CSotD: Offensive Holding

(Joe Heller)

(Darrin Bell)

Back in the 1970s, when instant replay first emerged and there was discussion of using it to confirm penalties, legendary NFL referee Art Bell said it was fine with him, but he wanted the right to check the whole tape and call any holding he noticed.

It was a wiseass comment, but it was also pertinent, because everyone in the game knows that, if you went by the book, you could call holding on every play.

And specific to this Juxtaposition, there are times the refs see things they don’t call.

It’s not unknown for a ref to say to a player, “Watch your hands,” meaning “Next time, I’m throwing the flag.”

Meanwhile, if you’re blatant about it, you leave him no choice.

All of which comes into play this week with two reports that probably could have been held without requiring a flag to be thrown.

Case #1: Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck had decided to hold a news conference Sunday announcing his retirement, but ESPN reporter Adam Schefter announced the retirement Saturday night, during a Colts game.

The result was, as Heller depicts, a rain of booing from disappointed fans as they caught the news on their phones, and it meant that Luck’s planned announcement the next day turned into Keystone Cops damage control immediately following the game.


Case #2: Lawrence O’Donnell reported that documents in the Deutsche Bank case involving Trump reveal that he has paid virtually no taxes and that loans he had taken out with Deutsche Bank were co-signed by wealthy Russians.

The booing over this announcement came from the President’s lawyers, who sent a threat to sue, which may be why, when O’Donnell sorta kinda withdrew the report, his statement sounded like it had been crafted by a team of MSNBC attorneys.

And one of the things that may unite these two events is that Andrew Luck really is retiring and Lawrence O’Donnell hasn’t said his report was wrong, only that he should have gotten confirmation before reporting it.

We all know that Andrew Luck has had both major and minor injuries throughout his career.

We also know that Donald Trump has repeatedly burned Deutsche Bank on construction loans and junk bond sales.

What we don’t know is how far up the ladder at ESPN Schefter took his information before announcing it as a scoop, though it’s instructive that he wrote “per source” as opposed to “per sources.”

Apparently, O’Donnell didn’t check with superiors before announcing his one-source scoop, which, granted, is how you get your tail caught in a crack, though, as Darrin Bell suggests, the flood of Twitter distractions suggests there may be some there there.

Meanwhile, the threat to sue means nothing except a potentially expensive trip to the courthouse.

I’ve been wracking my brain for the other time we saw a widely-distributed nastygram from Trump’s lawyers, but, whatever it was for, he has something of a history of threatening lawsuits to get people to back down.

Here’s an interesting analysis of the O’Donnell brouhaha from Forbes, and, yes, I like it because it begins

Following a threatening letter from Trump’s attorney, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell walked back a segment on his show about the president’s financial records, saying he made an “error in judgement” in the Tuesday segment that  “didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process.”

We’re not talking about some sudden existential crisis in the MSNBC newsroom following the show. We’re talking about suits responding to threats.

That linked piece is good analysis, and I don’t disagree that O’Donnell jumped the gun. On the other hand, as noted here, he certainly covered his ass with disclaimers, and all he really reported was “I heard this guy say …”

Meanwhile, here’s another good piece, defending Schefter for, as the professor phrases it, “committing journalism” in making his premature announcement.

There are all sorts of unknowns in this, but I strongly suspect that, if, after the game, Luck had said he wasn’t retiring, only going on injured reserve for the season, Schefter would be taking the same brickbats as O’Donnell.

Being right covers a multitude of sins in this business.

However, here’s the real bind: The same front-office types who will crucify you for being wrong will also crucify you for being second.

That’s a major change in newsrooms in the past generation, and I’m glad not to be working for an understaffed paper trying to compete in a no-deadline, on-line world.

I sat on stories I couldn’t confirm and I dropped stories when the source smelled funny and everyone who’s worked the job has horror stories and farces to share.

But this piece from a reporting “scandal” in 2017 recalls the time during Watergate when Woodward and Bernstein got one wrong, and how such things were handled by great journalists, great editors and great publishers.

Perhaps you had to have lived through those times.

Don’t wait for them to return.


No hiding place down here

Speaking of times that won’t come back again, this Joy of Tech reminds me of the first inclinations of Big Brother’s eternal vigilance, at least the first ones I saw explained in a comic.


Hilary Price hit the concept in October 2000, and things have hardly improved.

Well, from the privacy POV. As Joy of Tech suggests, they’ve improved greatly from the “ability to monitor” perspective.

And from the perspective that we’re no longer terribly miffed about it.

I continue to hold my half-century-long opinion that the more they gather, the less they can process.

It’s not exactly a vestige of white privilege, given that the feds were tracking the white draft counselor in our house and ignoring the gun-toting black nationalist heroin dealer next door, while, in 2001, they had information on the hijackers but hadn’t yet processed it.


But times change and under our not-at-all racist president, this sort of thing is starting to happen.

Which brings us back to the irresponsibility of leaping to conclusions without adequate oversight.

Or tolerating a government that does.


4 thoughts on “CSotD: Offensive Holding

  1. When the store where I do most of my grocery shopping introduced a discount card, customers were required to fill out a paper application. I did so, but made up a name and phone number on the spot, then gave them a fake address that would put my residence in the middle of a river. They asked to see a driver’s license, but I told them that I’d just moved from out os state and hadn’t changed my ID yet. They weren’t happy about it, but I askedd them if the card I was getting was valid for cashing checks, I was told it didn’t. I said that meant that the card had no standing as a legal document, so they couldn’t withhold it on that basis. I got the card.

    Some time later, that same store was preparing to issue a new discount card to all customers. I was walking behind an employee who was carrying a double handful of new cards to the service desk. She dropped a bunch of them, and while helping her gather them up, I managed to hang on to a couple. These were pristine cards with no name, address or demographic information, but I still got the discounts.

    The last time they issued new cards, they just handed me one and asked me to take it to a kiosk to register it. I skipped that step. Like my previous card, it has no information about me associated with it, but it still gets me the discounts.

    I have little doubt that it’s a simple matter to match that card to the debit cards I routinely use, but even the illusion of a little extra privacy is comforting.

    I recommend reading All You Can Pay: How Companies Use Our Data To Empty Our Wallets by Anna Bernasek and D.T. Mongan. It’s an eye opener, even if you’re aware of the problem already.

  2. I do have a superrnarket discount card for the one store I frequent.. It;s a great store, so periodically folks I work with who don’t live nearby ask to borrow my card so they can go over and get the sale prices. Therefore, under my records, the store has noted purchases of baby food, denture powder, pet food every kind, every variety of produce and meat and booze they carry, automotive, health and beauty products, etc etc,l. I figure it’s the equivalent of the blank cards mentioned above.

  3. “To be sure, Mueller’s investigation will continue whether or not journalists make more mistakes, just as the FBI and special prosecutors relentlessly pursued Watergate. *But the impact of Mueller’s investigation on public opinion, Congress and Trump’s political fortunes depends heavily on media coverage.*”

    If this post shows emphasis, the emphasis is mine.

    The last sentence shows what Barr was counting on when he made his “summary” of the Mueller Report.

    Any mainstream media reporter who makes a slip up is crucified. But when Republicans continually LIE, it’s ho-hum.

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