The New York Times Still Doesn’t Get Us

The newspaper's latest take on Tom Brady and Deflategate relies on one too many Boston clichés.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

David Waldstein’s dispatch from Patriots Nation in the wake of the Deflategate report has all the hallmarks of a New York Times piece clumsily trying to convey its sister city to the north. Like the Old Gray Lady’s previous forecasts of the pen’s death and monocle’s return, the piece misses its mark.

Let’s take the lede, in which J.M. Curly’s reelection from jail is referenced, a hackneyed favorite of Boston’s walking-tour guides and graying politicos. It’s an early indication that readers should abandon all hope for a depiction not skewed to the 1890s.

James Michael Curley, the four-term mayor of Boston in the last century, once won election to public office while in prison for fraud. If Bostonians could forgive that transgression to support their political hero, then surely the mysterious loss of air pressure from a few footballs will not alter their support of their favorite sports hero.

Thanks to the Charles River’s little-known Tuck Everlasting powers, the same Boston voters who reelected Curley in 1945 are indeed the same folks calling Felger & Mazz to defend Brady and company. And boy, you should hear the way they talk.

Boston is the hub of a six-state region with distinct accents that outsiders can never master, and it prides itself on its roots and traditions, from Thanksgiving and the Tea Party to the local ‘packy,’ where they buy beer, take it to their triple-decker and stick it in the fridge ‘down cellah.’

New England is a region composed entirely of funny-talking automatons in tri-corner hats, interrupting their hourly reenactments of the Battle of Bunker Hill only to rain lobster roll-clutching fists upon any poor soul who dares call a water fountain anything other than a bubblah.

In Boston, there seemed to be two main branches of defense for Brady, who won his fourth Super Bowl title with the Patriots in February, beating the Seattle Seahawks, 28-24, with properly inflated footballs…One says the Wells report, commissioned by the N.F.L., is biased and flawed, with more holes than a Gloucesterman’s fishing net.

Fishing industry! Who has bingo?

Waldstein also interviews a South Boston resident, Patriots radio broadcaster Scott Zolak, a Suffolk Law student, a memorabilia dealer, and a San Diego Chargers fan, before arriving at J.J. Foley’s–except, it’s the wrong one:

One such loyal fan is James Foley, the 30-year-old bartender and proprietor of J. J. Foley’s Bar & Grill on Kingston Street. He said people in his establishment had been unanimous in their support of Brady and the Patriots, calling the report an attempt to do off the field what teams could not do on it: beat them. But he warned that the attacks against their hero would only make New England embrace Brady even more, the way it once embraced a former visitor to his bar, Mayor Curley.

As any discerning Bostonian knows, the South End’s J.J. Foley’s is the true landmark, steeped in history and founded a full 50 years before its Kingston Street counterpart. Perhaps Waldstein had lunch at the Regina Pizzeria in Faneuil Hall, too.

Let’s review: J.M. Curley, non-rhotic accents, colonialism, seafood, Irish pub, J.M. Curley. This reliance on tired clichés and tone-deafness for local sensibilities reared its Yankees cap-wearing head during, of all times, Whitey Bulger trial in 2013, when the Times referred to South Boston as “SoBo.” There are plenty of ways to cover Deflategate–some better than others, but all better than slapping a byline on a Freedom Trail tchotchke stand.