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The Buck Stops Here: Eagles turn minor dispute into major mistake

This may come as a surprise, but reporters often challenge one another with the same tenacity they use to challenge people they cover. Last week, two reporters covering the Bills had a heated discussion that lasted more than a half-hour over whether Buffalo should keep Tyrod Taylor.

Deliberations are common in press areas. Jerry Sullivan and I have had arguments that ended with neither knowing how the argument started. Discussions behind the scenes are healthy. They’re also rarely reported because it’s not news. Who cares about opinionated media types disagreeing with one other?

The Eagles should have known as much before embarrassing themselves Sunday while ejecting veteran Philadelphia Inquirer beat reporter Jeff McLane from Lincoln Financial Field press box. His transgression was violating “the fan code of conduct” because he was too loud while debating a penalty and clock discrepancy.

For starters, McLane isn’t a fan. The Eagles are no fan of him, either, which is no surprise. I’m sure it’s been ugly at times. But he’s a veteran who knows how to behave in a press box. He wasn’t shooting off bottle rockets or pelting Santa Claus with snowballs, you know, like Philly fans of the past.

Reporters who watched a minor dispute unravel into a major one, including his competitors, came to his defense.

One was Daily News beat reporter Les Bowen, who I’ve known since my days with the Associated Press in Philadelphia back in the mid-1990s. Five years ago, he and McLane had an argument that escalated into a fistfight. Their relationship has since been mended.

Another was Daily News’ Marcus Hayes, who told the Inquirer that McLane pulled an Eagles’ staffer aside in an attempt to defuse the situation. Moments after calm was restored, McLane was told to leave by Anne Gordon, the Eagles’ vice president of marketing, media and communication. He was escorted to the door by security.

The kicker: Gordon is a former managing editor of the Inquirer.

Bet the ranch that fans, many of whom are undyingly loyal to their teams and blame the media for everything, took great pleasure in a reporter getting tossed. That’s what fans do. Our job is providing information, opinion and perspective whether we’re covering the White House or the outhouse. That’s what we do.

This isn’t about reporters defending reporters, either. It’s about a person in power, in this case Gordon, overstepping her boundaries and using some lame “code of conduct” defense. Rather than solve a problem, assuming there was an actual problem, she created a 10-car pileup by overreacting.

“To me, this is unprecedented,” Pro Football Hall of Fame football writer Ray Didinger told WIP Radio in Philadelphia. “I think they took a non-incident and turned it into the incident. There had to be a middle ground between ‘shush’ and calling in the National Guard.”

It makes you wonder if Gordon had a personal beef with McLane. Or maybe it was a preemptive strike to keep him from reaching the locker room. He was working on a story about offensive lineman Lane Johnson, who cited his own suspension as the reason Philly missed the playoffs.

McLane planned to interview Johnson after the game but never had the chance. In the end, it didn’t matter. McLane exchanged texts with Johnson and wrote the story without actually speaking to him. He worked around Gordon.

Gordon ultimately worked against her own cause. She drew negative attention to the organization that was unnecessary, turned the Eagles into a punchline and provided ammunition for critics. She solved NOTHING.

Sorry, was I being too loud?

Looking after the kids

If you’re into college basketball recruits, here are two high school underclassmen to follow in the coming years: Marvin Bagley III and Cassius Stanley.

Bagley is a 6-foot-11, 225-pound junior from Sierra Canyon (Calif.) who has been touted as the best player in the country, regardless of grade. He’s mobile, can shoot from the outside and dominates around the rim. He was averaging 26.7 points and 8.8 points per game for one of the best teams in the country.

Ineligible to play as a sophomore after transferring twice, he emerged this season. He had 28 points in a victory last month over powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, ending its 56-game winning streak. Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State (see: Hurley, Bobby) already offered him full scholarships.

Stanley (6-6, 190) is a human highlight reel. The sophomore was rated ninth nationally in his class by ESPN, but look for him to climb the rankings. He’s averaging 19.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game for Harvard-Westlake, a private school in Los Angeles.

At 17, he’s old for his grade. One reason he landed at Harvard-Westlake, which costs about $40,000 per year, was to improve academically. He has been hailed as the best athlete since Vince Carter. Do yourself a favor: Google his name and click “videos.” You will not be disappointed.

Wayward cheers for Hayward

Why were Celtics fans smitten this week with Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward? He was given an unusually warm reception for an opponent before a game in TD Garden, a response that insulted Celts small forward Jae Crowder.

“I heard the cheering before the game,” Crowder said. “I didn’t like it at all. It was a sign of disrespect to me from the fans.”

The welcome wasn’t disillusioned fans dissing Crowder, as he suspected, or about race, as others suspected. It appears to be nothing more than Celtics fans warming up to the possibility that Hayward will land in Boston as a free agent.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Hayward built a strong bond while leading Butler to the NCAA Tournament championship game, a 61-59 loss to Duke in 2010. It’s natural to conclude they would want to reunite in the NBA.

Plus, the Celtics need someone to take pressure from guard Isiah Thomas on the perimeter. Hayward, who was averaging 22.4 points and six rebounds for the Jazz, is a good outside shooter whose range extends beyond the three-point line.

Crowder, whose five-year contract worth $35 million runs through 2019-20, plays the same position but a different style. It’s entirely possible Boston would want to sign Hayward and keep Crowder.

Rousey Replay

UFC experts who watched Amanda Nunes dispatch Ronda Rousey in 48 seconds pointed to Rousey getting away from her strengths and relying on inferior boxing skills. Her speedy ascension to stardom came from using judo and getting opponents to submit to her signature arm bar.

Her coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, has been roasted for his work after Rousey’s past two losses. I’m nowhere remotely close to being an authority on mixed-martial arts, so I wouldn’t begin to debate criticism lodged against the coach. Replays clearly showed that Rousey left herself exposed.

Based on the audio version, it sounded like Rousey ignored her coach and failed to implement her own plan. Tarverdyan could be heard pleading with Rousey to move her head and avoid strikes before and throughout the Nunes fight. She remained still and turned into a punching bag.

Novices (guilty!) are left to conclude the only thing in the way of Nunes’ punches was Rousey’s ego. I’ll hang up and listen.


ESPN analyst Bill Polian on the state of the Bills as they search for a head coach: “The fact of the matter is that if you’re a candidate for the Bills’ job, you begin to say to yourself, ‘What kind of an organization am I stepping into?’”

Stats Inc.

1 – Career shutout losses for Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who has a 165-29 record and is 9-2 in bowl games, after Clemson rolled over his Buckeyes, 31-0, in the Fiesta Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff.

22.547 – Kilometers (14.02 miles) traveled in one hour by 105-year-old French cyclist Robert Marchand, who set a record for his age group. He also owns the mark for 100 years and older, riding 26.927 kilometers (16.73 miles) in an hour when he was 102.

6 – Arrests for Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones since Tennessee selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft. He was arrested last week in Cincinnati for disorderly conduct, obstructing police and harassment.

Extra Points 

Rockets guard James Harden had 53 points, 16 rebounds, 17 assists and eight turnovers last weekend in a 129-122 victory over the Knicks. It marked the first time in NBA history a player had that many in each category in the same game. He followed that with another triple double (23-10-10) against the Wizards.

Last Saturday marked the first time in 27 years that Duke and North Carolina lost, while ranked in the Top 10, to unranked opponents on the same day. Fifth-ranked Duke fell to Virginia Tech, 89-75, while ninth-ranked North Carolina lost to Georgia Tech, 75-63. Duke fell three spots in the poll while Carolina fell five spots.

Eli Manning quickly defused a controversy after receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard celebrated their win over Washington with a short trip to Miami. A photo of Beckham and Shepard raced across the internet. Said Manning: “I was telling people that I was the one who took the photo.”

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