The Endless Summer of Deflategate was more proof than we will ever need that the NFL is gifted at turning what appears to be a minor infraction at its most damning into a ridiculous and unnecessary controversy.
But the league apparently remains steadfastly intent on proving that its uncanny knack for looking petty and power-hungry over the silliest details remains intact.
Monday night, popular accounts for websites Deadspin and SB Nation were suspended on Twitter after the NFL filed notices for their use of copyrighted video highlights. The highlights were presented on the social media platform primarily in brief GIF and Vine formats.
While it was initially unclear as to why the accounts were suspended — Deadspin’s has nearly 900,000 followers — it did not take long to trace the bans to the NFL. An NFL spokesman said that as part of the procedure in its “copyright enforcement program,” it requested “that Twitter disable links to more than a dozen pirated NFL game videos and highlights that violate the NFL’s copyrights.” The spokesman also noted: “We did not request that any Twitter account be suspended.”
That’s true, but it’s also playing a game of semantics. After the request, the burden for suspension fell on Twitter to suspend the accounts per the Digital Millennium Enforcement Act, which protects social media sites from being sued for copyright infringement but also has procedures in place to make sure infringement complaints are heard and expeditiously acted upon, with repeat offenders likely to face some type of suspension on the account.
Both Deadspin and SB Nation’s accounts were soon restored. But it remains befuddling why the NFL picks battles over brief GIFs and Vines. Yes, it’s copyright infringement in the most minor degree. But it’s also giving fans what they covet, and the league itself does a sporadic, at best, job of providing highlights — especially embeddable clips — on its websites and properties.
Seeing a highlight on Twitter of, say, Dion Lewis juking Cowboys defenders is not going to prevent a single viewer from watching a highlights show on the NFL Network.
If anything, the brief clips promote the very best the league has to offer, something the NFL these days should be grateful for in any format.
An inside job
Sports Illustrated media columnist Richard Deitsch’s podcast is a must-listen for obvious reasons at this address — and that’s especially so when there’s a Boston angle to the conversation, as there was earlier this week when “Dennis & Callahan” producer Chris Curtis appeared on the show.
Curtis owns a rare place in the Boston sports radio scene in that he’s the only person I’m aware of who has gone from producing a program on 98.5 The Sports Hub to the same role on a prominent WEEI program. Curtis produced The Sports Hub’s evening program with then-host Damon Amendolara from the station’s launch in August 2009 for 4½ years before joining WEEI.
He has seen the rivalry from both sides, so it was interesting to hear his not-entirely-accurate perspective when Deitsch asked him why The Sports Hub — and morning program “Toucher and Rich” in particular — has typically defeated WEEI and its “Dennis & Callahan” morning program in the Nielsen Audio ratings.
“I would say [The Sports Hub] as a whole has a very big grasp on the market,’’ Curtis said. “The reason is that they have the Patriots, they have the Celtics, they have the Bruins, and as a whole, the station has been far more intact. They changed one midday host [Marc Bertrand replaced Andy Gresh on the midday program in February] but in general [it has been the same lineup]. Our station has had many changes in the middays and many changes in the afternoons in the past year, year-plus, and I think that sort of has affected the ratings.”
There’s some truth there, but Curtis is also identifying the effect before acknowledging the cause. The reason for the changes in WEEI’s programs were largely spurred by lagging ratings, particularly compared with their counterparts at The Sports Hub. And The Sports Hub has had Celtics’ rights only since September 2013. The games previously aired on WEEI, a time when the team was a championship contender and The Sports Hub was already winning most ratings battles.
“But the big thing was that The Sports Hub was first to FM,’’ Curtis added.
Simmons is back
Speaking of Boston sports radio morning programs, The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” had a nice coup Thursday, bringing in Bill Simmons as a guest for an hour. Simmons, who landed at HBO in July after a less-than-amicable parting with ESPN, was a predictably entertaining guest, reminding listeners of his Boston Sports Guy origins with a spot-on explanation of why Deflategate is the perfect Boston sports story. “It’s the ultimate ‘Us vs. Everyone Else’ city. That’s why I love [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell trying to mess with the Super Bowl season. You couldn’t have picked a worse city. That’s Boston, that’s why you love it.”