The [Monday] Papers
It's fascinating to read the sports pages through the prism of hometown writers. Just like those whose political views shade and refract their understanding of the world, sports reporters who watch a game only through the eyes of "their" team offer distorted accounts of what they - and we - have seen.
Today's fresh example is coverage of the Bears-Falcons game on Sunday. To wit:
* "The hallmarks of Mike Smith's three previous Atlanta Falcons' teams have been their propensity for solid and smart play mixed in with a heavy dose of solid tackling," D. Orlando Ledbetter writes in the game report for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"The Falcons, most everyone's favorite to repeat as the NFC South champion, looked lethargic on offense and unsure on defense as Bears quarterback Jay Cutler rifled holes in their zone defense.
"With nine penalties, several missed tackles and three turnovers, the Falcons were made to look very ordinary, as they were routed 30-12 by the Bears at historic Soldier Field."
While Jay Cutler and the Bears are given credit in this report, mostly Ledbetter sees a Falcons team that played stupid, lazy, mistake-filled football.
Compare and contrast.
"The Bears didn't just announce to doubters they're to be taken seriously in the NFC this season. They screamed it," Brad Biggs wrote in his report for the Chicago Tribune.
"A 30-12 dismantling of the Falcons in the season opener Sunday at Soldier Field was as much an affirmation as it was a victory. They took apart the conference's top-seeded team from a year ago piece by piece, dominating at the point of attack and winning in all phases.
"The Falcons have a glitzy offense with stars all over the place, but the Bears were the ones that showcased playmakers in a victory as impressive as the 2008 opener in Indianapolis and the 2006 shutout to begin the year in Green Bay."
In this account, it was all about how amazingly awesome the Bears were. "[T]he Bears made the Falcons one-dimensional," Biggs wrote.
Similarly, the Sun-Times account by Sean Jensen boiled down to the Bears making "a series of statements."
The Falcons were almost a neutral observer - even a straw man - to the Bears' greatness, useful almost wholly because of its credential from last year.
The view from Atlanta:
"Cutler threw a simple screen pass to running back Matt Forte, who scored from 56 yards out. During the run, Forte bounced off a shoulder shot from Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Smith was irate and could be seen giving some 'instruction' to Weatherspoon on the sideline."
The view from the Sun-Times:
"But on first-and-10 from the Bears 44 in a 3-3 game, he took a screen pass from Jay Cutler, got key blocks from wide receiver Johnny Knox and fullback Tyler Clutts, bounced off Falcons defensive end John Abraham at the 35 and completed a 56-yard touchdown reception for a 10-3 lead with 1:10 left in the first quarter."
In the first account, a simple screen turned into a touchdown because a Falcon's tackling attempt was so bad his coach berated him on the sidelines.
In the second account, key blocks made the play possible.
(Also note: In the Atlanta account, Forte "bounced" off Sean Witherspoon. In the Chicago account, he "bounced" off John Abraham.)
And instead of missed tackles, this Tribune account credits Forte "breaking tackles and eluding defenders."
Or this from Atlanta:
"On Chicago's ensuing possession, wide receiver Devin Hester broke loose on another screen pass and ran 53 yards to the Falcons' 1-yard line. On the play, cornerback Dunta Robinson slipped, safety William Moore and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton took bad angles."
The play, then, is offered as further evidence of the Falcons' sloppy play. In the Chicago papers, the play is barely mentioned as an afterthought, but nonetheless as additional evidence of the Bears' dominance.
It was a great victory for the Bears, no doubt. And an embarrassing loss for the Falcons. But only an evenhanded evaluation can tell us how to apportion the credit and blame - and how to better understand where each team is at.
The same could - and should - be said for the rest of the news. Extrapolate at will.
"In retrospect, the primary question for the Bears' offense going into this season wasn't whether the offensive line would hold up or whether Roy Williams would take the receiving corps to the next level. The No. 1 question was if Martz could prepare an offense and then make all the calls necessary to put a team in contention for a championship."
By the way, here's how Coffman described the Forte play:
"Sure enough Martz, who you can't help suspect called that early reverse to reinforce the idea in the Falcons' collective mindset that the Bears loved the play and would keep calling it no matter what, called for a fake reverse this time around and a pass into the flat on the other side to Matt Forte.
"Not surprisingly Forte was wide open, gained about 15 yards before a tackler imposed any real threat, broke a couple weak tackle attempts and then flashed his impressive game speed (as opposed to combine speed, the lack of which enabled the Bears to get him in the second round a few years ago) on his way to a touchdown."
A bit more informative, no?
Drip, Drip, Drip . . .
"Now, a police report from 2004 that was never made public - and which the police say they only recently 'discovered' - says a witness told the police that Daley nephew Richard J. 'R.J' Vanecko had been acting in a 'very aggressive' manner toward Koschman in the moments before the punch."
"That report and another one, also from 2004, which includes a handwritten notation identifying Vanecko as a nephew of Daley, were among dozens of pages of records that the police department never turned over to the detectives who reinvestigated Koschman's case earlier this year during Daley's final months in office."
The Weekend in Chicago Rock
CAN TV vs. RCN
Wake The Cubs When September Ends
Unfortunately, Tom Ricketts seems to fashion himself as the team's lead baseball man.
What's next, Sam Zell as a media guru?
The Ghost of Nellie Fox
The Beachwood Tip Line: Freeze-dried.
Posted on September 12, 2011
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