It Just Ain’t Right

A Revolution is not a Dinner Party!” – Mao Tse Tung

At some point in the not-too-distant future, when the moneyed men in smoky back rooms have figured out how to properly monetize online content, we all may look back at the wild and woolly wars between “legitimate” sports (and other) journalists and mere “Writing in their Mom’s basement in ill-fitting underwear” sports (and other) bloggers with a semi-bemused chuckle. Maybe once those ink-stained wretches can only be read on this here computation machine and the printing press has gone the way of Ye Olde Blacksmith Shoppe, the perception of the differences between the Altacockers and us whippersnappers by the public will be far less clear/visible and possibly meaningful.

But for now, there does exist the notion in the collective zeitgeist that their seat in the press box and swell salary means that the stuff they scribble is, you know, the real deal. And our yeoman efforts are something akin to an incredibly time-consuming hobby. The finest example is Buzz Bissinger’s hissy-fit (to put it nicely) on the Costas Show v. Will Leitch. http://deadspin.com/385770/bissinger-vs-leitch

(In his defense, I have to say that Buzz is a damned fine writer. His book, Friday Night Lights [pre-movie, pre-TV show] is thoughtful, incisive, and ego-free. Alas, this factoid unfortunately makes him seem even more like a crotchety old coot on a porch in a fly-over state somewhere, menacingly wielding a twelve-gauge in one hand and a mug of ‘shine in the other while bellowing, “Danged kids! Git the hell offa my lawn!” in the above clip.)

I unleash this lengthy preamble because I think it’s actually important, if the media (again, sports and otherwise) are going to hold themselves up as the true foot soldiers of the fourth estate, to point out when one of their more esteemed members outright MAKES SHIT UP.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Peter Vescey.

I warn you, dear readers, this next bit is going to get a bit mean, even bloody. But like the quote from The Chairman up top, if we’re gonna win hearts and minds, there are going to have to be a few casualties along the way.

If you didn’t wanna plunk down a buck twenty-five on Sunday’s NY Post, in sum, Vescey devotes a chunk of his column to describing how Rondo’s become Boston’s best player this year (PV punningly refers to him as, “Ron-Dough,” b/c, you know he’s so money. Rim-shot.). He then mentions that a BOS-PHO finals would have been interesting b/c it would have pitted Rondo against the team that dumped him in the ’06 draft. He writes:

For those who’ve forgotten, the Kentucky sophomore was selected No. 21, overall, June 28, 2006, by the Suns. An hour or so afterward, Phoenix traded him to Boston with Brian Grant for a No. 1 pick in 2007.

At the risk of repeating something I’ve probably written before, D’Antoni was behind the Suns’ fleeting glance at Ron-Dough. No sooner had they drafted him than D’Antoni proclaimed it was unlikely he would use him, because “he can’t shoot.”

So, rather than keep a guy the coach already was down on, someone who was assured of banking $1.5M or so for two or three years, owner Robert Sarver ordered his staff to find Ron-Dough a new home.

Stop. Stop right there. That makes absolutely no sense.

According to Vescey (without a “source” for his info, even an unnamed source – just something he may or may not [he can’t remember] have written), this is the way the ’06 draft went in the Suns’ war room…

1. The Suns decide to pick Rondo at 21. Even though D’Antoni was both coach and GM of the team, he somehow has no input on this choice or even seems to know that Rondo might be the pick.

2. The Suns take Rondo and inform their Coach/GM who only now opines that Rondo might not work in his system.

3. Owner Robert Sarver then thinks, “Geez, if Coach isn’t going to play/doesn’t like Rondo, I guess we better trade him.”

4. Then, within an hour (Vescey’s timeline, not mine), Sarver finds a team (Boston) to take Rondo off their hands and complete a complex deal to trade him along w/Brian Grant for a future first.

So many holes in this, where to begin?

If D’Antoni didn’t like Rondo, the Suns knew this well in advance of the draft. There’s NO WAY Phoenix took him and then and only then did D’Antoni proclaim (again, Vescey’s words) that he wasn’t any good or couldn’t use him because of his shooting deficiencies. That’s just not how teams operate (even crappy ones) and Vescey knows that. I guess one could assume that Sarver overruled Coach/GM Mike and took Rondo contrary to his wishes. But if that’s the case, why would they then trade him on the Coach/GM’s say-so (the same Coach/GM they had just overruled to select him) literally moments later? That makes even less sense.

How about a plausible scenario — Phoenix (and by “Phoenix” I mean Robert Sarver, the guy cutting the checks) didn’t want to hold on to their first rounder (because of $$, just like they did in dumping Luol Deng the year before and would again two years later when they gave Seattle TWO first rounders to take Kurt Thomas off their hands) and selected Rondo for Boston (in exchange for dumping Grant’s salary) in a trade worked out well in advance of the draft. Considering Ainge said he considered taking Rondo at seven (before trading the pick for Telfair), isn’t that a far more credible analysis of what occurred?

So why concoct a clearly fictional narrative? To take a cheap shot at D’Antoni with Rondo’s emergence as a top five PG, as if the events are somehow intertwined. It’s intellectually dishonest at best and probably better described as outright mean-spirited and slimy work whose only point is to sell papers and treats you and I (the ostensible readers of this drivel) like a gaggle of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who are incapable of recognizing a clearly silly argument as long as it allows us to screech, “Yeah! MD’A sucks!”

Why not let Vescey write that tiny Aliens that serve the ghost of Red Auerbach have been controlling D’Antoni’s mind for years and thus engineered the deal to help the C’s return to glory. That makes as much sense and is probably as verifiable as Vescey’s dreck. I know Petey’s writing an “editorial” of sorts so this is therefore “opinion” and not as subject to fact-checking as straight “news” might be, but come on!

If one of us interwebbers wrote what Good Ol’ Petey did on thebleacherreport.com or some fan-forum, they’d be mocked and offered up to the hordes as another example of why one can’t trust mere blogs because they lack the insider info and years of experience that the beat scribes have. So if the sportswriters of the world want to continue to cling to the notion of superiority, then it’s their collective responsibility to call out their peers when they sling outright crap like the Post did this weekend.

But since I have a better chance of starting at PG for the Knicks next year than that happening, I feel the need to support/defend of all my unfairly marred, unnamed e-colleagues out there. And I write this not only because my (possibly too finely tuned) hackles are easily raised by incidents in print/on the web that smack of hypocrisy and the (possibly archaic) belief that true journalism is an important part of a well-functioning democracy, but because the oft-repeated venom that is directed towards “The NY Media” and how it can be turn-off for potential free-agents is a result of things like THIS.

Not the constant coverage, not the legit criticism of their play, it’s when the Vesceys of the the sporting world, when they’ve got nothing else to write about, will just plain make stuff up that they know to be untrue that athletes/celebs from all the major sports decide it might be wise to head for the less media-saturated hills. It’s hard enough to read that someone thinks that you suck (and as a playwright/actor, I’ve had to suffer through this [though on a FAR lower scale]) when it’s merited. So when D’Antoni picks up the paper and has to read that somehow Rondo’s great play = proof of his deficiencies as a coach/talent evaluator, it has to be infuriating.

And if we want ANY of the big-time free agents (like maybe a guy whose name rhymes with SheShmron Shrames) to suit up for the Knickerbockers in 2010-11, it’s up to us — the bloggers, the fans, the maddening throng — to say…

…that it just ain’t right.