December 24, 2009
On Dec. 15, we said that rumors regarding an adulterous affair between Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeff Carter(notes) and his teammate Scott Hartnell's wife had spread to the point where the Philly media needed to inquire about it.
That was two days before Deadspin picked up on the sordid tale, doing what many other blogs and bloggers did while discussing the rumor: debunking it swiftly as the kind of locker-room soap opera that always seems to bubble up when a team is struggling, as the Flyers certainly were.
On Dec. 24, Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer finally reported on the rumor and its impact on Carter and Hartnell, who both deny its legitimacy.
It's an interesting piece, if only because Carchidi is the first one to track down the propagator of the rumor: Temple University senior Jerry Brennan, whose site The Philly Four was "created as part of a school project." (Emphasis ours.) Carchidi shows his disdain for the matter by constantly referring to the Flyers' rumors as a quote-unquote "story," which is of course was now being reported in his "newspaper."
Good lord is this Temple dude getting an education. From Philly.com:
Brennan, 22, the Temple senior who wrote the blog and suggested that the incident may cause the Flyers to trade Carter or Hartnell, would not disclose his source. He said it was not a player or someone from the public-relations department.
"Someone I know works for the Flyers, and I wrote it as a rumor," he said earlier this week. "I didn't write it as a fact in case the guy was wrong. I didn't want to be unfair because I didn't witness it." He said it was a "credible source" who "works close to the players. I didn't make it up."
Brennan, who said he used to be an intern at WIP-AM (610), said he was surprised by the reaction the story has created in Internet chat rooms, because "I didn't know anyone read my Web site. I didn't do it to make a name for myself. I did it to practice writing and reporting."
As we said, Carchidi's piece is a good read on the genesis and impact of a rumor. So consider these next few items as amendments to that constitution, which is what "blogs" frequently do well with regard to "mainstream" sports "stories."
Here are a few details that didn't make the Inquirer's word count:
• While Brennan's class project may have been the most widely quoted source for the rumor -- now deleted from his site, which is what happens when Comcast starts making noise about lawsuits -- it's not the first place on the Web to publish it.
That would be the deplorable bastion of puck bunny gossip Talk-Sports.net, which features unfiltered innuendo about athletes in all sports. The rumor started on Hartnell's page (beware R-rated language) on Dec. 14:
It quickly spread to Carter's page (again, R-rated, read at your own risk):
We covered this site and other forums like it back in the NHL Closer days on Deadspin. Go to any of them, and you could extract a rumor on par with the Flyers' one for most teams.
So while we take Brennan at face value when he says, "Someone I know works for the Flyers, and I wrote it as a rumor," perhaps that someone also reads puck bunny message boards or knows someone that does. Because Talk-Sports "broke" the "story."
The message was up and then quickly deleted by the Philadelphia goon, but Josh Q. Public was among those that saw it and captured it:
"i feel the need to address a terrible rumor about 2 of my teamates hartnell and carter. 100% not true. do not believe what you hear. nothing but pollution. i got both there backs. now let's put a beating on the pens!!" (Just so you know, it was Riley who spelled "their" wrong, not me.)
That was on Dec. 17; you'd figure a teammate commenting on the rumor would have provided sufficient motivation for local media to address the rumor, but it still took another week to do so.
• Finally, as On The DL's Dan Levy mentioned on Twitter this morning, it's a typical blog-bashing article from the MSM for a couple of reasons.
First, The Philly Four isn't necessarily a blog. It looks like a traditional media site of game stories and opinion pieces. It doesn't link to any other Web sites in most of its articles. The word "blog" doesn't appear anywhere on the site's front page or in its mission statement: "This site was made with the intentions of reporting Philadelphia Sports News and Rumors."
Yet it's called a "blog" for label's sake.
But even if you consider the site to be a blog, Carchidi is completely negligent in failing to report that the blogs that had reported on the rumor did so in order to strongly refute it.
Puck Central, one of the first blogs to discover The Philly Four story, posted it and then deleted it when slapped back by Philadelphia insiders. Deadspin's reporting was a debunking. When we've addressed it here or on Twitter, it's been with a dismissive tone and a request for others not to buy into what has been a hockey tradition for years: the annual "who's shagging whose wife and how it's breaking up the locker room?" derby. As Travis pointed out on Broad Street Hockey, the rumor has been universally slammed by Philly blogs.
So not only was the Philadelphia Inquirer late in addressing the rumor, it was late in publishing outrage about its existence, too ...
Early this week, we reached out to someone close to Hartnell who said the Flyers winger was aware of the rumors, that they were "total [B.S.]" and that both players were in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dilemma in addressing them.
Now that both are on the record with the local paper, what does this do to the scuttlebutt? Make it disappear?
Because before the denials by Carter and Hartnell appeared in the Inquirer today, this was not something CBC Sports would have covered as national news.