Andre Reed as a player was known for going over the middle to catch passes, never shying away from contact with defenders.
His approach to media relations bears similar traits.
Reed caused a stir last week when he was quoted in a story in New York Magazine in which he disparaged Jon Bon Jovi and Johnny Manziel, employing some colorful language. The writer of the story, Reeves Wiedeman, was accompanying the two co-founders of a group called the Buffalo Fan Alliance on a visit to a Niagara Falls casino to meet with Reed, who was interested in joining the alliance’s advisory board. Reed became a member of the board in April.
It is not clear from the article whether Reed knew he was talking in front of a reporter at the meeting. The topic of the potential ownership group headed by Bon Jovi was mentioned, along with the notion that the group may want to move the Bills to Toronto.
After directing an F-word exclamation toward Bon Jovi and his fondness for Toronto, Reed said, “You might as well just take this city, throw it in the river, and let it go down Niagara Falls.”
The newest Bills Hall of Famer also didn’t seem to appreciate all of the attention being directed toward Manziel, the Browns’ rookie quarterback. “You’re not Johnny Football, you’re Johnny Rookie … ” Reed said, throwing in a couple of expletives.
The article was published on Tuesday and it quickly made the rounds on Twitter and other social media. Reed’s Twitter feed contains two comments from that day:
• “Just want everyone to know my passion for the Bills is very strong. And as far as Johnny Football that was blown way out of context.”
• “I stand by my comments and don’t care what others say. … People need to move on with there own lives … #HOF14”
Reed did what many athletes do in similar circumstances by saying that his Manziel quotes were “blown way out of context.” Translation: I said it, but I didn’t expect it to create such a firestorm.
And on Wednesday, Reed went further in trying to assign blame to the writer for the controversy involving both Manziel and Bon Jovi. In a conversation with Keith Groller of the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pa., Reed said the writer and he “were just talking” at the casino.
“I didn’t think he was going to put something like that in the magazine,” Reed told Groller. “I said it, but I thought we were off the record. Basically, he duped me. Those may be my sentiments, but I feel like he put those comments in the magazine without my consent.”
A spokeswoman for New York Magazine, Lauren Starke, told Groller that “the entire conversation with Andre Reed was clearly on the record. Furthermore, writer Reeves Wiedeman did not in any way attempt to disguise the angle of the story.”
(Interestingly, in one section of the story, Wiedeman quotes Reed as saying “off the record,” he had a great time in Toronto when he went there for one of the Bills’ games. He repeats, in a joking way, that his comment is off the record. Which is why it is strange to see it in print.)
Despite the back-pedaling, Reed deserves credit for his statement on Twitter that he “stands by” his comments. He also defended the sentiments by saying his “passion for the Bills is very strong.”
On Friday, during a news conference at the Hall of Fame, Reed reiterated that he thought his remarks in the casino were off the record. He added that he apologized to Bon Jovi and to Manziel.
Again, though, even while apologizing, Reed refused to back down.
”On the other end of that, Johnny Manziel is a rookie; he hasn’t done anything yet,” Reed said Friday. “And people in Buffalo don’t want Bon Jovi to buy the team and move it. So basically I said stuff people would maybe say.”
If Reed were to take a job as a team executive, or to someday run for political office, he would have media handlers trying to rein him in. But for now, in the NFL’s world of predigested sound bites, Reed’s candor is refreshing.
HOF’ers up close
With the Bills and Reed occupying so much of the spotlight in Canton, Ohio, this weekend, there is a distinctive Buffalo accent to some of the sports network programming.
This morning starting at 9 a.m., ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” will present a feature segment on Jim Kelly and his struggle with cancer. The segment will be repeated on “SportsCenter,” which follows at 10 a.m.
An “Outside the Lines” crew spent a day last week at Kelly’s home, interviewing Kelly, his wife, Jill, and daughter Erin.
Kelly will also participate in the coin toss before tonight’s Hall of Fame exhibition game between the Bills and New York Giants. NBC Sports will air its own interview with Kelly during halftime, with Kelly speaking to Josh Elliott. And, Reed will be among the new Hall of Famers whom NBC will interview live during halftime.
If you weren’t around during the Bills’ Super Bowl years in the early 1990s, when Kelly, Reed and their teammates became NFL legends, you have some catching up to do. One suggestion: Get to YouTube and find the Bills’ Video Yearbooks from 1990 and ’91, their first two Super Bowl teams.
The Yearbooks were produced by NFL Films and some civic-minded private citizens uploaded them to YouTube for all to share. It’s a great way to re-live those years and to experience the fandemonium that Van Miller used to shout about.
Five to savor
The New Yorker magazine, as part of a summer promotion, has opened up selected parts of its archives that can be viewed for free until sometime in the fall. The free material is mostly from the years 2007 to now, plus a few all-time classics.
With that in mind, we’d like to suggest five stories that lovers of great sports writing should grab while they can. Each can be found at New Yorker.com.
1. “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” by John Updike. A famous account, written in 1960, of Ted Williams’ final game with the Red Sox.
2. “Monday Night Lights: How Jon Gruden became America’s football coach,” by Kelefah Sanneh. A highly entertaining profile of the coach turned broadcaster.
3 “The Third Man,” by Lauren Collins. Getting to know Novak Djokovic, the tennis star who emerged from the shadows of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
4. “The Outcast: Conversations with O.J. Simpson,” by Pat Jordan. A 2001 profile of the infamous Simpson by one of the world’s masterly writers.
5. “The Yips,” by David Owen. Owen, always entertaining when he writes about his favorite sport, looks into the affliction that bedevils golfers of a certain age.