Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FJMing the Sports Guy: The Art Of The Dispiriting Lede

Is it fair or ethical to pull apart someone else's finished work, line by line, in an attempt to crush the writer's soul? Of course not, and if someone starts doing this to me, I'd question their sanity. But I never claimed much of a grasp on sanity, particularly when it comes to the Bad Tooth, Prince William, Bahhhstan's Own (and yes, Boston Fan, it does not matter where he lives, he is yours forevah and evah) Billy Baloo Simmons, the best-selling author, executive producer, pilot fish to the stars and first geisha for the World Wide Lemur. For the first time since the NBA playoffs started, the Prince has favored us with words. Actual words! Maybe about actual sports! Let's take a look at them, shall we?

I know three things about Sacramento: The Kings play there; the governor of California lives there; and Kevin Johnson won the city's mayoral election without pulling either of his hammies.

Something that Billy's really gotten good at in his ever-accelerating fall from quality is the art of the dispiriting lede. So instead of covering the joy that has been much of the first round of the NBA Playoffs (had Billy been a Blazer Fan, I'm fairly sure we'd be getting five thousand words on Brandon Roy's Game Four, for instance), we're going to strap in for a timeless dive into the feel-bad story of the year, which is the possible theft of the Kings from Sacramento.

But even with that questionable editorial decision in pocket, you have to admire Billy's ability to pee on the people he's supposedly standing up for. How hard would it have been, really, to find someone from Sactown to add something to this beyond ignorance? It would have taken me ten minutes with Google or Twitter to find a local Kings blogger, or maybe make a call to the radio station. But no, that would have required effort, I guess.

Well, I'm not from there either, but I lived 80 miles away in the Bay Area for 7 years. Here's some better stuff to ask about Sac Fan. What is it like to spend your hard-earned cash on bad hoop when you live in Ground Zero of the housing crisis, since there are neighborhoods out there that have lost a third of their homes to foreclosures and squatters? How important is your team when meth is rampant, government cutbacks and migrants make everyone scared about their job, and $4 gas murders everyone, since you can't live without a car there.

The Maloofs have peed all over the place for years now, and it's not exactly the most racially diverse or liberal area. And yet they showed for their Kings in good times and mostly bad, dominated the Oakland stands in "road" games, and generally behaved like Utah's crowd, but nicer... all for wildly overpaid people who do not share their skin color or economic worries. Hell, ex-star Kevin Martin just let his house go to foreclosure. What did the retirement of Jason Williams mean to them? How about the long slow end of Chris Webber? Do they pine for Peja Stojakovic, wish Vlade Divac was the coach with a cigarette in his mouth, root for Mike Bibby to end with a ring, wonder what happened to Hedo Turkoglu, etc., etc.?

You see what I just did there? I wrote most of that on a Blackberry on a subway car during my commute home, without Web access or the ability to use fingers that were not my thumbs. It's called work, Billy, and maybe even a side of empathy. Try it sometimes.

I certainly don't want to think about Sacramento during one of our most entertaining NBA postseasons ever.

Then don't! Unless, of course, you'd rather discuss Not Sports and flatter yourself by Knowing The Future. (Oooh, I'm sorry. I tattled.)

But with a momentum-killing lockout lurking...

IT LURKS. Until the NFL got bitch-slapped in federal court for trying to run their own lockout dodge, giving the NBA players a big flaming sword of precedent. Oh, and by the way, none of this will change for another 3 to 5 months, and no one wants to hear about it now. BUT IT LURKS.

Is there a chasm between big and small NBA markets that only a prolonged labor stoppage can prevent?

No, because the NBA is not interested in closing the chasm, if one exists, since this league has convinced itself that having two teams win half of the titles is a sign of Greatness. A labor stoppage has never helped small markets at the expense of large ones; it has only made it worse, since those small markets have less they can afford to lose. So the rest of this is just a big waste of time, but you knew that already, right? Back to the wank.

Buying into the NBA is like buying a house: Once you move in, feel free to disgrace the neighborhood however you want.

People wonder why, seriously, I still read Simmons. This is why -- he's 100% right in his evisceration of David Stern here. And utterly gutless, since he frequently has Stern on his podcast, and generally fluffs him until the commish is sleepy. But still, preach, son! Preach!

What happens when you're stuck in a washed-up arena with a perennial lottery team? You're screwed.

One assumes, really, that at some point people will stop caring about buildings and start caring about wins. Unless we're really moving to a country where NBA games are played in front of a few dozen billionaire hedonists, and everyone's got a front row seat. (Want to draw people to your washed-up arena? Win. Next problem.)

It's really difficult to contend unless (A) you strike oil in the lottery, or (B) persuade Chris Wallace or Kevin McHale to trade you his best player

Nice of Billy to finally equate the Kevin Garnett Theft with the Pau Gasol Fire Sale, especially now that everyone knows Al Jefferson is the new empty calories king of numbers on a bad team, and Gasol The Younger appears to be a master stroke for the Grizz.

The current free-agency system doesn't give smaller markets any advantage to help them keep their best players.

Except that they can pay them more than anyone else. Except that the Thunder kept Kevin Durant, and the Spurs kept Tim Duncan, and Minny kept Garnett until he went insane, or a dozen other guys that I won't mention for fear of being even longer than the Bad Tooth.

Look, the dirty little secret about your best player is that he's probably not all that great. And when he is your best player, there's usually only one direction for him to go -- down. He's also probably not going to stay healthy, since most people don't. Only recently, with LeBron James exercising his right to go to Miami and Carmelo Anthony finessing his way to New York, does it really seem like the small market stars are coagulating. But by all means, tacitly encourage a lockout to help "fix" the "problem."

People should live where they want without being judged … well, unless you're copping out and joining forces with your biggest rival like LeBron did.

(Left side of the arena) Beat that horse! (Right side of the arena) Dead! (Left side of the arena) Beat that horse! (Right side of the arena) Dead!

Well, you know who else are good guys? The Sacramento fans. They supported that crummy franchise for 25 years...

This after a backhanded compliment to the Maloof Goofs, who I guess have stopped comping Billy in Vegas. It says something about just how out of touch the Prince is that a pro-fan sentiment comes as something of a surprise.

It's the Curse of the Small-Market NBA Team: once you stop being smart and lucky, everything falls apart.

Well, sure... but didn't the Bulls and Knicks spend a real long time being dumb and unlucky, without a whole lot of instant fix available, and they are not small markets. Even the Lakers spent time in the Nick van Exel wilderness, and I quite enjoyed the tanking Celtic years when their fans tried to talk themselves into Jefferson and Pierce. It's a tough league. Dumb and unlucky doesn't win. No matter how big your market, or how new your arena.

Webber's demise triggered a chain of events that eventually turned Sacramento into the NBA's Pittsburgh Pirates.

Has it really been 18 years since the Webber era? No. Have the Pirates had any player as notable as Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin or Hedo Turkoglu in the last decade? No. Comparing the Kings to the Pirates is like comparing Sherman's March to the Sea with the Hiroshima, Dresden and Nagasaki bombings. So don't do it. (Hell, I could argue that the Warriors, Nets, Raptors, Wolves and Clippers have all had a worse last five years than the Kings. And no one -- no one -- in MLB looks up to the Pirates. Or really has that bad of a time at Arco Arena. It's a nice place for everyone but millionaires, I guess.)

Remember, the owners pay Stern to run the league in their best interests.

How hard will Billy have to backpedal before the commish comes on his podcast against? You don't want to know. Or watch.

Where was the commissioner as the Maloofs torched their relationship with locals and cut every conceivable financial corner?

My guess is in his office in New York, or asleep on piles of money. He also has a waterbed that's filled with the tears of children.

As a parent, my job is to take care of my kids, provide them shelter and food, keep them safe, and teach them right from wrong.

Wait, I thought we were talking about basketball here. Maybe Billy isn't getting enough sleep.

The owners of a sports franchise have a much simpler job: They pay for stuff. That's it.

They also make money from every possible source they can, shake down governments for payoffs, hire women to objectify themselves, run a million self-serving pieces of PR, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. And you suck up to them, dream of having one give you the keys, and convince yourself that they aren't just, well, rich pricks. Not that you've got anything in common with any of that.

My prediction: the league will pay full price for the Kings (or close to it), use them as lockout leverage (along with the Hornets), then work with Johnson and Sacramento on finding new ownership after the lockout.

So why write about it now? Oh, right, because it means you don't have to actually watch sports to fill a contractual obligation.

Portland might not be the best professional basketball city in America, but it's definitely in the top five. And guess what? Portland's arena isn't so great.

Oh noes! As if anyone outside of potentially Paul Allen could give a damn about the barn.

All over this country, people pay money to see high school and college hoop in bad buildings. They do so willingly, because the game is a hell of a lot more important than the setting, especially in basketball. This isn't baseball, where you can go 81 times a year and spend 3+ hours a time when you go, with only 10 to 20 minutes of actual must-watch action. It's hoop, where you are frequently done in 2 hours, the court has your whole attention, everyone is wildly into it and no one is writing freaking poetry.

The game matters. The building? Not so much.

You end up like Indiana -- trying to avoid a first-round sweep at home in a stadium filled with more Bulls fans than Pacers fans, only you can't ban anyone outside Indiana from buying tickets online because you need the money too badly.

Yes, because Bulls Fan With The Means To Travel would never be able to go on StubHub or eBay. The free market dude abides, Billy. (Oh, and remember Billy sticking up for the locals the next time he talks about Red Sox Fan invading Anaheim et al.)

That's why these next two months of ridiculously good basketball have a guillotine hanging over them, and that's why Sacramento's soap opera symbolizes everything. Thanks to Durant, Paul, Roy and everyone else who made Round 1 so special, the NBA is blowing up … right as it's about to be blown up. Go figure.

Once again, Billy envies you, you silly present people and children, you unburdened by vision or intellect mouth breathers. Only Billy, with his terrible knowledge, knows that the league is about to be blown up due to the plight of its small market robber barons... as if the large market robber barons really give a damn about these teams. Or that anyone should while there's ACTUAL FREAKING BALL TO BE PLAYED.

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