Tuesday’s report from ESPN regarding the Patriots contained a potentially explosive allegation from former Rams coach Mike Martz. Upon closer review, it now appears that Martz’s allegation regarding changes to a statement given to the NFL in 2008 has no merit.
Unless, that is, he had never previously read his own statement in the seven-plus years since it was issued.
In the ESPN story, Martz explained that he provided a statement regarding suspected cheating prior to Super Bowl XXXVI, between St. Louis and New England. He then was shown the statement. And Martz said he didn’t recognize it.
“It shocked me,” Martz told ESPN. “It appears embellished quite a bit — some lines I know I didn’t write. Who changed it? I don’t know.”
But the Martz statement posted Tuesday by ESPN.com is identical to the statement he issued in May 2008. The full text was copied and pasted from an article by Mike Reiss (then of the Boston Globe; the link to his story is now dead) to the website PatsFan.com, and portions of it appeared in a May 2008 story from the Associated Press.
Tuesday’s story from ESPN didn’t mention this fairly important fact, which tends to undercut the notion that someone harvested Martz’s statement, made changes unbeknownst to him, and then keep those changes from him for more than seven years. If anyone changed Martz’s statement, he had a full and fair opportunity to see the final product in print, to notice that there were “some lines I know I didn’t write,” and to deal with it at the time.
Even if he chose at the time to let it go because, for example, he hoped to get another head-coaching job in the NFL and didn’t want to make waves, he shouldn’t be currently “shocked” by the realization that words were put in his mouth. That should be old news.
And ESPN should have provided more details about the situation in its story, instead of creating the impression that someone from the NFL surreptitiously changed Martz’s words in order to stave off a Congressional investigation. In a story that already stretched beyond 10,000 words, a paragraph explaining that: (1) Martz’s statement was published in 2008; (2) the text of it hasn’t changed since; and (3) Martz never said “boo” about it at any time since the statement was published would have been a simple addition.
In fairness to the story and to all parties involved, it’s a simple addition that should have been made.
Maybe ESPN will make the change now. Right after it changes the story that 11 of 12 Patriots footballs were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.