Earlier this summer we told you about the new and highly restrictive media policies being implemented by the Chicago Bears. The Bears are hunkering down this year under new GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox and treating any and all information surrounding the team like the contents of the Manhattan Project. The team basically outlawed any and all football-related reporting from the media at training camp, to the point that a reporter who took the day off and sat with the fans could share more info than if he or she was on the job. At this point, the only thing missing from the Bears’ new top secret regime is a private home e-mail server.
The controversy surrounding the Bears’ communication (or lack thereof) has risen once again with the unfortunate news about first round pick Kevin White’s injury status. After weeks of wondering and speculation and pessimism, the team finally announced that White would have surgery for a stress fracture in his shin and might even miss the entire season. Incidentally, the announcement came a day after White told reporters that he did not have a stress fracture.
At ESPN.com, Bears blogger Jon Greenberg wrote one of the harshest articles you’ll see from Bristol’s network of NFL beat writers about the Bears and how they handled the White news. The damning headline of “Kevin White news shows Bears can’t be trusted” is just the start of Greenberg’s salvos. The passive-aggressive swipe at leaking scoops to national reporters is a “whoa!” moment as well…
The Bears had been obfuscating the truth on White’s injury all training camp, not very well I might add, culminating in White’s first bald-faced lies to the media Friday.
He was obviously doing what he thought was right. It’s Pace’s and head coach John Fox’s job to break this kind of story. Credit them for not just leaking it to a national reporter. Gold stars for you guys.
“I think, me personally, we tell you the body part and that’s all we have to tell you,” Fox told reporters in Bourbonnais. “We’re not doctors and stick to that.”
OK. But still, why lie?
“I don’t know,” Fox said. “You guys figure that out. I just know that, by league, we’re required to give you a body part, unless it’s a quarterback or kicker, then we don’t even have to tell you which side. I’ve been doing it for 14 years now, that’s the way we do it.”
What a charmer.
I so wish that response from Fox was caught on camera.
I know what some of you are thinking – here’s another entitled media member whining about a player or a team not doing exactly what they want them to do. I understand some fans thinking that way, especially in an environment where traditional media is being replaced by team-produced content and digital media. It’s a changing landscape for everyone. But Greenberg has a valid point here. It’s not like he’s unrealistic about any team or athlete’s truthfulness. In this case though, it was clear all along that the Bears were trying to hide what everyone could plainly see – that something was seriously wrong with their first round pick…
No one, even me, cares about players and coaches lying to the media. If you’ve been in this business for more than five minutes, you don’t believe 90 percent of what you hear in press conferences anyway. That’s why every good story is stocked with anonymous quotes, because very few people in professional sports want to be associated with telling the truth. Their truth, sure. The truth, no way.
Sometimes it makes you wonder what these executives and coaches actually think they do. Yes, football is a billion-dollar business, but the secrets they keep aren’t military grade.
What was the harm in telling reporters as camp opened that White is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his shin? Were they afraid someone was going to kick him?
Because he hadn’t ran in months — you know, because of the stress fracture in his leg — White didn’t know how he would react when he started running this past week. Monday was fine, Tuesday he knew the injury was still there and that’s when he alerted his bosses.
Finally, Greenberg hits at what we talked about a couple weeks ago as a repercussion of the new media policy from the Bears. All the team has done through training camp is create a culture of ill will and mistrust that will start with the local media and seep through the entire fanbase. And with that relationship now a toxic one, it’s only going to take a couple of bad bounces going against the Bears season for the floodgates of negative press to open with regards to their on-field performance. In fact, it’s already started…
Fox has raised the ire of local media with regressive policies limiting access to players during camp. Maybe he has a point. The less we know about this team, the better.
Bears fans aren’t dumb. They know this team isn’t going to be good. As a local sports talk show host told me at the Cubs game, his phones light up only for Cubs talk right now. Typically in mid-August, it’s all-Bears, all the time.
You can bet the Bears will have a major sports radio presence Monday.
The good news is we now know two hard truths going into the second preseason game: No. 1, you can’t trust this new regime to tell the truth on anything and No. 2, this season is going to be even worse than you thought.
Thanks to the White situation, it’s not just the reporters that will know that the team is flat out lying to their faces, fans will feel misled as well. You may roll your eyes at this, but how many Bears fans and fantasy football players are cursing under their breath over this Kevin White injury news? If the media are already dropping these kinds of bombs, what’s going to happen when the real games actually begin! Expect a long, drama-filled season in the Windy City.