The Buffalo Bills seemed to be asking for local and national ridicule Tuesday by announcing some laughable new media guidelines.
That was odd, since they get plenty of ridicule already for their on-the-field performance.
Sure enough, the Bills got the national and local ridicule they deserved for a policy that was attributed to the Bills media department without anyone specifically attached to it.
It made one wonder whose idea it was to basically tell the media you can’t do your jobs the way you feel you need to.
Did it really come from the media relations department? Did it come down from Bills Coach Rex Ryan, General Manager Doug Whaley or team president Russ Brandon? Was it the idea of Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula?
Or was it, as the Bills often claim, a poorly-arrived at group decision?
In any event, local TV sportscasters understandably piled on against the Bills efforts to restrict their jobs with a policy that the president of the Professional Football Writers of America told John Wawrow of the Associated Press "is not in compliance" with the league's media policy.
Channel 2’s Adam Benigni, who is now the dean of local sports directors, had the strongest remarks in a five-minute report on the 5 p.m. news that is available on WGRZ.com.
He explained that the media has followed some of the policies already before adding other elements were “by far the most restrictive I’ve seen in 25 years of covering sports.”
He added that some of the restrictions against reporting what the media see “cuts to the core of basic journalistic rights and principles.”
Channel 4 sports director Josh Reed made softer remarks that made a similar point about journalists serving the fans with their reports.
“Keep in mind we are very lucky to have these media badges,” said Reed, showing his badge. “This is the way that I am able to give the information to the fans. But when they start to take away some of those privileges it is harder for me to give you the information from team practices.”
Channel 7’s Joe Buscaglia, the station’s Bills reporter, briefly touched on the issue before explaining that he still delivered his usual online feature.
My tweeted advice to the media Tuesday was "Report everything. Bills can't ban everyone, can they? Take it as a challenge."
But leave it to the two co-stars of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, to have the best take on the issue.
Wilbon wouldn’t address whether the policy not to report almost anything you see was “fair or foul.” But he had a remedy that sounded like it could have saved the Bills a lot of embarrassment.
“I don’t know if it is fair or foul,” said Wilbon. “Just close the practice. Don’t let anyone in there and you don’t have to worry about what people say. The NFL bypasses media. They don’t need you. They don’t want you there. So close the practice.”
However, Wawrow reported this morning that isn't an option. He said teams are barred from closing entire practices to the media. Under NFL media policy, "clubs must open to the media at least one of every three Organized Team Activity (OTA) days."
That still leaves the Bills an opportunity to close some OTA practices.
Wilbon also said it isn’t unusual for coaches to allow certain media members to enter closed practices with the understanding they won’t talk about what they see. The network play-by-play men and analysts have watched practices for years with that understanding.
Kornheiser added the best reporters get the information anyway by cultivating sources.
He pretty much exonerated Ryan, who one national report suggested was following the media bashing policy of his favorite presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
“The guy who is going to break the rule is Rex Ryan because Rex Ryan likes to talk, likes to be liked,” said Kornheiser. “And Rex Ryan understands that the reporters are going to be there long after the players are going to be there. So it is a stupid policy. They have every right to do it. Shut it down completely.”
Kornheiser finished with a reference to the old Jackie Gleason program, “The Honeymooners,” to characterize Ryan’s way with the media.
“In the words of Ralph Kramden (Gleason’s character), he is a blabbermouth,” concluded Kornheiser.
After all the blabber was done Tuesday, you had to wonder what the Bills were thinking in establishing this policy.
I doubt if they did it, but the Bills would have been smart to ask some media members their thoughts before implementing the policy. In that way, they would have realized the outrage the policy would have sparked.
If such a dialogue with the media had occurred, the Bills also could have explained that the alternative would have been closing practice for the time they are allowed to do so.
The Bills also could have made a case – and some media members might agree with it -- that tweeting about dropped passes and interceptions in May is pretty silly anyway. During training camp last summer, there were plenty of tweets about the inaccuracy of quarterback EJ Manuel before he played well in preseason games.
But it probably was asking too much of the Bills to have a dialogue with the media they distrust and, as Wilbon said, don’t think they need.
Another famous Kramden phrase directed at his wife Alice seems appropriate on how the Bills handled the policy: “You’re a riot, Bills. A regular riot.”