Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I must apologize for my long silence. I had some personal business which occupied my time for a few days and I had some travelling I had to do. I really hate flying, so I wasn't in much of a frame of mind to post. The problem with the long delay, beyond the fact that it puts a dent in the slowly increasing stream of visitors to my site, is that I have a few topics I need to cover in a hurry before they get too stale.

First, toward the end of last week, an unnamed source close to Ron Mexico informed a Sports Illustrated writer that the embattled Falcons quarterback (my three word effort at conventional sports journalism) almost certainly knew of the dog fighting ring that allegedly operated out of a Virgina house owned by Michael Vick and inhabited by some of his relatives. This story has been covered thoroughly, but I have to discuss it because it's been bothering me.

I have never understood the rationale that allows sportswriters to cite unnamed sources. Investigative reporters like Woodward and Bernstein need to use unnamed sources because they break important stories which could result in death or serious injury for the whistle-blowers who leak key information. Sports journalists use unnamed sources to carp at athletes, coaches, team executives and owners with immunity for both source and writer with little or no reason to fear anything more than an ass kicking.

Journalists who cover sports aren't breaking stories that will cause the planet to spin off its axis, literally or metaphorically. Even Game of Shadows was little more than a series of leaks from grand jury testimony that did not conclusively prove what 99.9% of sports fans suspected about Barry Bonds in the first place. I have long suspected, with neither the access or to be honest the inclination to ferret out the cold hard truth, that those who use unnamed sources in their coverage of a team or a player are simply protecting a good man for a sound byte because said source makes their jobs easier. To wrap that up in a mantle of journalistic ethics fails to impress me.

But long story short, back to the Ron Mexico story. Don Banks, the SI writer in question, has an unnamed source who has the dirt on the nature of Vick's association with a family member who allegedly ran a dog fighting ring out of the notorious Virginia home and on the nature of Vick's relationship to Falcons owner Arthur Blank. The writer claims that the multiple sources whom he consulted in writing his piece on Michael Vick had to remain anonymous because of their close relationship with him. Perhaps you are willing to accept this, but I am not.

Reviewing the small segments of quotations from these sources provided by Banks, I just don't believe that they came from a member of Vick's inner circle. I know next to nothing about Vick's entourage, but I bet there are very few (if any) guys in his crew who make a habit of using words like affinity. It just doesn't strike me as a word that makes the rounds of those connected to the dog fighting subculture (another choice phrase from the Banks article).

The sources go on to talk about Vick's posse and circle of friends being a part (if not all) of the problem. My question here is simple - if Vick's posse surround him at all times, who is telling Don Banks about his affinity for barbaric sports best left in the medieval period? Sources go on to say (it was unclear whether these were the same unnamed informants or a whole new crop) that Arthur Blank and his wife coddle Vick and let him get away with murder.

Not being a journalist, I can indulge in all sorts of wild speculation. When I first heard the quotes from the article on ESPN, I was no more convinced of the authenticity of the source close to Vick than I am now. For some reason, I got to thinking that it could have been a guy like Jim Mora (Sr. or Jr.) or Greg Knapp who made the comments to Banks.

There is no easy way to prove that either Knapp or Mora made the comments. It would make sense for either one to stay anonymous if they had any hope of landing another coaching gig in the NFL but still wanted to air some grievances against Vick or Blank or both. I couldn't find any smoking gun to that effect, however (this was about as close as I could come).

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