By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch

The Boston Herald has “apologized” for writer John Tomase’s Super Bowl Eve bombshell that a tape of a 2002 St. Louis Rams pre-Super Bowl walkthrough existed. Without naming Tomase directly, the paper, at its website (and surely in the Wednesday print edition), says under the heading, “Sorry, Pats” and alongside a picture of the raised Lombardi Trophy:

On Feb. 2, 2008, the Boston Herald reported that a member of the New England Patriots’ video staff taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI. While the Boston Herald based its Feb. 2, 2008, report on sources that it believed to be credible, we now know that this report was false, and that no tape of the walkthrough ever existed.

Prior to the publication of its Feb. 2, 2008, article, the Boston Herald neither possessed nor viewed a tape of the Rams’ walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI, nor did we speak to anyone who had. We should not have published the allegation in the absence of firmer verification.

The Boston Herald regrets the damage done to the team by publication of the allegation, and sincerely apologizes to its readers and to the New England Patriots [team stats]’ owners, players, employees and fans for our error.

Within its first two hours of being posted (just after midnight Wednesday), there were 24 mostly negative comments on the apology story at the Herald website. ESPN picked up on the apology just before 2 a.m. The blogs were also picking up on the story in the immediate hours after the apology was posted. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio calls it “stunning but not surprising.” Reiss’s Pieces also noted the apology with a post from “Globe Staff” at 12:38 a.m.

Almost instantly, the odd “apology” – blind and not specifically credited to any editor – found no favor with Herald Commenters, a sentiment you can be sure will echo throughout the day at ‘EEI.

Despite using the term “sources,” the Herald admits in its statement that it erred in not getting “firmer verification,” an apparent contradiction that brings up more questions than answers for the paper. The wording – and lack of Tomase’s name – would almost indicate that the publication of the story lays more at the feet of desk editors than the writer himself. This would appear to be consistent with the folks who claim Tomase formerly expressed his uneasiness with running the story during one of his regular interviews on the “Loren and Wally” show. (Evidence of that appearance and discussion could not be found by Shots.)

Tomase writes the Walsh story from New York for the Wednesday Herald but makes no mention of his own role in the episode.

For its part, the Herald was saying close to nothing at the close of business on Tuesday. Sports editor Hank Hryniewicz replied to an email request from Shots by writing, “We continue to report on [Tuesday's] meetings and press conference.” Hank Herald then put us in touch with spokeswoman Gwen Gage for comment.

Gage, whose title is “VP/Promotion and Marketing Services,” emailed an official “no comment” and we respectfully asked to be added to Gage’s email list when/if a comment is made available.

(Right. We know. The Herald has a promotions person handling spin control on something that could shape the overall future course of Tomase’s career and the immediate future of the paper’s ability to cover the region’s most-scrutinized team. Doesn’t seem proper to us either, but a lot of folks wear a lot of hats over at Herald Square.)

Tomase declined to comment to a Tuesday afternoon email that contained these questions from Shots:

Is there anything in Herald protocol that says a one-source confirmation of a particular event is or is not acceptable?

If the paper accepts one source and you have that one source, then it’s the paper’s responsibility to explain that you followed Herald guidelines, right?

How do you respond to the lack of posting today from New York. Boston.com was all over it, as you know. . .

. . . We also would like to know what happened to the Herald’s “Missing Spygate” post as reported by Bruce Allen on Tuesday? Here, courtesy of an alert Shots reader, are the contents of that innocuous missing post from Tomase in New York:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met for over three hours this morning with former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh, and when it was over, Goodell sounded ready to end his investigation into the Patriots’ videotaping practices.

“As I stand before you today having met with Matt Walsh and 50 others, I don’t know where else to turn,” Goodell said.

Among the revelations from the morning meeting, according to Goodell:

* Walsh did not tape the Rams walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. Nor was he instructed to by anyone or have any knowledge of such a tape being shot by someone else. “He had no recollection at all about the walkthrough other than he was there doing his job,” Goodell said. “He was busy doing his job.”

After the press conference, however, outside NFL attorney Gregg Levy told reporters that Walsh had mentioned one additional detail — when asked by former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll if he had noticed anything at the walkthrough, Walsh said he had seen Marshall Faulk lined up to field a kickoff or punt, and that he had also been asked about how the Rams were lining up their tight ends in particular formations.

A league spokesman said the information would not lead to more punishment of the Patriots.

* Goodell said the information Walsh provided on the taping of offensive and defensive signals was consistent with what the league has already punished the Patriots for.

* Goodell said Walsh was unaware of any other violations of league policy committed by the Patriots, specifically the bugging of locker rooms, manipulation of communications equipment, or miking of players to pick up opposing signals. “He was able to confirm that the Patriots had followed NFL policy as far as he knew,” Goodell said.

. . . What was so objectionable about that? The removal of the post only adds further questions to the mystery.

• Here’s what was happening over at WEEI 850 AM on “Spygate Super Tuesday”: Tom Brady was busy trashing ESPN. The entire Big Show crew was trashing Tomase. Lastly, Idiot Nation was further trashing its own reputation with one moronic caller after another, which resulted in one moronic comment after another.

Meanwhile, in a gym in Waltham, Doc Rivers secretly thanked Roger Goodell for the fortuitous timing of the day that was supposed to be a Spygate swan song. Instead, a venomous group of Pats apologists and rooters have now turned their pitchforks on Tomase.

• It was quite humorous to hear the EEIdiot Testosterone Troupe of Glenn Ordway, Fred Smerlas, Steve DeAwful DeOssie and Pete Meat Sheppard rail against the Herald’s “credibility” issues.

Tomase may have screwed up, but he’s still more reliable and more informed and talented than any of the Big Show Behemoths – and that includes Ordway, who,we aren’t ashamed to admit, is pretty darn good at what he does, considering what he does is stir the pot.

• Here’s the audio where Tom Brady did a pretty fair job of completely condemning two four letter entities: ESPN and the Jets.

In his 35 minute Big Show appearance, Brady – promoting a charity he’s working with – disparagingly compared ESPN to MTV (around the 11:00 mark) and said that he didn’t respect the New York Jets (at the 8:00 area).

At 11:10 mark:
Big Show lunkhead asks fawning question about the ill-informed national commentators (a topic the dunces had been hammering away at)

Brady: It’s the environment right now – that’s the way that guys make it. They say the craziest thing. That’s what ESPN has become. It’s like MTV without the highlights.”

Big Show lunkhead interrupts and says: Without the girls. . .

Brady: I wish it was more of that, I’d watch ESPN a lot more than watch it (now).

At 8:00 mark, discussing the respect he has for the Giants:

Brady: I have a lot of respect for that team. I don’t respect everybody.

(Meatheads talk over him, a constant problem with all of the Big Show beasts.)

Brady: Four letters in their name.

Anonymous Lunkhead: The green guys?

Brady: Yeah, exactly.

. . . Brady also drops a “shit” into the conversation at about the 10:00 minute mark when giving a Lawyer Milloy anecdote.

. . . Brady on Spygate: “It’s a dead issue, it’s a complete dead issue and it’s been that way for a long time.”

• A huge contrast in coverage from Mike Reiss’s all-day live blog (with Mr. Gasper in Washington, D.C.) to the Herald’s weak real-time coverage on Tuesday.

. . . Tomase was in New York and one member of the horde on-site at The InterContinental said he was impressed with the attitude and approach Tomase took in performing his job under what were obviously extenuating circumstances.

. . . Probably the best blogging of the day came from Hashnmarks at ESPN.com.

. . . Channel 4 (WBZTV) put political gadfly John Keller on one of its Pats packages and what a disaster that was. The highlight was the camera man’s fine work in showing the dirty, sweaty socks of DeAwful DeOssie (or were they Fred’s Feet? Who can tell?) as he propped them on the studio desk for B Roll of the yaksters discussing the events of the day.

Stick to Obama, Keller. Please.

. . . ‘BZ also threw old-time sports guy and soon-to-be dumped, Scott Wahle into the sports anchor position as Walsh limo-intruder Stammering Steve Burton was in New York “waiting for three hours” for Walsh. Soon enough, ‘BZ is going to need to borrow ESPN’s dunking bird to deliver sports reports.

• As for the suggestion that the Patriots should engage in some sort of legal action against the Herald, we’d have to guess that the Herald is begging The Krafts for such action. Nothing sells papers or draws web traffic like a good lawyers-on-lawyers scrum involving a media entity and a professional sports franchise. Even if it would be costly for Pat Purcell to fend off the Krafts, the resulting documents from discovery and the potential depth into which Spygate could be dissected should be more than enough for the Patriots to talk tough now and slink away quietly, shortly.

From the Patriots on Tuesday afternoon:

“We want to address the allegation that the Patriots taped the Rams’ walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. For the past three-and-a-half months, we have been defending ourselves against assumptions made based on an unsubstantiated report rather than on facts or evidence. Despite our adamant denials, the report ran on February 2, 2008, the day before Super Bowl XLII. That game was the second-most watched program in television history and it is unfortunate that today’s news will not also reach an audience of that size. We hope that with Matt Walsh’s disclosures, everyone will finally believe what we have been saying all along and emphatically stated on the day of the initial report: ‘The suggestion that the New England Patriots recorded the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough on the day before Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 is absolutely false. Any suggestion to the contrary is untrue.’”

. . . Does all of that sound a little bit snooty coming from a club that has been gaining unfair advantage for some eight years? Wouldn’t the option of silently letting the Walsh meeting pass have been a more prudent choice for such an image conscious organization?

. . . Tomase’s Tuesday re-cap of the day had received 98 comments within 4 hours of posting. Most Herald blogs receive about 1/20th of that commenting traffic.

• Sounds like there was a good three minutes of the San Diego cheerleaders on one of the tapes, but Walsh allegedly didn’t tape that portion, perhaps leaving those duties to the team’s director of T&A.

• We’re a bit late to this party, but can someone relay the message to Celtics radio play-by-play man Sean Grande that every minute of every game is not the final minute of the final game? On Monday night, Grande – who is usually quite solid – was overplaying a late-game timeout as one listeners might remember into the summer (unlikely) and then doing two takes on the monster LeBron James dunk, being sure to try and get an ESPN “Play of the Day” (and ESPN Deportes) plug into his second description of the devastating dunk.

There’s going to be plenty of drama in the coming games – no need to manufacture it at every dribble.

David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shotsATbostonsportsmediaDOTcom.

Scott’s first book, with Memphis Coach John Calipari, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2009.