I’ll apologize in advance.
I don’t exactly know where this is going to go, what the end will be, or if it will be anything more than a stream of consciousness. But, this is the type of situation that requires logic and a level head… and a space to figure it all out.
As you’ve probably heard by now, the new media policy sent out by the Buffalo Bills was something that drew criticism from both the local and national level.
And while I’ll admit, I fired off three snarky tweets out during the actual session — mostly because I was having fun with the story at the moment as opposed to the alternative — I wanted to take a full day to think about it, analyze it, think about all the subsequent conversations that were had, and then formulate what I hoped would be a well-reasoned thought on it.
So, I’ll take you through the day from my perspective.
Most of you know my shtick by now. Professionally speaking, I live for the days that we’re allowed to see practices, where I can see who’s lining up where, how the depth chart is early on, and who stands out. Among most things, it’s what I love the most about the gig — along with being able to tell you all about what went on during the day of work.
Considering that, you could imagine my shock, disappointment, and slight frustration when each little nugget was uncovered while I was reading the new policy on my way to work.
No reporting on personnel groupings, who’s playing nickel corner, who lines up with the first-team. Heck, even drops and interceptions were no longer reportable.
It just didn’t make sense to me.
Why would the team take away the very source of news and notes on the team, when around this time of year a good portion of fans like hearing about what’s going on with the team? And, if they don’t get it from me, then from one of the other writers that do a fantastic job at covering the team — fans lose out there as well.
And while many took to the Twitterverse when the news of the policy first came down — which then brought the national attention to the story — I didn’t want to react too quickly. Sure, I threw the three hopeful attempts at humor out there, but I wanted to know exactly what the deal was.
All I knew at that point was that I was confused as to what was in this policy, but I wanted to hear for myself as to why this was the case.
So, once the media availability was through, two members of the Bills PR staff held an informal meeting with a rightfully concerned contingent of media. If this was going to change how we do our jobs, we’d like to know why. A pretty standard line of questioning, I’d think, and I made it a point to be an active participant in the discussion.
The Bills started explaining that they were simply trying to rid themselves of play-by-play of practices on Twitter, statistics from a given practice, and that these rules go out the window at training camp when practices are open to the public.
I understood where they were coming from to a certain degree, but if this is how they felt, then why wasn’t it written that way to begin with?
The way it reads, without the nuance and context of the conversation that came later, is that the Bills wanted next to nothing come out about their team. It was written in a fairly harsh manner, without much leeway.
And like it or not, the media serves as a conduit to many fans of the team. Some like all positive reviews, some want to see who’s struggling, and some like a fair mix of both — it just depends on what you like to read as a fan. But in itself, Bills fans are smart, and furthermore, they like to be informed about the team that they’re so passionate about.
I thank my lucky stars on a monthly basis to be in the position that I am. At the end of the day, sports and entertainment are synonymous — I get that. Being able to report on football every day of my life is something I’ll never take for granted.
So, at the end of the day, people like me, and all the rest of the guys that make up the Bills beat… our sole purpose is to do one thing: To build a closer connection between the fans and their favorite team.
It’s really that simple.
So that, in essence, is why the original draft of the media policy made me scratch my head a bit, and led to some frustration in the morning.
If it is the case that what the Bills explained it to us in a more intimate setting is true, not much will change in what they deem to be reportable or not reportable.
However, for those of us — both media and fans — that are as passionate about the game as I know I am, and I know many of you are too, the way it initially read is concerning.
And I’m not here to take any potshots at the team for what went down on Tuesday. The purpose of this is to simply explain it from my side of the conversation, and hope that many of you see where both I, and some of my colleagues, are coming from.
At the end of the day, if the leeway continues along, this will have been much ado about nothing on a random day in May. That’s the hope, of course.
If the shackles get a little tighter though, and the policies become a bit more rigid like the policy reads without the context the Bills provided, then that’s where this becomes a much bigger concern.
I just hope that, for all of us that love the game as much as we do, we never get to that point.