls that came down to the final minute.

The erroneous blame I laid on Brady was a commentary that wasn't fully-flushed out, and thus immensely unsuccessful.

So far the article has been described as intending to be a reflection of the feelings Pats fans were feeling at the time, an analysis of Tom Brady's performance and now is being characterized as a commentary on Tom Brady. I'm not sure it can be all of those things. Specifically, if the article was intended to be a heat-of-the-moment reflection of the feelings Pats fans had at the time, I'm not sure how it can also be called an analysis of his performance.

If the Patriots had won the game, the initial reaction would have been that Brady is now Montana, that he had joined the ranks - like he hadn't already - of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. He would have graced Sports Illustrated (again), gone to Disney World as the MVP, and sat in the Letterman chair occupied by Eli Manning last night.

And the Patriots didn't win, so Brady gets some blame.

But when they lose, everyone labels it a "team game."

You can't have it both ways.

Here Wilbur goes with this "everyone" argument again. He seems to enjoy characterizing a point of view that supports his contention as a point of view "everyone" holds. Quarterbacks usually get too much credit for a win and too much blame for a loss. No one is arguing the loss wasn't some of Brady's fault, but to go to the extent Wilbur did to blame Brady was a bit overboard.

In a rush to present a forum, I incredibly misjudged the audience, and that is my most crippling error.

It was a pretty short article. I'm a little confused how it could have served as a forum for the frustration of Pats fans, an analysis of Brady's performance, as well as a commentary. It certainly didn't come off as anything but the venting of a frustrated fan.

So, to the fans who called me one step below Skip Bayless (gulp),

Eric Wilbur wrote one bad article. Let's not get into calling him vile names that can't be taken back or forgotten.

Spring training starts next week, though I can't promise many gumdrops and rainbows about the Sox. I'll apologize for that now, too.

I can't wait for the first "Every Red Sox loss in the month of April was the fault of Adrian Gonzalez" article.

So what do you think? Think Wilbur regrets the article and his intention was to provide a commentary or a forum for Pats fans to vent? I think he probably regrets writing it, but it wasn't intended as a commentary, and he only regrets the response the article got and not what he wrote.


rich said...

Wilbur states he was trying to mirror the emotions of a Patriots fan in writing this.

If you're going with the stereotypical Bill Simmons clone, then a stupid, pedantic article is perfect.

If you're going with the reasonable, understands the sport fan... no.

How embarrassing for your coach, your teammates, and your fans.

Brady broke the NFL record for consecutive completions and still they were winning despite key drops in the second half by Hernandez, Welker and Branch (two).

Blame the defense for letting the Giants roll down the field with ease if you're going after someone.

So now the Giants have taken Lombardi from you twice

Arrogance at its finest. The Giants didn't take the trophy away from the Patriots because the Patriots didn't have the trophy to begin with. Especially considering this SB the pundits were actually picking the Giants to win.

even worse, they're now turning into the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo had 4 Super Bowl appearances in a row and lost all four.

The Patriots have had 5 appearances over a decade and won 3...

So they're not like the Bills at all.

But when you begin the game with such a boneheaded play, then proceed to make random mistakes, sorry, Tom, game is on you.

The safety call was the right one, but if you listen to the audio he told O'Brien that he threw it over the receiver to not throw a pick, which is actually a smart decision, just poorly executed.

And the safety didn't really matter all that much considering they had a 9 point lead after their first drive of the second half.

You denied your coach No. 4. You let down your teammates.

Belicheck already has four rings. He got one with the Giants as an assistant.

And how many rings does Belicheck have without Brady?

The safety killed the Patriots. Killed them.

Except for the fact the Patriots were winning at half-time until the 1 minute mark of the fourth and ended up losing by 4.

But he's right, that safety killed them.

Even Montana handed off to Mallett at some point, right?

Montana was never replaced, but was traded and led the Chiefs to the playoffs twice and to the AFC Championship game.

So basically this comparison works to prove that Brady is actually really good.

The biggest problem I find with this excuse is that nowhere in the article did Wilbur talk about Patriots fans or any of their feelings after the loss.

When you combine this with the fact that he stood behind it the next day shows how full of it he is.

You don't write a satire piece, then back it as a serious piece the next day and then flop and say it was satire. If it was truly meant the way he said it was, then he would have said that the first time and not the second.

Murray said...

2. Wilbur's article had served the purpose it was intended to. It got his name in the national discussion, got him some radio interviews, and got his columns some press. So it was time to not make himself look like a huge asshole.


Murray said...

That's the state of the Boston media at this point. They openly root against the Patriots and are downright hostile toward the fanbase

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, the defense won't get blamed for not making a stop when they needed one b/c it is understood Brady and the offense are expected to carry the team. At least that's what I think. Otherwise, I don't see why the Pats defense or the other drops from the Pats receivers don't get more focus.

I don't live in the Boston area, but going into the game I think it is assumed the Patriots will win the game, so there is nowhere to go but down. The Pats lose, the Giants stole the trophy that was rightfully New England's. The Pats win, well that was expected. It is a bit of arrogance.

On that safety call, it should have been intentional grounding, but I think it was clear what Brady was trying to do. He wanted to throw it far enough before he got hit to not get intercepted, but he just threw it too far. There was plenty of time to recover from the safety regardless.

I am with you on that. There's no way after a night of sleep Wilbur goes on the radio and says it was a serious piece, but the next day says it was satire. He essentially backed the story and then he tried to play it off as a satire of Patriots fans' feelings about the loss. Of course, this doesn't explain why the entire column was directed at Brady when Pats fans would probably have anger directed other places as well.

Murray, that is annoying. I don't know what would make a person try to get his name in the national conversation, but it worked. It does seem like many articles I read are hostile to the team, but then they also acknowledge how good the team is when they win. It's very weird. It is like they treasure the losses and treasure the wins as well. You did a better job of explaining it.

I don't know if I prefer that type of coverage or the half-assed coverage we have her in NC of the Panthers.

Ericb said...

I don't know how old this Wilbur guy is but I lived in Boston from 1989-1994 and I remember the Pats then as one of the most pathetic teams in NFL history and in one year they were arguably (dispite one win) a worse team than the 2008 Lions. For a city that ostensibly has a long sports memory this attitude of Wilbur is puzzling. They should be grateful for having a team that, within living memory, was once so terrible reach the heights it did on the 2000s.

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, I think the same way. I'm not always the best fan at remembering the good times and having realistic expectations for my teams. Still, I wouldn't consider making the championship game a failure in any way. I think it just happens over time you become a little spoiled and used to being great.