Niagara Gazette

May 31, 2013

Mroziak: Prank on Bills' Nix not a laughing matter

By MICHAEL MROZIAK
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Perhaps you've heard the news. This week, federal authorities here in Western New York have pressed charges against two Massachusetts men who set up a phone conversation in March between Buddy Nix, then general manager of the Buffalo Bills, and his counterpart, Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik. Unbeknownst to both men, the same pranksters who were able to tap into their phone lines also recorded the conversation then sold it to popular website Deadspin.com, according to the federal complaint filed in Buffalo this week.

The writers at Deadspin.com, which gladly published audio samples of the conversation, call it "an ingenious prank." In their followup article after charges were filed, one of the website's writers called it "innocuous stuff."

Wrong. What happened was a crime, and the two knuckleheads from Massachusetts — for the curious, their last names are not Belichick — should be prosecuted and, if convicted, deserve the punishment the law allows.

Perhaps the motive was just to get two football executives thinking that the other wanted to have the conversation, then let the laughs begin. That's essentially how it started, when Joshua Barber and Nicholas Kaiser allegedly phoned the Bills offices on March 8, pretending to be Dominik wanting to speak to Nix. 

The problem is, once both football bosses finally connected and got over the initial confusion they started talking, even if casually, about some sensitive subjects including player negotiations and the impending release of Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

As far as these guys knew, these were confidential remarks in a private conversation about some potentially big-money topics. No multi-million deals were killed along the way, but the potential to botch some business was there. And the folks at Deadspin.com decided to make the conversation public, all for our enjoyment.

By the way, according to the federal complaint, the accused claimed Deadspin agreed to pay $150 for their recording but ultimately paid the pair $200. Not only were the suspects allegedly hacking a phone chat that crossed state lines, they were selling the contents of what was believed to be a private conversation. According to the federal complaint, local newspapers, Fox, ESPN and TMZ were also approached.

What's disturbing is that the folks at Deadspin, but especially their readers, don't seem to grasp why this isn't just a harmless prank. To them, this is the NFL, a league that many of their readers, based on their remarks, feel is a league that's a little too full of itself.

But it's not about the NFL. Two men with the power to make big-money decisions were brought together in a phone conversation under false pretenses, recorded without their knowledge or consent, then made to be fools by media who were allegedly willing to spend the money to share this "innocuous" comedy.

I just don't see the humor in tampering with a business and then trying to sell the results. 

Just ask other companies whose secrets have been stolen how funny it is to be hacked. 

Better yet, ask anyone who has ever had their credit information or identity stolen about the hilarity of having one's privacy betrayed.