I like TrueHoop. I like it when there’s coverage of basketball — although they’ve been sadly remiss in dealing with yesterday’s Reggie Evans-Steven Hunter blockbuster — and I like it when there’s not. And I think that, besides my hunger for NBA-related news of any stripe, it’s because I get a general sense of seriousness, both a journalistic seriousness and an un-ostentatious moral seriousness, from Henry Abbott. Assessing a writer’s moral seriousness from a series of squibs about the likes of Luke Schenscher (above) or Pierre Pierce, but I think this is one of those know-it-when-you-see-it deals. I see something good here, even more than I see it in the more obviously sports-as-culture environs here.
“Moral seriousness” is an uncomfortably Christopher Hitchens-y term. Whatever your higher-end national affairs pundits might mean by it — and they lately have seemed to mean being grown up enough to agree with whatever foreign policy catastrophe-to-be PNAC is spinning — here’s what I mean: a sense of the context in which sports exist, a recognition that they can simultaneously be a distraction from, reflection of, and microcosmic miniaturization of our world. Even without The Critic in the game, sports discourse can seem like a pretty stupid echo of an already pretty stupid national discourse — outrage without insight; self-serving contrarianism; excessive eye makeup. But there are many bigger things at work in this small sports thing of ours, and in a longish editorial from yesterday, I think Henry gets at something important that we’ve been touching on here recently:
(T)hrough all the recent stories — Reggie Miller maybe coming back, Team USA getting in the groove, various players getting in legal trouble for various things — one thing really stood out to me.
I can’t stand being lied to, especially by very powerful people.
For a bunch of reasons.
The main one is that it’s insulting. You lie to my face, then you are demeaning me in some fashion. You are telling me I’m not worthy of the truth. And, as you can probably tell from the name of my blog, I like me some truth! Tell me you can’t talk about it. Tell me it’s complicated. Tell me you have to change the topic. But don’t tell me lies…
I don’t know a lot about politics, but I do know that lots of people — tobacco executives, generals, attorneys general, baseball players, appointees — have faced various governmental bodies and said things that either defy credibility, or have been fully proven to be outright falsehoods.
At some point, you know, the lies make real trouble.
And we keep finding out that we have been lied to again and again about a lot of stuff. When powerful people address the public, lies are very much in the play book.
I hope that that won’t be so true in the NBA, and I think the NBA’s evolving and impressive collection of blogs — voices of people who are passionate about the game — can play a part in that. My advice to fans and bloggers: if they’re lying to you, call them on it.
The mainstream media is on it a lot of the time, but we have the freedom be on it more, and more often.
What brings this up? The realization that we get lied to a lot. There are the little lies, like the GM saying he loves every player on his roster, even as he prays Isiah Thomas will fall in love with two or three of them. There are people talking about team but coaching or playing with nothing but dollars in mind. There are a million more stories like that.
There’s David Stern making this promise he made when he ended his big Tim Donaghy press conference in late June: “Before I leave with a thank you, I just want to sum up to say to you that this is something that is the worst that could happen to a professional sports league. And I want to say on the other hand that we are going to make good on the covenant that we believe we have with our fans, and I pledge that my involvement will be as intense and complete as it can possibly be and what we do will be completely transparent.”
Almost three months later and all we really know is the name of the guy who will be leading the investigation, and that Stern is disinclined to shake things up any time soon. Other than that, I’m totally clueless as to what the NBA knows or has investigated. It’s early yet, but nothing feels transparent at this point. I hope that wasn’t just a line to please the cameras.
But that’s not the one that really sticks in my craw.
I don’t suppose we’ll ever know the unvarnished truth behind whatever is happening in Seattle. But somebody is flat out lying. The new owners arrived in a hailstorm of happy, smiley balloons to go along with bright, shiny trophies. They talked about honoring agreements and bright futures in Seattle. If you’re someone who loves having the Sonics in Seattle, and you like being told the truth, invest in good earplugs. (If this was happening to the team I grew up loving, I’d be going a little psycho, at this point, demanding the real deal.) Take the team or not, but don’t think some balloons and trophies are going to make me just not notice — through great big faux-cheery optimism and platitudes — that I no longer have a local NBA team.
Among other missing things, yes, there’s that. I’m going to try to make this point as gently as I can, because it’s still something I feel inclined to approach gently. But today’s date — September 11, if you’re too lazy to consult a desk blotter or your computer’s calendar function or whatever — obviously represents an historical fulcrum whose significance and eventual impact we can’t quite know yet. On that day in 2001, in a New York I could never have imagined, I felt a sense of great smallness; I imagine a lot of other people did, too. (I also met my girlfriend for the first time, which was nice) I’m not sure it’s worth it for anyone — even a brilliant mind such as myself — to try to suss out the changes in The Culture since then. There are things that are obvious and factual and saddening; there are other things that I sense more vaguely, like something moving past in the dark. But what I like about Abbott’s argument above is its engagement — on the admittedly lopsided terms with which we must engage these massive and multitudinous uglinesses — with the free-floating dishonesties, big and small, that increasingly permeate our discourse.
We discard these things without even thinking about it, deleting in a blink the patent falsehoods we are handed by our politicians (and GMs, and owners, and commissioners) and the end-of-the-line fatuities and self-serving legalisms and thoughtlessly inflammatory uselessnesses we get from the people who ostensibly help us understand the world. It’s not even something we think about much: developing an internal spam filter is a precondition of contemporary super-connectedness. It’s not even difficult to do this, but it is exhausting.
How will I deal with my feelings of insignificance this September 11? Eventually by drinking, probably, but first by writing about football for money, which is my current job. And by making a rambling post to this blog, obviously. I suppose this might be one of those ‘tween-blogger LiveJournal moments better kept to myself, but I don’t think the venue is inappropriate, or insiginficant. As I try to orient myself in this noisy dark, it’s nice, at least, to know that other people are also searching for something similar. That is: the latest news in “sad toilets.”