NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 22: New England head coach Bill Belichick jokes with reporters after missing morning breakfast durning the NFL Annual Meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel on March 22, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Is Mike Felger, arguably the most influential member of the Boston sports media, influencing the way that the New England Patriots are covered locally? Bruce Allen examines the premise.
On Thursday of this week, Boston Globe columnist Christopher Gasper made a reference to walking "in lockstep off a cognitive cliff." He was referring to those Patriots followers who he derisively claims blindly accept whatever Patriots coach Bill Belichick says and does as Gospel.
In reality, it is many of Gasper's colleagues in the media who have lost their minds when it comes to covering the New England Patriots.They've ceased to think for themselves, instead blindly following some edict that requires them to second guess and ridicule almost anything involving the most successful franchise and head coach of the last decade.
Everything, it seems, is a conspiracy. They contradict themselves daily, yet never look back. They eagerly leap on any story which can be twisted to make the head coach of the New England Patriots look like bumbling simpleton.
At the head of this movement is their leader. Michael Felger. He is without question the most powerful figure in the Boston sports media. Others in the media, mostly the over-the-air types blindly accept and follow what he says. His sidekick Tony Massarotti sounds like a brainwashed yes-man on the air beside him.
"You're absolutely right, Mike."
"No question, Mike."
"I can't argue that, Mike."
He's not alone. Felger apparently has clones of himself, who occupy the 98.5 airwaves on the weekend, sounding just like him and making all the same points. He goes on Comcast SportsNet, spouts his same theories and they go unchallenged. Other CSNNE talent (many of which are his 98.5 colleagues) keep the same storylines intact.
Felger has become like a charismatic cult leader. He's the Jim Jones of the Boston sports media, attracting followers and sycophants among media and listeners/viewers who lap up everything he says. The same people who ridicule fans for taking an "In Bill We Trust" stand, go along with whatever storylines Felger has dreamed up for that week, and preach them to others. He's chosen to target the Patriots because they are successful, and he knows that being critical of them is going to attract attention simply because it seems outrageous to criticize success.
On the rare instances that someone does stand up to Felger, (these instances hardly ever include a Patriots topic.) he usually just laughs it off and pokes fun at himself, which usually eases the tension, and thus the momentum of the attack coming back at Felger. It's genius.
The great and powerful Felger has even taken to determining which media reports are accurate and which are either "BS" or "team-friendly" reports from outlets on the take from the team. Shockingly, it depends on whether the report agrees with the established storyline which is dominating that particular instant.
Last week it was Greg A Bedard, who presented a report contrary to Felger's on the Brian Waters situation. The evidence cited was persuasive and hard to refute. After the phone call ended, Felger dismissed it all as "BS." This week, still pushing the storyline that the Patriots were mistreating Waters and were in fact trying to "cheap out" on him, Shalise Manza Young reported that rather, the Patriots had offered Waters a significant raise in order to try and get him into camp. This report was dismissed as having been fed to Young by the Patriots as a "team friendly" reporter.
Anyone who has been following the Patriots over the last decade knows full well that the terms "Boston Globe" and "Patriots friendly" do not belong in the same sentence. (If you have any doubts in that regard, just follow the Twitter account of the sports editor of the Globe.) Felger's adjutant, Massarotti called the report "bullcrap." This despite the fact that Tony Massarotti draws a paycheck from Boston.com/The Globe. The power of Felger apparently impels weak-minded drones like Massarotti to even call a colleague's work "bullcrap" over a live radio show.
Think about that. Felger can dictate what coverage is legitimate and what isn't. And people accept this.
At what point does this all become too much? Can one person have too much power and influence in a media market? Could his influence actually impact the coverage of the Patriots? If someone wants to be in Felger's good graces do they slant what they say/write about the team? And when does the blowback start? The reins of media power don't last forever, just ask Eddie Andelman or Glenn Ordway. While Felger has enjoyed success with his formula, it's not nearly on the level of success or for the duration that the New England Patriots have enjoyed success.
So the next time a media person sarcastically recites the "In Bill We Trust" line, just keep in mind that it's very likely that that same media member is himself a blind, mindless follower, unable to think for himself and walking in lockstep off a cognitive cliff.