By Jeff Moss
February 18, 2016
The city of Detroit is known for its mysteries. Who killed Jimmy Hoffa and where was his body disposed? How is Robert Ficano not in jail? What really caused Harry Houdini to die at Grace Hospital?
But the most recent Motown mystery might be the most baffling. What happened to Detroit Free Press Lions beat writer Dave Birkett in the last year or so?
It wasn’t that long ago that Birkett was considered by this critical website to be one of the top two or three sports journalists in the entire city. His coverage of the city’s abomination of a “pro” football team was excellent. In fact, I have been told by sources that the franchise despises him and has made his life as difficult as possible.
Were there missteps? Sure. One extremely big one. But Birkett’s entire body of work was admirable. I mean, who could forget Jim Caldwell questioning of Birkett’s football acumen at a presser in 2014?
But something has changed in the last six months. And it has been drastic — to the point that I have had several readers ask me if Mike O’Hara was retiring and Birkett was positioning himself for a gig writing for the Lions website.
That’s how awful his coverage has been lately and it became particularly noticeable when Martha Ford exerted her control over the franchise. You’d think Birkett is the woman’s personal biographer. I am not saying that Birkett is in the tank for Martha, but it wouldn’t shock me if Dave is now wearing sunglasses inside buildings as an homage.
Not to mention Birkett refused to take a position on Caldwell’s future, leading one to believe the dude is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
If his sudden shilling for all things Roary wasn’t bad enough, Birkett lost all credibility earlier this year when he started Tweeting out Drew Sharp articles. On the heels of Sharp’s plagiarism scandal and suspension, Birkett had no issue propping up the unrepentant scumbag’s work.
Now, keep in mind that other Freep employees were emailing me with their disgust both anonymously and otherwise. The paper’s Pulitzer prize winner (Jim Schaefer) was “liking” my unrelenting Tweets regarding Sharp’s theft of a blogger’s work. The publication’s associate sports editor (Nick Cotsonika) was basically Tweeting out coded messages of disapproval.
And Birkett? He was unashamedly promoting Sharp’s post-suspension columns over and over in the middle of this shitstorm. And the responses he was getting from his followers was brutal.
Just take a look at the aggravation on display from disgusted readers who were irate Sharp wasn’t fired for plagiarizing.
But Birkett might have hit rock bottom on Wednesday and it had nothing to do with his nonagenarian love for William Clay Ford, Sr.’s widow or playing the part of Drew Sharp’s hype man.
You see, former EMU football beat writer for the Ann Arbor News Jeff Arnold wrote an extremely offensive long-form piece for SB Nation entitled “Who Is Daniel Holtzclaw?” and it was posted yesterday morning.
If you aren’t familiar with Daniel Holtzclaw, he is a serial rapist who played football at Eastern Michigan. And not any garden variety serial rapist, but a serial rapist who was a police officer and used his badge to assault unsuspecting, poor women who couldn’t possibly defend themselves against a cop.
Within minutes of the article being posted it was being attacked on social media. The venomous responses to this article were so bad that SB Nation pulled the piece of trash from its website.
The best takedown of Arnold’s tone-deaf borefest was this article by Deadspin. Here are a few highlights …..
It starts off with expressions of full sympathy for Holtzclaw, hinting that perhaps there are two sides to this story. It tells only one. The side based in reality—that Holtzclaw violated and brutalized at least eight poor, black women and is in jail for the rest of his life—is never given more than cursory attention.
It presents an endless litany of character witnesses for Holtzclaw—his lawyer, his family, former teammates—all expressing their disbelief that Holtzclaw could be guilty, which is among other things a monotonously boring thing to hang a story of this length upon. Basically, this is the local news interviewing the shocked neighbors—“He always seemed like such a nice kid”—over and over again for 12,000 words.
It makes the mistake of thinking the unremarkable amateur football career of a vicious criminal is worthy of inspection, or tells us anything about the man.
It irresponsibly speculates whether PED use or disappointment at not making the NFL could have been responsible for Holtzclaw’s crimes—if indeed he committed any.
It gets real fucking messy with race. Holtzclaw’s beat was “a dangerous assignment that regularly brought him in contact with people and lifestyles with which he had little prior experience.” It speaks of tension “between members of Eastern Michigan’s football program and locals within the Ypsilanti community.” It notes that Holtzclaw had a “number of black friends.”
It repeatedly portrays the victims as having had “troubled pasts”—eliding the fact that Holtzclaw used his power as a cop to obtain sex in exchange for promising to let them off on minor offenses. Somewhat incredibly, this attempt to humanize Holtzclaw succeeds only in dehumanizing his victims.
How atrocious was this piece of journalism? Well, SB Nation issued an APOLOGY late Wednesday evening ….
“It was a complete failure.”
“It was not up to our standards.”
“We’re reviewing all of our processes in light of this failure.”
“There are a lot of them …”
That’s the damn editorial director of the site that published the fucking thing in the first place!!!!!
So what does this have to do with Dave Birkett? Well, I thought you’d never ask ….
Oh my lord. I have no words.
This. Is. A. Good. Read.
I can’t even …..
In the early eighties there was a TV show on the air that was a good three decades ahead of its time.
The name of that show was “Soap” and it introduced the world to Billy Crystal.
The program also starred Richard Mulligan and there was one famous storyline for his character, Burt Campbell, that involved him getting abducted by aliens, taken to outer space, cloned, and his body double returning to Earth to live the life of the captured Burt Campbell.
It was hilarious to watch as alien Burt interacted with the Campbells and the Tates. He was just a little off and it should have been quite obvious to his family that this wasn’t the real Burt. One tip-off should have been his newfound sexual abilities that happily surprised his wife, Mary.
Yes. My theory is Dave Birkett was taken by a UFO and cloned and this is actually Alien Dave Birkett fluffing the Lions, playing Flava Flav to Drew Sharp, and promoting articles that are so offensive that they are destroyed by the person in charge of the website on which they appeared.
Do you have a better theory?
[Update: And now the author of the piece has deleted his Twitter account. This is a good read!!!!]