Boston sports fans are insane. I should know: I have been one my entire life (it’s like being Jewish – we can criticize ourselves). Deflategate turned into a massive rallying point for the entire region, and if you aren’t from New England, you may have a hard time comprehending just how big of a controversy it was. After sides were taken, anyone who came at Brady or the Patriots was turned into an enemy by a rabid fanbase (some of whom happened to work in the media). Twitter battles ensued. And the pro-Patriots media and bloggers, led by people like Jerry Thornton of Barstool Sports (then of WEEI), didn’t hesitate to take each perceived enemy to task for their sins. With Jerry’s input, I compiled a list of the biggest Deflategate villains.
No 15: Felger and Mazz (98.5 The Sports Hub)
The preeminent afternoon drive sports radio hosts in Boston (and inspirations for our Honest Resumes series), Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti actually took a fairly balanced perspective, saying that they thought Brady was guilty, but that it wasn’t a big deal and that the NFL was way over the top in the way they handled it. Partially because of Felger’s dickish attitude and history of antagonizing Patriots diehards, these were taken as fighting words. Did they hurt F+M’s ratings? More like helped…
No 14: Chris Chase (USA Today)
Writing an article titled “Tom Brady Cheated his Way to a Super Bowl” won’t win you many friends in Boston.
No 13: Manish Mehta (NY Daily News)
Mehta constantly ridiculed the Patriots and their fans, especially after the team filed tampering charges against the Jets over the Darrelle Revis signing.
No 12: Dan Shaughnessy (Boston Globe)
Nicknamed Shank in Boston for the way he sticks the knife into his targets’ backs in print, Shaughnessy has always delighted in ribbing Boston fans with purposely contrarian viewpoints. Deflategate was manna from heaven for the curly-haired columnist.
No 11: Jerry Rice
Rice said that the Patriots deserved an asterisk next to their Super Bowl title over the Seahawks in one breath, while admitting that he used stickum during his playing career in the next. Needless to say this wasn’t received well in Patriot Nation.
No 10: Ron Borges (Boston Herald)
The longtime Boston columnist has conducted a hilariously transparent smear campaign against Bill Belichick from the hoodie’s first day as coach (it all stems from Borges’s friendship with Bill Parcells). He also isn’t much for mincing words, and as Deflategate wore on, he came out guns blazing against the team in a column titled “Phony Deflategate Outrage Smacks of Hypocrisy.” Any In Belichick We Trust people already had Borges in the center of a dartboard, but columns like this just solidified the hate.
No 9: Chris Russo (Mad Dog Radio on Sirius)
One of the two godfathers of sports talk radio, Russo is very, very talented and was very, very passionate in his belief that Brady was guilty as sin. He also didn’t hesitate to hop on the air in Boston and share these views. Passionately.
No 8: Troy Aikman (FOX)
“I will go to my grave saying Tom Brady knew that the balls were deflated.”
Context doesn’t matter. At least not in this case. Aikman was persona non grata in the Northeast after these comments.
No 7: Marshall Faulk (NFL Network)
Faulk consistently and loudly declared – both before and after Deflategate – his belief that the Patriots cheated to win their first Super Bowl over his Rams. Specifically, that they recorded a Rams walkthrough the day before the game, an event that has long been rumored, but never proven. After Deflategate, he took to saying it was a fact that this recording occurred. To any Patriots fan it sounds like sour grapes.
No 6: Kelly Naqi (ESPN)
She makes this list for a report she filed on Outside the Lines which revealed that locker room attendant Jim McNally handed an unapproved kicking ball to a referee during the game. This turned out to be irrelevant, and Naqi’s colleague Adam Schefter undercut her by reporting as much soon after the OTL report. Naqi never set the record straight (at least to the satisfaction of Patriots fans).
No 5: Mark Brunell (ESPN)
No 4: Gregg Doyel (Indianapolis Star)
This column by Tom Curran sums up the New England argument against the Indy-based columnist better than I ever could:
“There’s Gregg spewing the ‘cheated’ and ‘rigged’ fairy tale that he’s been telling since January, even though nobody in the world with even one-tenth of a brain would believe that air pressure in footballs affected the outcome of any game, let alone the 45-7 thumping in Foxboro.”
No 3: Bart Hubbuch (New York Post)
The columnist was aggressively critical of Tom Brady and equally aggressive in battling with members of the Boston media on Twitter throughout the drawn-out scandal. He even ended up deleting his Twitter account at one point while in the midst of a battle with hosts from the Kirk and Callahan (then Dennis and Callahan) morning show on WEEI in Boston.
No 2: Bob Kravitz (Indianapolis Star)
Simply put, he broke the Deflategate story, a mortal sin for which he was never forgiven (there’s a reason “kill the messenger” is a well-known phrase). He’s also a smart dude who likes to mix it up, and he never backed down from Patriots fans, whether it was random people, morning radio hosts, or Bill Simmons on Twitter.
No 1: Chris Mortensen (ESPN)
Mortensen – and by extension ESPN – is #1 by a mile. The feud between New England and Mortensen has taken on many twists and turns, but it basically comes down to their anger over this (via Bryan Curtis of The Ringer):
This information turned out to be incorrect, by a rather significant amount. If true, it makes the Patriots sound almost incontrovertibly guilty. But it wasn’t, and both Mortensen and ESPN stonewalled requests for retraction until six months later, well after everyone had made up their mind about Brady’s guilt. Mortensen could easily have used his perch on TV to admit that his initial report had been an honest mistake. He declined, and the Boston media pounced on him in the aggressive manner for which they’re famous, partially for his refusal to retract, but also because his Tweet was so influential and widely disseminated that it’s possible the entire investigation may not have taken place had Mortensen never sent it.
No 5: Jeff Pash
The Executive VP and General Counsel of the NFL, Pash is most reviled in New England for his letter to the Patriots telling them that it would be worthless for the NFL to correct the Chris Mortensen story because it would just promote “additional irresponsible speculation and commentary.” This was one of the key breaking points between the Patriots ownership and the NFL hierarchy.
No 4: Troy Vincent
Vincent is basically Roger Goodell Jr., except slightly less condescending. Among other things, he repeatedly made statements about the NFL’s procedure regarding the inspection of game balls that turned out to be less than accurate.
No 3: Mike Kensil
The former Jets employee who is now working for the NFL was on the sideline the night of the AFC Championship game. He is reported to have said, “We weighed the balls. You’re in big fucking trouble,” to Patriots equipment manager, Dave Schoenfield, on the sideline just after halftime that night, which the Patriots interpreted as the NFL judging them guilty before any real investigation took place. Kensil was also reportedly the source for Mortensen’s inaccurate story on PSI levels that set the tone for the entire scandal.
No 2: Ted Wells
He authored the Wells Report, which was either an incomplete report that may have relied on some faulty assumptions and didn’t offer much in the way of proof (according to most unbiased observers) or an unscrupulous hit job by an NFL stooge that contained too many errors to count and was never meant to be objective (anyone living in New England, especially media members and Patriots employees).
No 1: Roger Goodell
Do we really need an explanation of why he is hated by fans in Boston?
No 3: Mike Pence
No 2: John Harbaugh
Harbaugh is accused of tipping off the Colts about the Patriots game balls, probably because he was pissed off about the legal (but tricky) formations that Bill Belichick used to beat his Ravens that year in the Divisional Round. And all of this despite the fact that Belichick helped him land the job as Ravens Coach.
No 1: Ryan Grigson
The Colts GM is not the most accomplished dude, in case you weren’t aware. He initiated the Deflategate scandal with a complaint to the league and then (almost certainly) a leak to Bob Kravitz, publicizing it. Rightly or wrongly, the scandal does not exist if he doesn’t bring it up during the 2015 AFC Championship game. Bill Simmons summed up the feelings about Grigson in Boston pretty well with these Tweets.