UPDATE at the bottom
Inasmuch as I understand where the local sports media are coming from in their approach to covering the Eagles, I must admit I'm somewhat baffled by the contention that their hands are pretty much tied in terms of what they cover.
I'm a fan of Les Bowen's. I like to read what he writes. I like the approach he's taking on the new DN Eagles blog. And I think, unlike some other local guys, he actually takes some enjoyment out of seeing the local teams do well, in of course the most objective way possible.
But I just don't understand statements like this:
I suppose Reid is disappointed that the focus of minicamp coverage was 1. Lito Sheppard, here and untraded, and 2. Donovan McNabb, returning to an offense that did not make any dramatic upgrades at skill positions, something McNabb and other Eagles had seemed to imply was necessary.
If that's the coach's gripe, well, Andy, tough beans. I think our collective news judgment is a lot better than yours. I'm not getting a lot of fan e-mails asking me to stop writing about Lito and Donovan and focus on Andy Studebaker.
Well consider this that email.
Look, everyone understands that the two biggest stories in minicamp were Lito (because he wasn't traded) and Donovan (because he's the lead character in As The Eagles Turn). But it's not like we live in a world where we're still trying to cram as much as possible into some set number of column inches. You don't just have to cover one or two topics anymore.
You can do it all.
I realize there's a subset of Eagles fans that gets its jollies from arguing all the time about the Eagles:
- Being cheap
- Not caring about winning
- Passing too much (Okay, this one's on me too)
- Having a quarterback who tends to miss some passes low
- Employing a coach who doesn't like to air the team's dirty laundry in public
So go ahead, feed the beast. Keep the base happy. But there's another, much larger, subset of Eagles fans that simply want to learn as much about their team as possible.
That's why so many people visit PhiladelphiaEagles.com every day. It's not because we crave the incessantly pro-organization editorial slant. It's because you can learn a lot about the team, its players, the coaches and generally what's going on at the NovaCare Complex by checking in.
This really came through to me the other day when I was (back pat) talking to David Akers. We talked for 10 minutes, but I could easily have filled two hours with questions and follow-ups. And yeah, it was a pretty cheesy interview, but did you know he ran a 4.6 40-yard-dash coming out of college? Did you appreciate, as I did, hearing about Sav's development as a holder? Did you really, really want to find out what kind of shoe he likes to wear when he works out?
Ok, maybe not that last one. But the point stands: Every single player on the Eagles has an interesting story. And I want to read about it.
And I don't think I'm alone.
I'll tell you what's most frustrating about this. I'm not one of those newzpaperz sux / bloggers rool kind of people. If the local papers went away tomorrow, I'd be completely screwed. They're the guys who provide the nutrients for the commentary ecosystem. Without them, there would be nothing to feed on, nothing to ruminate over, nothing to analyze but some stats and what we see on television 16 (and maybe one day 19) times a year.
And yet, for all the access they have, what happens far too often? They all get in a big room, ask the same questions, and then complain afterwards that the answers weren't any good.
Meanwhile, I can't get the Eagles media staff to respond to an email, the players don't even think about getting back to me when I track them down through their personal web pages or MySpace (I'm not a stalker, man), and the organization says it wants to get positive stories out but then doesn't give two craps about the bloggers who write every day and would be thrilled to be manipulated in such a way.
So here's my challenge, and it comes in two parts. For the local reporters we all read every day, we do care about the Andy Studebakers of the world. In fact, here are 10 stories I can think of off the top of my head that I'd love to read about in tomorrow's paper:
- What's it like for Winston Justice hanging out in the city? What's the funniest thing any fan has said to him since that Giants catastrophe last year?
- How is Sav Rocca adjusting to life in the States? Now that he's had a year under his belt to start to understand Philly and its fans, what does he think about the city and its people? How do we compare to what he dealt with back home with the 'pies?
- What is Mark Whipple's role on the coaching staff? Are we going to see any elements of the whiplash offense this year?
- J.R. Reed has a great comeback story that's been written about many times. What I care about now though is how well he can play safety. Does he have a potential future in the league at that position? How did JJ think he did last year when he got on the field? How did Reed think he did? Is that foot injury always going to limit him to spot duty and special teams?
- Why does it seem like the Eagles blitz so much less than they used to? Someone at the NovaCare has to have those stats going back a few years. Ask Johnson about it and try to find out if it's because his linemen are better or because his back seven doesn't actually blitz that well.
- How is Dan Klecko handling the transition to full-time fullback? What's that learning curve been like coming out of minicamp?
- Likewise, how's Gaither handling the move to WIL? We know he misses the control that comes with being in the middle, but does he think this could be a better long-term spot for him given his size and playmaking ability? What do the coaches have planned for him this year in terms of maybe cutting it loose a bit more and getting after the QB?
- What's up with Victor Abiamiri? The guy didn't get on the field much last year. How did he look in this minicamp? Has he improved his quickness at all? Do the Eagles plan to use him as a nickel DT at times given his size?
- Defensive line coach Pete Jenkins came to the organization with a reputation as a master teacher of technique. He's been here two years now -- are the results what they thought they'd be? How's Bunkley coming along this offseason with developing a pass rush move or two? Will Trent Cole have any new tricks up his sleeve for attacking the stud left tackles of the NFC East?
- Finally, shouldn't we know more about Asante Samuel by now?
As for the non-reporters out there (i.e., the rest of us), I would say the gauntlet has been thrown down. The local writers don't think we care about this kind of stuff. Let's prove them wrong.
Here's a good place to start:
firstname.lastname@example.org (see update below)
I would imagine emails that are cordial and thoughtful have a much better chance of getting read and could have significantly more impact in the end. And there's no point in blaming someone like Les for the crap that happens on WIP. Those are two separate things.
But he says he's not getting emails asking him to stop writing about Lito and cover some of the other things mentioned above? Let's change that.
Seriously, don't leave me hanging here. Email him. See what happens.
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UPDATE: Ok, time to call off the dogs. I received a very nice note from Les a few minutes ago on this issue. It addresses a number of the criticisms and I think is quite fair in its approach.
Hey, Derek: Thanks for the mention, I have gotten a few e-mails. You seem to have a most thoughtful, worthwhile blog.
I think you at least partly misunderstand my point RE Andy (and feel free to use this if you want). Yes, I know there are things other than Donovan and Lito that fans want to know. The one day I was at minicamp I wrote about Lito, because he spoke that day, but I also wrote about Todd Herremans/Max Jean-Gilles and DeSean Jackson.
To me, it's logical to put the primary focus on the stories that are going to have the most impact on the season. At the first minicamp, those stories were Lito and Donovan. That won't be the case forever, I hope (I got really sick of writing about T.O.), but it was the case then. Andy would rather we skip those situations altogether or adopt Dave Spadaro's attitude toward them ("Lito, isn't this going to be just the greatest defense ever?") If we did that, we would not be doing our job. It's unrealistic, and silly of him, I think, to expect such issues not to be front and center.
I understand what you're saying about the internet giving us the chance to do "everything" rather than what will fit into a specific hole on a certain page of the newspaper. However, 1. There's only one of me, and 2. More to the point, we don't have access to everybody, every day. Most days during the media access time in the Eagles' locker room, you would have an easier time finding a live kangaroo than Sav Rocca. He doesn't spend a lot of time with us. Winston Justice, ditto, and I would have to say that though Winston was a standup guy, discussing what happened against the Giants last year, he hasn't shown much of a sense of humor about it. Also, assistant coaches who are not coordinators are not allowed to talk to reporters, under Andy Reid's rules. So far, I don't know Mark Whipple from Mr. Whipple.
But I do hope to be able to offer more on the blog than I am able to get in the paper, on a wider range of subjects, particularly after we head to Lehigh, where the access is probably greatest. And I really appreciate your interest.
As I mentioned in my reply back to him, I think Bowen is one of the good guys. So the criticisms were more general, but maybe we scored some broader points for the office water cooler about what we're hoping to read about?
Either way, you all can stop emailing him now. We took our shot.
But thanks again for doing what you did.