Les Bowen, the stale stick of gum in an old pack of Topps, used the summer sports doldrums as an excuse to fill his mandated column today with yet another complaint about the access Chip Kelly provides to the media, this less than a week after it took an out-of-town reporter, doing actual reporting, for us to learn that Kelly was married for seven years (!!!). Mr. Bowen:
Somehow the writers and Kelly got into friendly banter about the Philadelphia media and fanbase. To us, the reason the Eagles have an unusually large media corps is pretty obvious – this is a huge market where people care more about their NFL team than anything else in sports, or maybe even in their lives. There isn’t another market this size whose passion compares, except maybe Dallas.
The New York market is split, and baseball is still bigger than football there. Baseball also carries more heft in Chicago and New England, and probably in San Francisco, where pro sports just don’t produce a Northeastern-style fervor. Houston has an expansion team.
Those of us on the Eagles beat would say the Birds are covered the way they are covered because covering the Eagles in Philadelphia is like covering the Vatican in Rome.
The Eagles’ coach, who will open his third training camp when players report to NovaCare on Saturday, flat-out rejects this premise. Chip Kelly believes he has a huge media throng following him not because of the extraordinary depth of fan interest here, but because . . . well, apparently for no real good reason, just because we want to be a pain in his butt.
Jesus Christ, Les– pump your brakes.
Les is on the wrong side of the generational divide here. This isn’t 1986. Passionate Eagles fans don’t hang on every scripted or planned word said by an on-guard coach or exec to ‘splain themselves. He’s right that Philly is one of the biggest football markets, with the most fan interest and arguably largest media presence. But the premise that a larger media contingent is simply supply keeping up with demand is misguided for the following reasons I am about to list in my web-based formatting style geared toward millennial readers with shorter attention spans:
1) Philly has a sprawling suburban landscape and, as a city, typically has far less going on than its rival top five markets, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Ergo football is often the story, partly because of fan interest, and partly because our city trips over itself almost every time it’s involved in something noteworthy… like the Pope’s visit. We’re a fat city in a little suit. We’re like the 13 Going on 30 of cities– we look the part, but go running for the familiar arms of Mark Ruffalo at the first sight of an adult penis. So we rarely get the big stuff, and that leaves the many, many local papers, small radio stations, TV outlets and even websites frothing at the mouth for Eagles content. It’s what sells papers.
2) 90% of said smaller local outlets, and many of the big ones, too, are all producing the exact same content, using the same canned quotes, and regurgitating the same press releases [Example: Yesterday, five minutes after the Flyers announced that they re-signed Sean Couturier, Flyers beat writer Wayne Fish, who works for whatever local paper, tweeted: #Flyers sign Couturier to multi-year contract extension. It was redundant and unnecessary. No one is going to Fish’s Twitter for this news. In 1990, or even 2005, this would’ve looked like a journalist breaking a story. Now he could’ve just retweeted the Flyers’ actual account, or at least quoted their short release (we did this, and though it added little value, I assure you there are people who stumbled upon the site not knowing the news. Few, if any, are stumbling upon Fish’s Twitter account).] So the number of media members matters little, and Chip knows this. Just because there are 50 people there to hear him say he’s [not racist] [hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback] [doesn’t believe in depth charts] doesn’t mean they’re actually adding any value. So Chip doesn’t see the need to placate the media simply because there are more passionate fans in Philly.
3) Les played his the voice of the people card which so many of his colleagues typically play. But doing so is completely out-of-touch with most of his audience, because, again, 90% of the quotes and information the media obtains and regurgitates can be done by the team itself, without a clumsy middleman to misconstrue the message. Where there’s real value added by the media is in actual reporting – Washington Post story on Chip – or with insightful analysis, made meaningful due to their access, such as Sheil Kapadia’s breakdowns, Tim McManus’ news-breaking, etc. Bowen and many of his peers showing up to punch the clock and write the same readily-available story does little to serve the fan base Bowen claims to serve.
You can argue that Chip is arrogant, sure, but complaining that he doesn’t do a lot of press conferences is just lame.