For the last few years I have hesitated to write this column. For one reason or another I decided I would keep this story to myself and only criticize David Haugh on the grounds which everyone else criticizes David Haugh: his work. But “sources” – especially those surrounding the NJ.com column on the release of DeSean Jackson by the Philadelphia Eagle – are quickly becoming a major topic of conversation when it comes to football reporting. One needs only follow Jason Whitlock on Twitter to understand how major the conversation is becoming.
I was a “source” for David Haugh.
In mid-November 2006 I was living on a couch in Stuyvesant Town, a weird complex of apartment buildings mostly inhabited by families on the east side of Manhattan. One of my roommates was working for an agency called Sportsstars, representing a host of NFL players, including Ricky Manning Jr. of the Chicago Bears. Word got to the agency that Manning was going to be suspended and my friend told me. He added a caveat, making a simple request: “Please don’t publish this as you are too easily traceable to me.”
So I didn’t. But wanting the information (which nobody else had) to reach the fans, I sent an email to David Haugh. He responded back, checking to see if I was real and telling me he was aware of DBB. He then called me an hour or so later and I explained the source of the information. I could tell he didn’t quite understand why a blogger – someone who the newspapers were very wary of at that point – would share this scoop with the establishment paper. But I explained to him then what I say to everyone. I love newspapers. I have no interest in being in the news gather/reporting business. And without the work done by newspaper men and women, I’d have far less to comment on each day.
He asked what I wanted. I was honest. During the call I asked him to give DaBearsBlog a mention over the next few weeks. We had only been in operation a year and a half and a mention in Tribune would truly accelerate our popularity. He said yes. His word, not mine. “Yes”.
The story ran on the Tribune’s sports site THAT NIGHT. Not the next day. Not a week later. That night. And there was only one person cited in the story: “league source”.
The address of the NFL’s offices is 345 Park Avenue. League source was sleeping on a leather couch, drinking cheap Schlitz from Rite-Aid like it was water, a mile or so away.
A month went by. No mention. The Bears were the top seed in the postseason. Interest around the team was growing intense. I wrote Haugh another email about the promised mention. Nothing. I wrote another one the week prior to the Super Bowl. Nothing.
THREE YEARS LATER…
Haugh emails me. Out of the blue. After three years of some rather torrid criticism of his work (I was fueled by Jilted Love Syndrome) Haugh decides to respond. It opened:
“Good morning. A reader e-mailed a recent entry in which you mocked the column I wrote Wednesday. As always I accept your ridicule. Never hurts to hear opposing viewpoints.”
The two or three times Haugh has emailed me, the setup is always the same. I DON’T READ YOUR COLUMN BUT SOMEBODY SENT ME BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s obviously untrue but I don’t bother to challenge him on that. He’s already lied to me. Why wouldn’t he do it again? We exchanged polite correspondence and then he wrote:
“I just recall how I first came in contact with you, back in ’06 I believe, so it’s fun to tweak back.”
Not only was I polite in those emails with Haugh but I went out of my way to signal out the positive work he’d been doing.
Then one day recently, having never spoken much with Haugh on Twitter but having criticized him thoroughly, he blocked me. And not only did he block me but several other Tribune columnists did the same presumably on his urging. I took this as a concerted effort to shut down criticism, a concerted effort to silence one of his most fervent and motivated detractors. And I hope this column shows it’ll take more than the block button to do that.
David Haugh doesn’t anger me any more, certainly not the way he did in the aftermath of the Ricky Manning Jr. situation in late 2006. But he upsets me. He upsets me because he lacked the integrity required to fulfill a minor promise to a young writer just trying to get started. He upsets me because he lacked the guts – from high atop the Tribune perch – to admit he reads this site with some regularity. He upsets me because he continues to be a premiere columnist in the city of Chicago and his opinions, rarely right, have wide-reaching impact on the fans who fill Soldier Field eight times a year.
But he upsets me most of all because he destroyed my belief, at the age of 24, that newspapermen were special. They were Woodward and Bernstein. Royko. Jimmy Breslin. For all the criticism bloggers receive for a lack of accountability, here was David Haugh.
He was happy to use my information to break a story. Happy as long as he doesn’t have to acknowledge my existence. I’m sure when David’s friend sends him this column, my inbox will have be slightly fuller. But how will he write a rebuttal (he can’t rebut the facts as he knows there’s a long paper trail) without mentioning DaBearsBlog by name?