If the New Orleans Saints made it their goal to win over the hearts and minds of New Englanders, then it’s Mission: Accomplished.
Lord knows I’ve had my problems with the Saints in the past. When their coaching staff is involved in stealing painkillers from the trainers and running a cash-for-concussions scheme, then sure, I take issue with that. And quite honestly I resented the way Sean Payton came back from his year-long Bountygate suspension and was treated by an adoring media like he was a conquering hero coming back from war, whereas the world is still Gate-shaming Bill Belichick over some minor indiscretion that was resolved eight years ago.
But that’s all water under the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. I’m letting bygones be bygones, moving on and letting the healing begin. The Saints organization has figured out how to get into the good graces of Massholes everywhere, and it is throwing a little “Defend the Wall” out on your social media. It’s a reminder that there are people who do have the Patriots’ collective back. And that the Saints players who were suspended in Bountygate appealed and had their punishments either reduced or wiped out altogether. There’s a certain brotherhood that comes from being in the group that fought Roger Goodell and won that makes you sympathetic to the suffering of others. It’s a sort of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” thing, and with the threat of that megalomaniacal despot still looming, we need all the friends we can get.
So thank you, New Orleans. Today … we are all … Saints.
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The top stories of the day as recounted by Kirk Minihane.
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— Rex Ryan‘s Bills are leading the league, but not in the right categories. In Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the visiting Giants, the Bills committed 17 penalties, giving them a league-leading 57 this season. In fact, it’s the most penalties by a team through four games in a decade.
Despite that, Ryan found positives in his team’s aggressiveness.
“Well, I’m going to tell you something: I’m proud of the way this team played,” an animated Ryan said after his team fell to 2-2. “Can you play a lot smarter? Absolutely. But I’ll take a team that can fight over a team that won’t — that will sit back and take it — any day of the week. And bring on the next team.
“So that’s how I look at it. Give me a team that’s got some fight, and we’ll compete to the very end, right, wrong or indifferent. No matter how good the officiating is, or whatever.”
Ryan did not appreciate members of the media saying his team had an issue with discipline, even though Buffalo had two touchdowns called back due to penalties Sunday.
“You guys write the story, so you’ll write it the way you want to write it,” Ryan said. “I know the one thing I know for a fact is that we have heart. The discipline things? I get it. When you have 17 penalties, that’s obviously a sign of lack of discipline. That’s not the real deal, but this is a free country. Write what you believe.”
Added Ryan: “I get it, no question about it. We can focus on the negatives and all that — and I get it, that’s your guys’ job — but you might not understand the game the way I understand [it] because I’ve been on the other side. I’ve been a part of a 20-some-penalty performance by the Ravens, OK? And we went on and we fixed it. We’ll fix it here.”
Some players say they believe the officials are making calls based on the Bills’ reputation, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams said they’ll now have to be “choirboys” because other teams will try to goad them into lashing out.
“Oh, I think we’re there,” Williams said of the reputation. “Especially in the fourth quarter, when we go back out. [Linebacker] Preston [Brown] is ripping out a ball and he gets 15 yards thrown on him for throwing an elbow when he’s trying to rip the ball out. So I think once you get to that point, they’re looking for things, whether they’re legitimate or not, they’re looking for things like that.”
Whitlock joined ESPN in August 2013 and was to be the founding editor of a website about race and sports called The Undefeated, but earlier this year he was removed from that role, reportedly amid questions about his leadership style. He has continued to appear on ESPN programs.
“We have mutually agreed to part ways, which was Jason’s preference following the shift from his role as editor-in-chief,” ESPN said in a statement. “Jason is a talented print and television commentator, and we wish him success in his next chapter. ESPN remains fully committed to The Undefeated and plans continue toward an official launch.”
Whitlock was with ESPN previously from 2002-06. He then worked for Fox Sports from 2007-13. Now he’s expected to sign up for a second stint with Fox.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Oct. 5, 2005, the Red Sox lost Game 2 of the American League Division Series when the White Sox took advantage of a key error by which Boston player to score five runs in the fifth and rally for a 5-4 victory?