Supplemental: Mike Wise lacks the basic tools!


How to turn domestic violence into a thrilling chase:
On a journalistic basis, it can be painful to watch sports reporters reason about the Ray Rice matter.

Or about the Roger Goodell matter, which the Ray Rice matter is being transformed into.

It can be painful to watch sports columnists try to reason about Goodell. For one example, here’s how Mike Wise began his column in today’s Washington Post:
WISE (9/11/14): Hour by hour, Roger Goodell’s mission to preserve the game’s integrity is failing, and any further discussion of his inability to properly deal with the NFL’s domestic violence problem has to begin and end with the commissioner’s necessary termination—preferably before Sunday.

It comes down to this: If Goodell’s league cannot better protect battered women, what good is this moral armor Goodell has the audacity to call “The Shield”?

A day after he emphatically said that before Monday, no one in the league offices had seen video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City casino elevator, the Associated Press essentially called Goodell a bald-faced liar.
“The Associated Press essentially called Goodell a bald-faced liar?” It’s painful to see a major journalist who can’t reason better than that.

For the record, Goodell has said that, as far as he knows, no one in the NFL office had seen that second tape.

That said, yesterday’s AP report did not call Goodell a liar. Although, of course, he always could be, just like everyone else on earth, not excluding Mike Wise.

Nor did the AP report establish that Goodell has been lying at all. Here’s the way Rob Maaddi began his report:
MAADDI (9/10/14): A law enforcement official says he sent a video of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee to an NFL executive five months ago, while Commissioner Roger Goodell has insisted the league didn't see the violent images until this week.

The person played The Associated Press a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video arrived. A female voice expresses thanks and says: "You're right. It's terrible."

The law enforcement official, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, says he had no further communication with any NFL employee and can't confirm anyone watched the video. The person said he was unauthorized to release the video but shared it unsolicited, because he wanted the NFL to have it before deciding on Rice's punishment.

The NFL has repeatedly said it asked for but could not obtain the video of the Baltimore Ravens running back hitting Janay Palmer—who is now his wife—at an Atlantic City casino in February.

The league says it has no record of the video, and no one in the league office had seen it until it was released by TMZ Monday. When asked about the voicemail Wednesday, NFL officials repeated their assertion that no league official had seen the video before Monday.


The law enforcement official said he sent a DVD copy of the security camera video to an NFL office and included his contact information. He asked the AP not to release the name of the NFL executive for fear that the information would identify the law enforcement official as the source.
How accurate is that AP report? For various reasons, it’s hard to tell. Let’s establish a few basic points:

According to the AP report, the anonymous law enforcement official wasn’t authorized to release the videotape. For that reason, he won’t allow the AP to name the NFL executive who allegedly received it.

There are probably a lot of NFL executives. The AP report provides no hint—none at all—as to where this particular person stands in the NFL chain of command.

The NFL executive hadn’t asked for the tape. (The anonymous law enforcement official sent it “unsolicited.”) Assuming there really is such an executive, he may have taken the videotape and thrown it right in the nearest river, for any number of easily imagined reasons.

That may not be what happened, of course—but that is entirely possible. In what way does that AP report “essentially call Goodell a bald-faced liar?” Even if we assume that every fact in the AP report is accurate, we have no idea if the tape was ever seen by anyone outside the office at which it was received. Or if it was even viewed by anyone in that office!

Wait a minute, you plaintively cry. What about the woman who called back and said, “You're right. It's terrible,” as part of a 12-second voicemail?

Did the AP hear the entire voicemail? If so, was it clear from her 12-second message that the woman had actually seen the videotape?

“You're right. It's terrible,” is quite imprecise. Has the woman watched the tape? And was it the tape from inside the elevator? Could the AP discern these facts from the voicemail? Most important, why didn’t Maaddi address such basic facts in his AP report?

(Note: The AP isn’t always entirely super-reliable.)

The AP report creates an intriguing possibility. It suggest a new route for investigation. But it’s a highly imprecise initial report—and in no way does it establish, or even allege, that Goodell has been lying, let along in a bald-faced way..

We have no particular view of Goodell, but we do have an obvious view of Wise. After watching him emote on TV; after reading this hapless if exciting column; he doesn’t seem to possess the most basic skills required of a competent reporter.

That said, cable TV is turning a story about domestic violence into an entertainment event—a cops-and-robbers detective chase of a very familiar kind. On Tuesday night’s Hardball, we saw Chris Matthews ask the most thrilling question of all:

MATTHEWS (9/9/14): What did he know and when did he know it?

On Wednesday night’s Chris Hayes program, we saw Dave Zirin play a similar card:

ZIRIN (9/10/11): I mean, it looks like “I didn’t see the tape,” it could become his “I am not a crook,” “I did not have sex with that woman.”

When people hand you these lines, you should check your wallet. They get to pretend that they are discussing domestic violence. They are really selling you a brand of TV entertainment that dates to Watergate, the greatest political thriller of the TV age. They’re selling you part of the package Richard M. Cohen described in 1988, speaking to Howard Kurtz

CBS executives "believe you lower the common denominator, frame everything in entertainment terms, make it pablum...The currency of the realm ceases to be journalism.

“They're left with a huge game of pretend.”

Journalism is built around the skeptical awareness of the limits of what we know at any given time. It’s horrifying to see how many sports reporters lack even the simplest tools for analyzing a highly imprecise initial news report.

Beyond that, don’t get fooled:

When you see your favorite TV stars dragging out their Watergate lingo, they’re no longer discussing domestic violence. They’re selling you cops and robbers—the thrill of the chase.

They’re selling you the entertainment component of that CBS package. They’re selling you excitement.

They’re no longer talking about men striking women. They’re talking about a different old sickness:

Killing the pig.


  1. Domestic violence is an important issue but it is part of a larger issue of tolerance of criminal behavior among NFL athletes and aspiring players. That is complicated by the greater likelihood of black men being arrested. I assume that social problem has prevented teams from excluding criminals from their employ, but when will the league rethink its tolerance of criminality? Rice should be fired because he admitted punching his girlfriend, not because some guy saw a video. In LA we have a USC football player who fell while breaking into an apt, then lied about it. They are keeping his options open so that he can go on to his NFL career. That is the problem in this situation -- not the NFL failure to protect women.

    1. What' s the evidence that there is a criminal behavior problem in the NFL? The only data I recall shows crime rates lower than the general population.

      As far as tolerance for criminal behavior, who has ever suggested permanent unemployment as a tool for rehabilitation? Why should someone get fired while undergoing court ordered therapy?

      Professional athletes are not demi-gods acting out a morality play. You could have a league where you have a set of rules--like one misdemeanor conviction and you get a lifetime ban-- but the rules should be set in advance and not on the basis of how it looks on TMZ.

      Would the NFL owners, like Irsay for example, like to have a tough set of rules like that?

    2. You fire professional athletes when they commit crimes because it makes them poor role models for the children and young adults who consider them an example to be emulated. You fire them because felons are not employable in most occupations. You fire them because being a criminal suggests they will misbehave in ways relevant to the job itself, such as by taking performance enhancing substances, gambling or taking payoffs to affect the outcome of the game, or by ignoring coaching instructions and trust has been breeched. You fire them because their behavior brings a negative image to the sport as a whole and reflects badly on team. You fire them because someone engaged in defense against prosecution will be preoccupied with trial and unable to focus on playing the game.

      The proper statistical comparison is not with the general population but with the college educated population, which has a considerably lower crime rate. Further, there is less of a tendency for athletes to be convicted when charged with a crime and a strong desire for everyone to look the other way. This is not fair to victims of violent crime.

    3. Fascinating link. Not about pro athletes, but certainly worth consideration for colleges reviewing their athletics programs.

      In the Ray Rice issue there was no felony. The idea that we have to fire Ray Rice "for-the-children" is itself childish. Do we next ban actors from public movie screen for their personal failings?


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  2. No. That is not true Bob. You are just jealous of Josh Marshall's success. They care about domestic violence, we care about domestic violence, you don't. The conversation has finally started and lives will be saved. But no, because you can't seem to get the gigs, we have to sit here and listen to you change the story to fit your own narrative

    1. TPM is looking a lot like Huffpo these days. They are now both blatantly money making enterprises supplying the pablum liberals want to read. Not much for Marshall to be proud of there.

    2. And in Bob's World, making money is a mortal sin he will never have to worry about committing.

  3. You think success is measured in blog hits or paycheck size. How sad. If you are not yet 30, you have a slight excuse for projecting your shallow values onto others.

    1. Yes, let's instead measure success by the ability to write a blog nobody reads because it bitches about the same people and the same things day after day after day.

  4. The Rice affair is important for the lessons it teaches:

    1. Don't spit in your man's face.

    2. Even if your woman spits in your face, don't punch her out.

    1. How cute. You think domestic violence can be solved by telling people not to fight.

  5. Josh Marshall makes major bank dude don't talk to me about values. Who do you think you are, Isaac Newton?

    1. Incoherent people aren't paid much in any job.

  6. Sports+violence+Bob's analysis of journalism=proof in the comment box of Bob's recent assertion about human reasoning skills.

    1. Doesn't math have to include some numbers too?

    2. You expect me to reason up an answer to that question, Bib? You've got great expectations another thing coming, to pair of phrase 7:35 slightly.

  7. Typical Bob readers. Expect everything to handed to them on a silver platter.

    1. If we were writers instead of readers we would go for the gold.

  8. Ain't it about time for Recreational Vehicles of Sportswriter County?

  9. "It comes down to this: If Goodell’s league cannot better protect battered women, what good is this moral armor Goodell has the audacity to call “The Shield”?"

    Let's back up a little. Exactly when did protecting women become the NFL's job?

    Is it the job of all our employer's?

    1. It is the job of society -- that's why there are laws against it. This is a crime we are talking about. Further, framing this as protecting women is mistaken. Domestic violence is illegal when women beat men too. Violent people are not permitted to attack and harm others. That is the bottom line. This man is violent for a living and he cannot control it off the field so he should not be in a profession where violence is encouraged. He needs to learn to control his violence and exercise it only within socially sanctioned contexts. He demonstrably is unable to do that. It is the NFL's job to recognize when this is happening so that innocent bystanders, whether wives or people in bars, or people on the street, are not hurt by the athletes paid to behave violently by the sport. When the NFL creates a monster, it has to clean up its mess.


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