Some irony is especially satisfying. Case in point: The Eagles' official Web site managed to scoop the world with an incorrect list of final roster cuts this weekend.

Ultimately, it probably didn't mean all that much. In a conference call with reporters yesterday afternoon, personnel director Tom Heckert did his best to downplay the episode.

"It was not a big deal," Heckert said. "There were no real complications with that."

Still, Heckert admitted he felt compelled to call players whose names were on the wrong list. Normally, the players who make the roster aren't formally informed. In this case, Heckert wanted to make it clear the list that was out there was not correct.

"That's a good-news type of thing, so it's really not a big problem," Heckert said. "The guys that were on there who are on our team, they weren't too upset about it."

That's putting a happy face on a red-face situation. There is nothing good about players who are sweating the final roster cut getting misinformation via the team's official Web site. We're talking about people's livelihood here. Hearing you may have been fired can't be any fun, even if you get a follow-up call saying everything is fine.

But that's not the ironic part.

This incident is a direct result of one of the more bothersome sports trends of recent years. Most major-league teams and leagues, along with a number of collegiate conferences, are using the available technology to "cover" themselves. They produce Web sites and TV programming and publications dedicated to emulating standard media coverage of their teams and leagues.

Years ago, the Eagles hired Dave Spadaro, a former beat writer from a local newspaper, to edit their in-house weekly publication, Eagles Digest. That morphed into a multimedia role: TV sideline reporter, Webmaster, guest on a number of radio and TV programs.

Most NFL teams have a similar in-house "reporter.", the official site of Major League Baseball, has reporters at every game writing stories and notes for the national site as well as the individual team sites. The NFL Network and have hired former newspaper reporters to "break news" on TV and the Web.

It should go without saying that all the news reported by these in-house media is filtered, controlled and carefully monitored by the teams and the leagues. It is all propaganda, deliberately crafted by trained journalists to resemble independent news coverage.

So it's always good for a laugh when "reports" a roster move, or Reporter X from NFL Network "breaks a story" about a trade or a coach being fired.

The reality is, the Eagles or Phillies or other teams are announcing the move. They dress it up as an exclusive "report" to pump up Web traffic and to bypass the pesky legitimate media, which sometimes have the temerity to criticize the roster moves or write negative things the team would never permit on its own Web site.

In this new-media world, is competing for the same eyeballs as

This is what makes the irony of what happened here so tasty. By releasing a list of roster cuts Friday, the Eagles' site actually did what it regularly pretends to do. It "broke news." It was first with the names of 22 players released by the team to get down to the mandatory 53-man roster.

It even had 17 of the names right.

The list and all references to it were magically erased from the Web site almost immediately. But in these Google-cache, fast-twitch, message-board times, those names were all over the place. The toothpaste would not go back into the tube.

For years, the reporters who cover the Eagles every day would be outside Veterans Stadium on roster cutdown days. It was city property, and we could wait by the doors to the Eagles' office and see which players came out carrying the contents of their lockers in the telltale plastic trash bag. It was awkward, but it was part of the job to talk to the just-released player, find out what he was told and what his plans were.

Now the cuts take place inside the privately owned NovaCare Complex. Reporters are not allowed over the moat or through the drawbridge. The Eagles' official Web site is produced inside the complex. Its staff can see which players are called in to receive their pink slips.

It would be the perfect opportunity to report news, if that was really your job.

Instead, there was a botch job that proves these faux news outlets are just that, and in truly amusing fashion. Unless your name was on the list, that is.

Phil Sheridan |

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The Eagles make their cuts official. There may be more moves before the opener.


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