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Redskins.com Puff

May 26, 2008, 10:56 PM EST

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I don’t expect what’s written on Redskins.com to be hard-hitting or even mildly critical of the Washington Redskins. I haven’t even heard the PR department refer to the site as “unfiltered” Redskins news lately. There is no pretense of objectivity. It’s definitely “sunny side up” coverage of the team.

Generally, there isn’t anything wrong with that. You see the brand, you see the label, and what you see is what you get. Don’t expect to go on to the GOP website and read the dirt about John McCain. Don’t visit Exxon-Mobile’s site to find stories of consumer hardship caused by the price of gas.

Sometimes, though, positive spin can go too far. Such was the case in a story on Dexter Manley that appeared on Redskins.com a couple of days ago.

The article, written by Michael Richman, summarizes Manley’s on-field accomplishments and speaks of his emotion and flair. It’s a nice piece, as far as it goes. But where it doesn’t go is the issue.

There is no mention of Manley’s problems with substance abuse anywhere in the article. Not one word.

You just can’t talk about the career of Dexter Manley without talking about his problems with drugs any more than you can reflect on the presidency of Richard Nixon without talking about Watergate. The scandal was the latter’s downfall just like cocaine derailed Manley’s chances of becoming one of the all-time greats.

His sack totals went up every year from 1982, when the NFL started officially counting sacks, through 1986. That last year he totaled 18.5 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl.

It proved to be his last appearance in Hawaii as well. A first positive test for banned substances resulted in a warning. In July of 1988 he served a 30-day suspension for a second positive test. After recording 8.5 sacks in the strike-abbreviated 1987 season, he got just nine in ’88.

The end came not too long after that. Ten games into the 1989 season, at the age of 30, he played his last down for the Redskins. A third positive test landed him an indefinite ban from the NFL.

When he was reinstated after a year, Joe Gibbs and the Redskins wanted no part of him. He played a year in Phoenix and one more in Tampa Bay before a fourth positive test got him banned for life.

These are not trivial, salacious details about the career of Manley. They are a relevant part, even a major part of the story. The substance abuse issue answers questions such as, “If he was such a good player, why did the Redskins ever let him leave?”

But the skies are never cloudy at Redskins.com. Never is heard a discouraging word, even when the credibility of the articles is at stake.

  1. Gary Fitzgerald - May 27, 2008 at 4:12 PM

    Rich,

    I understand your complaint about the article.

    First, you should know that this article was re-printed on Redskins.com from “Redskins GameDay” magazine–for the Dallas game in which Manley addressed fans at pre-game. So that may help put the article in some context.

    I considered your concerns in terms of publishing Mike’s article on the site. In the end, I decided this was a “Flashback” piece, not a “Definitive Legacy of Dexter Manley.”

    I think most fans by now know of Manley’s drug problems. This “Flashback” piece focuses on his on-field successes and engaging personality.

    I think you can separate the two (given the context of the “Flashback” articles). You disagree. That’s fine.

    For the record, Redskins.com has made note of Manley’s drug problems in the past, although admittedly not to a great degree: http://www.redskins.com/news/newsDetail.jsp?id=17920

    Redskins.com is not purposely trying to put a “sunny side up” on this. As Managing Editor of the site, I needed some fresh, timeless content to put up over the Memorial Day Weekend. Mike’s historical piece on Manley was available and it fit the bill.

    I think it’s a stretch to equate this Manley article with the common complaint that Redskins.com is all “puff.”

    But let me address this concern as well.

    The site’s name is Redskins.com and it’s my view that it should exist to support the team. But in five years, no one has told me, ‘Don’t put anything critical of the Redskins on the web site.’ If the team or specific players are struggling, I try to call it as a I see it. There are examples of criticism on the site–but it is always “fair criticism.”

    If it’s not fair, or if I don’t know the full story, I am measured in the words I use.

    One example comes to mind: http://www.redskins.com/news/newsDetail.jsp?id=30734. It’s after one of the worst losses in Redskins history, and I wouldn’t call this piece encouraging.

    So “fair criticism” of the team is there, you just choose not to see it because they are words you would not use.

    Of course I realize the “Redskins.com is all puff and propaganda” criticsm is never going to go away. I accept it and move on.

    Truthfully, there are some issues that you’ll see scant coverage on Redskins.com (legal matters, etc.). And believe it or not, there are some issues, negative or otherwise, that don’t get covered simply because I’m mostly a one-man band in terms of generating content for the site and I didn’t have time in that particular day.

    I usually laugh when I read comments like the ones in your blog. If you only knew…

    Take care and good luck with the blog.

  2. Joe in Raleigh - May 27, 2008 at 6:32 PM

    You know, I want to give Gary some credit for penning a defense of his Manley piece here on Real Redskins. I’m willing to accept that a “Flashback” article might not be a complete history. Fine.

    But I reject this dismissive statement about how he just laughs when he reads “comments like the ones in your blog.” Gary, you can defend your article without being defensive and arrogant.

  3. Gary Fitzgerald - May 27, 2008 at 7:27 PM

    Joe,

    Sorry, perhaps I should have phrased that better.

    I meant to say that I find it amusing when the site’s written content is accused–by anyone, be it Rich Tandler, Dan Steinberg or that guy from the City Paper–of being propaganda or purpopsely puff (for lack of a better phrase). Or in Rich’s words, “positive spin.”

    The editorial decisions I make are hardly as coordinated as that sounds.

    So I “laugh” at the the perception, which is why I added the “if you only knew…” line. I was certainly not dismissing Rich’s view.

    Apologies for the misunderstanding.

  4. Rich Tandler - May 27, 2008 at 11:03 PM

    Thanks for dropping by and checking out the blog, Gary. I’ll echo Joe’s appreciation for you coming here to comment on the article and I commend you for your candor.

    I can appreciate the original context of the Manley article. Still, I have to go back to my Nixon-Watergate analogy and say that the story is fatally flawed without the inclusion of the drug issues.

    In fact, I think that makes it a better story. The fact that he apparently has come through it and has his life pretty well together makes it an uplifting tale.

    It’s good to know that you enjoy editorial freedom at Redskins.com.

    Thanks again, feel free to drop by any time.

  5. Gary Fitzgerald - Jun 5, 2008 at 5:20 PM

    Just as a postscript to this, I was informed that Mike Richman’s piece did originally have a paragraph about his drug problems, as well as a quote.

    It turns out those quotes were cut from the “Redskins GameDay” magazine article due to space reasons. That’s where I got the piece for the web site.

    Mike sent me the original Manley article and I have replaced the “GameDay” version his version with the “GameDay”

    You’re right, Rich. It certainly does make a better story.

  6. Rich Tandler - Jun 6, 2008 at 10:00 PM

    Thanks for the follow up Gary. Again, I appreciate you coming by to comment on the post.

    And thanks for “updating” the Manley article.

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