Timing really is everything in life. Right now, Ron Borges is being raked over the coals for writing a completely false story about Tom Brady holding out, and rightfully so. But what if the truth hadn’t come out right away? What if it had been, say 3 months? Could things have turned out differently? You might be surprised to hear the answer to that question.
The date was February 2, 2008. The Patriots were one day away from attempting to complete the first 19-0 season in NFL history, but before that could happen a shocking piece was published in the Boston Herald. John Tomase was claiming that a “source close to the team” said that the Rams Saturday walkthrough had been filmed by the Patriots. It was a bombshell, and after the Spygate scandal of that year, one that quickly became the story of the weekend. The piece seemed to confirm what people had been saying all year, that the Patriots had cheated their way to victory in at least one, and possibly all 3 of their Super Bowl victories.
Tomase’s article, as we now know, was a complete fabrication. The problem is, the truth didn’t come out until months later. By then, it was already considered a fact, and is still used by people when referencing the Patriots cheating. ESPN has actually mentioned it a few times as recently as last year. The story ran its course in the news, and by the time everyone realized it was fake, it had already been accepted as fact. The retraction became simply a footnote in the history of Spygate. Most people had made up their minds on the situation, and it wasn’t about to change because a report may have been wrong. We can only assume that someone had lied to Tomas about the report, but we will never truly know how he really got his story. Tomase retracted his story, but never really apologized. Not only was he was not suspended by the Herald, but, after covering the Patriots for one more year was promoted to covering the Red Sox. He is still an active part of the Boston sports media. No one brings up his article from February of 2008, it’s like it never happened.
Thankfully, Ron Borges would not get as lucky as John Tomase. As soon as the article was posted to Twitter, multiple reporters were discrediting it, saying they had multiple sources saying it was completely false. But it was when Kirk & Callahan came on in the morning that it really hit the fan. It turned out that Nick in Boston, a listener, had gotten Ron’s number from Twitter and had texted him claiming to be Don Yee. Borges had been convinced and ran with the story that Tom Brady was willing to hold out of OTAs until he received a contract approaching the value of Jimmy Garoppolo’s new deal. Nick even had the texts to back up his story, and they were shared on Twitter by the Kirk & Callahan show:
The story, which would’ve only added onto the “dysfunctional relationship” storyline that has been dominating Patriots news for weeks, hadn’t had a chance to get into the mainstream media before it was discredited. Because of this, the story has been more about Borges being tricked by a random Bostonian than about what he actually wrote in the article. With that in the forefront of people’s minds, they are starting to question Borges more. Did he write more articles with just one source? And if so, how many of them were false? I won’t even venture a guess here.
The other topic that this brings up is writing with a bias. Borges has spent a good chunk of the Belichick years writing negative articles about the Patriots. One could question whether he was quick to go to print because the story fit his bias. He was looking for a negative story to print, and he got one. Go back and look at the text messages that were sent to him. It certainly doesn’t sound like an agent of two of the highest paid players in the league. Could he have overlooked that because he liked how the story would play out? We won’t ever know if this was really his motivation, as I doubt he would ever admit to something like that, but it is something to consider.
Now, this may seem strange, a blogger without any sources talking about journalistic integrity, but I’d like to think I have some of it myself. Every article I write is an opinion piece based off facts that everyone knows. It is known to my readers that it is simply an opinion, even if I feel strongly about it. The real lesson here is to be careful what you say. If you are careless with the truth, lies may be taken as fact, and it can affect other people’s lives. In this age of social media, and the 24 hour news cycle, it can be tempting to be the first one with the story, but what if it’s not accurate? In Tomase’s case, enough time passed that people had already filed his article away as fact. Good luck for him, bad luck for the Patriots. This time, it was the Patriots that had the good luck, and it may cost Borges his credibility, or even worse, his job.