PHOENIX – If you didn’t know the name Bob Kravitz before, chances are pretty good you’ve learned it over the last two weeks.
Kravitz is the longtime, well-respected Indianapolis sports columnist who first reported shortly after the AFC Championship game that the NFL was investigating the use of underinflated footballs by the Patriots in their win over the Colts. Two weeks later, the investigation continues, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have come under fire, and the NFL has hired the physics department at Columbia University to get to the bottom of this Deflategate mess.
Kravitz, who writes for TV station WTHR, hasn’t exactly been the most popular man around Boston. Not only did he break the story, he later wrote the not-so-popular opinion that, if guilty, Belichick should be fired for continually bending the rules.
Kravitz is here in Phoenix at the Super Bowl this week, and I wanted to talk to him about being at the center of the media storm and the new realities of reporting a “negative” story in a social media world.
Go ahead and follow him on Twitter at @BKravitz, but he won’t hesitate to block you if you’re going to troll him with hate tweets.
Q: So, quiet couple of weeks for you?
Bob Kravitz: I think it would be fair to say the last week to week and a half has been the most insane period of my professional life. Radio shows, TV shows, everybody keeps calling for interviews. I can barely find time every day to read my hate tweets. Other writers keep jokingly coming up to me and saying, “This is all your fault,’’ but I’m quite sure this story would have gotten out whether I reported it or not. An NFL investigation into allegations of cheating is a big thing; surely, someone would have caught wind of it. As it happened, I’m the one who heard about it and confirmed it and reported it -- accurately, I might add.
Q: What kind of feedback have you received from your report and your columns? From Patriots fans and non-Patriots fans.
BK: Feedback? Hell, it’s been a tsunami of hatred. My office voice mail is full. My emails are overflowing from New England fans. The tweets are just out of control. It’s gotten very personal, very mean-spirited, some anti-Semitic remarks, some threats to my well-being, but, then, I didn’t expect otherwise. I’ve been in the business for over 30 years and I’ve developed some very thick skin over the years. I’m a big boy; I can handle it. I’ll say this: New England fans are among the most vocal and passionate I’ve ever seen, which is a good thing.
Q: You’ve been in this industry for a long time. Is this the most explosive story you’ve ever broken?
BK: Been in the business 32 years. Far and away the biggest story I’ve ever broken. Nothing comes close.
Q: Anything about the reporting process you would like to share?
BK: I got a tip, called a source, got the information, confirmed it with a second source and that was it. I knew it was true, even if the NFL didn’t confirm it until 7 the next morning.
Q: Any regrets about reporting the story, now that you see what it has mushroomed into?
BK: No regrets about reporting the story despite the heat I’ve received. You don’t get into this business if you want to be universally loved. Sometimes you have to report or say things that are unpopular. Part of the job. I knew it would be big when I tweeted it. Not sure I knew that it would lead the evening news for several nights in a row, but I thought it might hit a little bit like SpyGate.
Q: What do you think of the theory that this story was “sour grapes” from the Colts for getting beaten?
BK: My sense is the Colts want to sit back and see where this investigation goes. I haven’t spoken to a single member of the organization who believes the footballs, deflated or stuffed with chicken feathers, had anything to do with the one-sided outcome. I sense some of the players are downright embarrassed this came out, simply because it makes them look like poor losers.
Q: How has social media impacted the response to this story?
BK: I’ve seen both the beauty and the ugliness of social media. It’s not like the old days when people sent you letters through snail-mail. Now it’s instantaneous and very visceral, often vicious and wrong-headed. People can reach you in the time it takes to hit “send.’’
Follow Ben Volin on Twitter at @BenVolin.