The Internet has been buzzing about the brawl that occurred this afternoon between Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News and Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, their respective newspapers' Eagles beat writers. The story first got out because of a tweet sent early this afternoon by Howard Eskin, a Philly sports radio personality. Details have been hard to come by, in part, because Eskin was not actually there when shit went down in the media work room at the Eagles' practice facility. And another Eagles beat man for another paper took to Twitter to tell Florio's crew there was no fight, only adding to the confusion. But I just talked to a source who was in the room when it all happened. It's a fantastic tale of f-bombs lobbed, punches and/or slaps thrown, and curious reporters watching from the window as Bowen and McLane sought to settle their differences outside—and with Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel later taunting the two of them mercilessly, as you can hear in the video above.
First, the backstory. Philly is an unusual daily newspaper town, in that the broadsheet Inquirer and the tabloid Daily News compete against one another even though they're owned by the same company, Philadelphia Media Network. They also share the same website, and the integration of their content at Philly.com is so complete it's sometimes difficult to tell which story is the product of which paper. The company, like most metro newspaper enterprises, is also struggling financially: A few weeks back, it got out that PMN had offered buyouts to some employees, and that "those eligible are all current full-time ... newsroom reporters, columnists, writers, editors, artists, photographers, copy editors, make-up persons and desk assistants."
In other words, tensions have been running high. Yesterday morning, things boiled over on Twitter, which set everything up for today's throwdown. McLane first wrote a story that was posted on Philly.com, citing sources, that said Michael Vick was likely to start Sunday despite the bone bruise in his hand. A short time later, Bowen fired off a tweet that said, "Oh, and BTW, nobody has any idea on Tuesday whether Michael Vick is starting this week. It was obvious Monday Andy thinks/hopes he will."
McLane took this as a slight, and soon afterward he responded with a series of tweets that he's since taken down. But the Philly blog Crossing Broad helpfully screen-grabbed them for the rest of us, and here's what they said, in rapid succession:
Yeah. Ouch. Bowen tweeted at someone else a short time later that he "will handle my business in person, not thru yapping on Twitter. But thanks for your concern." Yet what he was actually doing was spoiling for a fight—and right there in the media room.
Shortly after 11 a.m. today, according to a source, McLane and a few other reporters were working in the media room in advance of Eagles head coach Andy Reid's usual Wednesday availability. Bowen, whose work space is on the other side of the room from McLane's, entered and instead walked "with a little extra force" down the row of cubicles on McLane's side, the source said. And then it began.
"Who the fuck are you to question my professionalism?" snapped Bowen, who has maybe 15 to 20 years on McLane. "It's one thing if it's just me and you going at it, but it's another thing to do it in front of thousands of people on Twitter."
At his point, the source said, the two men were inches apart. Bowen contined, calling McLane "an insecure piece of shit" and a "pussy." McLane fired back something about how Bowen should have called him the night before to talk it over, to which Bowen replied, "I'm standing up to you right now."
From there, the source said, Bowen told McLane he was going to "knock [his] fucking teeth down [his] throat" and delivered a punch to the side of McLane's head. McLane, obviously flustered, never really fought back but instead offered to take the matter outside. The source said Bowen delivered at least one more "open-fisted slap" at the side of McLane's head. Phil Sheridan, an Inquirer columnist, stepped between the two to break things up. Eventually, they took it outside, where the five or six reporters in the room watched from the window and through the door to see what would happen next.
The source said McLane and Bowen were outside for at least 10 minutes, talking closely but not actually hitting each other. Eventually, things calmed down, and the day resumed as normal from there. Well, more or less. During practice, Samuel taunted the reporters, saying things like, "I'll give you a prediction on Sunday if you guys come out here and fight." Samuel also paraded around the locker room, as in the video above, at one point brandishing a box that he said contained a prize for the winner of a fight he kept demanding to see. And when McLane asked Reid a question about Vick, Reid gave his answer but finished it by saying it's "nothing to fight over."
[Video via BuzzOnBroad]