Just for those who don't want to have to scroll through that big page, like I did... the link's been provided earlier in this thread, here's the text of the PFT item:
EASTERBROOK OFF THE MARK
As the ESPN hype machine continues to ramp up for the greatest . . . game . . . ever, Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com's TMQ has tried to graft a good-and-evil-style theme
onto the upcoming regular-season showdown between the Colts and the Patriots.
Easterbrook makes the case for the Colts being the good, and for the Pats being the ungood.
Though we like Easterbrook and his work, his hypothesis about the looming Week Nine contest has all the makings of a square peg being rammed through a round hole. (The prior version of this item said that it was a square peg in a square hole, but only because I have a round hole in my square head.)
Every NFL team has things to like, and things to hate. Whether we as fans/media/Internet hacks focus on the good or the bad is a matter of perspective. And Easterbook's item suggests that, for whatever reason(s), he's inclined to like the Colts and dislike the Pats.
Our guess is that his perspective was honed by his conclusions regarding the Patriots' cheating scandal, exacerbated by the public tail-twisting he took from the ESPN.com ombudslady
earlier this month. But even though Easterbook is now inclined (consciously or not) to diss the Pats and praise the Colts (or, possibly, anyone who is playing the Pats), we think that he needs to be able to retain some semblance of objectivity, even when editorializing.
As to the Colts, Easterbook ignores plenty of things that undermine the notion that the franchise "carr[ies] the banner of that which is beneficent: Sportsmanship, honesty, modesty, devotion to community, embrace of traditional small-town life, belief in higher power, even love of laughter."
Quarterback Peyton Manning might be revered by Colts fans and superficially respected by sock puppets who are afraid that Manning might use his bully pulpit to give them the Tony Kornheiser treatment. But plenty of pro football fans think that Peyton is a money-grubbing, me-first, whiny, pissy, finger-pointing jerk with a huge head and the pecs of a grade-schooler. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt -- and the endless stream of commercials and praise has given the fans of the other 31 franchises in the NFL good reason to believe that Peyton is Darth Vader in a white helmet.
There also are several reasons for those who wear that same white helmet to quietly resent Manning. He seemed to fault his blockers for failing to protect the slow-footed passer after a January 2006 playoff loss to the Steelers, Sal Paolantonio points out in his new book that Manning blamed Dallas Clark for an interception in Super Bowl XLI that was actually Manning's fault, and our report regarding the special treatment that Manning apparently received in connection with the team's Super Bowl ring ceremony (including an invitation for his father, Archie, to attend) was met with an irrational overreaction from the team, which prompted us (and others) to conclude that there was fire at the bottom of all of the smoke.
Then there's G.M. Bill Polian. He has a reputation in league circles of bullying others to get his way. Per past reports, he openly roots for the Colts in the press box, he criticizes officials without consequence, and he reportedly threw a pint-sized employee of the Jets against a wall last season.
And what about those claims that the Colts have done a little cheating of their own, by piping in fake noise to disrupt opposing offenses?
So the Colts are no choir boys, unless you're inclined to ignore a few warts on their naked butt and rectum
As to the Patriots, Easterbrook has plenty of low-hanging fruit with which to work. Does coach Bill Belichick come off at times (or most of the time) as a complete jerk? Yep. Does he care? Nope. Is he able to get the 53 men who put on the pads every Sunday to perform at an incredibly high level? Hell, yes.
Did he cheat? Yes. Do others cheat? Apparently. As FOX's Jimmy Johnson has said, Colts offensive line coach Howard Mudd is the best signal-stealer in the league. (Also, some league insiders think that morbidly portly Colts defensive line coach John Teerlinck teaches his players to dive at the knees of quarterbacks.) And let's not forget that recent report from John Czarnecki of FOX that the NFL shredded and burned the box of cheating evidence surrendered by the Pats because it also included proof of cheating by other teams.
Easterbrook also throws a surprising haymaker at a player who rarely is criticized: "The team's star, Tom Brady, is a smirking celebrity-chaser who dates actresses and supermodels but whose public charity appearances are infrequent. That constant smirk on Brady's face reminds one of Dick Cheney; people who smirk are fairly broadcasting the message, 'I'm hiding something.'"
So "public charity appearances" are good? What if Brady has opted to follow the Biblical suggestion that alms be given discreetly? And what if Manning does his charity publicly simply to enhance his ability to be perceived as a "good guy"?
While we realize that the detection of smirks is subjective, Brady has never come off to us as a smirker. And while we likewise don't have a Tom Brady Fathead on the wall at official PFT headquarters, it's hard not to have respect for a guy who went from being an overlooked sixth-round pick to one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and who is on pace to have the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of the league.
Thus, the Pats have some good to counter the bad.
That's why Easterbrook's argument is such a stretch. And that's also why his editor would have done him a huge favor by pointing out to him the flaws in his reasoning. Pats fans understandably are up in arms over this one; though we know a thing or two about alienating every single fan of a given team, the reaction seems to be more intense where the opinion that causes the commotion simply doesn't seem to be rooted in a fair consideration of all of the facts.
(emphasis mine at the end - very salient point)