Earlier this week, I broke down the massive implications for both the Saints and ESPN revolving around the explosive wiretapping report from Outside the Lines at Bloguin's NFL site This Given Sunday. The categoric denial from the Saints (and threat of possible legal action) has created a high stakes poker game with both sides all in. In a nutshell, if more evidence arises to support the ESPN report that Saints GM Mickey Loomis was eavesdropping on opposing coaches, it would be a damning blow to the Saints far beyond BountyGate. We're not just talking about stealing signs, there are criminal implications.
However, for ESPN, the stakes are nearly as high. Get this report right and your reputation for breaking huge stories and hard-hitting journalism receives a huge lift. Get it wrong, and you've got another Geraldo's Vault on your hands. And, as Mark Schwarz's Bernie Fine report falls apart further day by day, ESPN can't afford to get such a massive story wrong. Many voices are already criticizing their journalistic ambitions, and if the Mickey Loomis wiretapping story flops or goes nowhere, we're left with John Barr holding a very costly bag.
The problem for ESPN was Barr's explosive report being so flimsy on actual evidence. Outside the Lines had a miniscule amount of sources and only one that spoke in the story about the Superdome's rewiring to listen to opposing coaches. ESPN produced no physical evidence, but spoke of the allegations being handed over to the FBI and District Attorney's office to add credibility.
Now, another explosive report from New Orleans has identified that central source as a former Saints electrician... fired by the team in 2007 for improper billings. Ruh roh. Fox 8 in New Orleans and investigative reporter Lee Zurik identified Tim Landry as Barr's source. Zurik's sources (bear with us on the pure amount of sourcing) say Barr's report was based on Landry's word, and possibly another person that worked for Landry. Also, Zurik reports that Landry handed over no evidence to Barr besides telling him of the alleged wiretapping.
This is an enormous issue for ESPN and Barr's report. If Zurik's reporting is accurate, John Barr's report is solely based on the word of a fired Saints employee who produced no evidence of his claims. That's troubling. More troubling is the growing sentiment that Barr anchored himself in New Orleans until he found something negative to report. First from the Fox 8 report...