Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Who's the bully now?

A feature by Michael Farber in Sports Illustrated on Chris Simon hits newstands and your mailboxes tomorrow. I received an advance look at it tonight. There's some good stuff in it, but sadly too many times when Farber writes like those guys who skate around and hit everybody from behind.

Many people - "journalists," the people at SI - will argue it's a fair piece. But I would hope even they would understand it's nearly impossible to see it that way when a friend, somebody on your own team, is under attack. Especially when that person did everything he could to apologize for his mistake and - seven months later - treated a reporter with a level of professionalism I doubt he'll feel has been returned.

I'd like it to be on the record that, based on my recommendation, Simon and the Islanders cooperated fully with Sports Illustrated for the article. My approach, for better and for worse, has almost always been to cooperate because it's your best chance to get a fair shake. When you're dealing with a major publication with the rep of SI, I believe strongly that's the way to go. I have no doubt this philosophy will be questioned over the next few days, and deservedly so.

Define cooperation? Okay.

*A one-hour shoot at Iceworks with Chris by an artsy Manhattan photographer who dazzled us with his work on Neil Young and Al Green (I bet those stories were puff pieces!).

*75 minutes of Simon with Farber soon after the team arrived in Buffalo for the season opener.

*Ted Nolan for 60 minutes with the reporter in Buffalo right after he spoke with Simon.

*Follow-up conversations after Simon's season debut a week later in Philadelphia.

Not a tremendous amount of time, no doubt, but from the beginning we made it clear Chris and the Islanders were here to candidly answer anything Michael wanted to throw at us.

(BTW, I continue to not comprehend the question of why the Islanders dressed Simon for the pre-season game against the Rangers. Among the many reasons why I think it's an idiotic issue, his inclusion in the lineup followed league rules. If it really bothers anyone so much, isn't it a question for the NHL?)

Anyway, our cooperation was textbook, the kind all PR gurus (and reporters!) will always say you should give. That's likely going to be a tougher sell for me for a while.

In the time I spent with Michael, as connected as any writer in the game, I asked him - almost challenged him - to track down one person affiliated with the NHL who doesn't have a high level of respect for Simon. The article, to be fair, has at least a half-dozen players, including some foes, standing up for him. No one has anything bad to say. One guy even has the nerve to say Simon was the best teammate he's ever had.

For all the cheap shots in the story, that's all Chris Simon and his family should take away from it.

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