The Blog Squad

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Spat

It’s Dallas Week for Redskins fans, but the real drama for the past few days did not include any players.

Typically, fans would expect a little smack being talked between the players and maybe even the coaches, but oh, how times have changed. Instead, a big spat erupted between the Redskins executive vice president of football operations and the Washington Post’s beat reporter.

If you don’t know the history of Vinny Cerrato and Jason La Canfora, then let me briefly catch you up — the reporter believes he’s entitled to information when he wants it and since the VP won’t give him any, the former has been very negative in his coverage of the team.

Some have said La Canfora is doing his job since Cerrato and his boss, owner Daniel Synder, have not produced a consistent winner. However, others have suggested that La Canfora has gone out of his way to find negative information and won’t stop until Cerrato (and even Snyder) is gone from Washington.

It’s sort of a “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.”

This latest donnybrook started when it was announced that Cerrato would host a radio show on ESPN 980, which is owned by Snyder. Cerrato would host the Washington-area show, called “Inside the Red Zone,” for four hours per week.

Well, this bit of news didn’t sit well with La Canfora, and he let his feelings be known. The reporter/columnist suggested in the piece that no other NFL executive was doing such a thing. But that bit of information is misleading. Bill Polian, the Indianapolis Colts president, hosts his own show. Granted, Polian’s program is one hour a week in the evening, but Cerrato isn’t the only executive with a microphone.

This is the kind of slanted writing has many people wondering how La Canfora has a job.

But never mind that for a second. La Canfora made a more dire suggestion a few days later. He decided to call the league office after Cerrato spoke to NFL Network’s Adam Schefter about the possible firing of Lane Kiffin of the Oakland Raiders.

La Canfora asked the NFL if what Cerrato was doing could constitute as “tampering” because he was speaking about another coach while that coach was still employed. Obviously, it wasn’t, and even casual fans could answer that question.

So why did La Canfora call the NFL?

Cerrato responded Monday on the radio.

Well, fan reaction was a bit skewed. Many were very angry at La Canfora. Fans wanted him taken off the beat immediately. And those were the gentler responses.

What happened next?

The Washington Post sports editor, either receiving some bad advice or itching to become part of the drama, issued his own statement. It’s very noble to try and protect your reporter, but this was one time the sports editor or any editor needed to keep his mouth shut. Let the situation blow over. After all, it is Dallas Week. Fans will forget.

Instead, the sports editor made his reporter look at worse lazy, and at best, vindictive.

Consider this part: Here’s what NFL spokesman Michael Signora had to say: “Jason LaCanfora (sic) called our office and said that Vinny Cerrato was talking in specifics on his radio show about the Raiders’ coaching position. Jason wanted to know if that could possibly be a tampering issue. Jason has been told that there is no general prohibition against publicly talking about another team’s players or staff. It routinely occurs throughout the league.”

(By the way, did you notice how the sports editor spelled his own reporter’s name? This is the Washington Post. The standard should be the highest in journalism. This mistake is inexcusable.)

So the NFL says this routinely occurs throughout the league. Duh. Almost every day. All a person has to do is read stories about an NFL coach or executive on the hot seat and there are people connected to teams, named and unnamed, who are quoted about the given situation.
Why doesn’t La Canfora know this?

Could it be he wanted to get the Redskins in trouble through this feeble attempt and masked it with an explanation of ignorance? Okay, I’ll play dumb. If he was indeed ignorant about the tampering rules, why didn’t he check the rulebook that should be handy in the newsroom instead of bothering the league office? Or better yet, why didn’t he read his own paper’s story about tampering written just six months ago?

At least one other media person tended to agree with outraged fans. La Canfora answered this media member’s e-mail and showed a tremendous amount of class.

Then mixed in with this ugly situation is a rant by the team’s play-by-play man Larry Michael, who showed an equal amount of graciousness during an episode of Redskins Nation.

So that’s where it ends, for now.

My take on it is “wow,” this is better than Dallas Week and more like Dallas, the old-school TV soap. I read everything I could on the drama. And that, my friend, is exactly why this is all going on. La Canfora knows that the more he hates on the Redskins, the more hits the Washington Post Web site gets. That makes his bosses very happy.

I’d be interested to know what the hit count was for the episodes. I would guess they would be in the top 5 ever at

OUT AT HOME: This is with my head and not my heart. Redskins 27, Cowboys 21.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Here’s another recent case of an NFL executive and a newspaper writer going at it. I laughed when the columnist said something like “I would very much like to own a piece of the Raiders” after he was threatened.


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