When The Story Becomes The Story

I wish this post was about the Knicks gearing up for a playoff run. It’s not. It’s the twilight of yet another miserable Knicks season and instead of the team, the story has become the story. It has been a bitter year on many fronts: A lot of consternation has flowed in a dizzying array of directions: Players to coach; coach to players; players to media; coaches to media; media to management; media to coaches; blogs to all of it. Losing will bring out the worst in everyone pulled into the franchise’s orbit.

From a fan’s perspective, the most despicable aspect of the last decade or so has indisputably been the play on the court. The next is the mismanagement. Then comes the press corps. At its best, the Knicks’ beat is intelligent, analytical, honest. At its worst it is defensive, dishonest, demeaning to its readers, hypocritical. Some of the writers fall consistently into the first category. Others into the second. Sometimes, rarely, they change hats.

This is a theme that has recurred in this space. It has been touched upon elsewhere but judging by some comments and tweets, I’ve probably developed a reputation as the guy who takes the writers to task when I think they deserve it. I call them out when they publish propaganda, when they fail to fact check, when they fail to recognize obvious truths to suit the predetermined direction of their coverage, and when they lie to get start a controversy in an effort to get a sound byte that will help them sell papers. For example, when:

It should come as no surprise that certain publications are featured prominently in this list while others are conspicuously absent. That makes it all the more puzzling that of all the writers who cover the Knicks, it was Alan Hahn of Newsday who was the prickliest about Tracy McGrady’s assertion that “you guys”, e.g., the press, will keep players away from New York. Hahn took exception, writing:

Apparently NBA players prefer hero worship over raw honesty and unfettered opinion. They prefer the big fish/small pond ratio in smaller markets, where the coverage has the intensity of a street light.

NBA players who relish a challenge should most definitely be willing to subject themselves to the spotlight. But what about the interrogation lamp? That’s why I’m not sure it’s really Hahn that McGrady had in mind. Hahn continued:

How should this team be covered at this point? Should we just shrug when Eddy Curry continually gets injured and yet still makes every single road trip, pocketing per diem and enjoying the free travel?

I can’t disagree with Hahn that if players are upset about the coverage that exposes:

  1. Eddy Curry for failing to properly condition himself for the rigors of the NBA despite collecting an $11 million salary; or
  2. Larry Hughes for pouting the night of a monster 43 point win over the Pacers; or
  3. Darko Milicic for wanting the Knicks to cut him, and let him return to Europe while still guaranteeing him his full paycheck; or
  4. Nate Robinson likely instructing his agent to complain in the midst of the Knicks’ best month in a decade; or
  5. their general and individual poor play in a losing season;

then that is a problem with the players and not the writers. But I think McGrady may have been referring more to the unfair treatment some writers bestow on some players (and the coaches, and management), the most glaring examples of which I’ve referenced above.

You better believe it’s a circus.

And McGrady isn’t the only one holding that opinion. Hahn points out that Ron Artest said that players are “scared of the fans and the media”. And Chris Bosh stated his distaste for the Knicks’ beat too.

It’s hard to tell if Hahn was sticking up for his colleagues or just himself. Without naming names, probably as a professional courtesy, he wrote:

I can’t speak for everybody in this business, but I can say there is not supposed to be agenda in any of this. It’s merely unbiased observations from those closest to the team without being part of the team. Most of us ask questions not because we don’t know the answers, we ask them because we DO know the answers.

Look, some of that is true. For Hahn, it certainly is. But even if Hahn asks honest questions seeking honest answers, let’s not pretend that there aren’t others who carefully engineer loaded, indefensible questions to solicit a frustrated response – to make news. You can’t honestly suggest that no writers have an agenda. Not when we’re still getting updates about what Stephon Marbury thinks about the Knicks. Not when they are openly calling for the Coach’s head (are journalists supposed to report the story or be a part of it?). There are plenty of fans who recognize that Mike D’Antoni has not been perfect, not even close, but are tired of reading diatribes, insulting to their intelligence, positing that all of the blame falls at the Coach’s feet. Will Berman, who had D’Antoni up in slings when he benched Nate Robinson refer to Nate’s latest benching with the Celtics as “Nate-Gate”? Will he recognize, as every single one of Nate’s pro coaches has that Nate’s best spot may be the end of the bench?

The Knicks are out of the playoffs because D’Antoni didn’t play Darko? Really? Is it truly a meaningful issue that Mike D’Antoni didn’t coddle Larry Hughes and Eddy Curry enough?

Marc, we know you’re worried that people aren’t going to pay attention to you if the Knicks aren’t good, but don’t you have some sort of professional responsibility as a journalist?

And as for Isola: look, we get it, the Knicks have PR people who follow you around with blackberries and take notes. Get the hell over it already. You’re a journalist, don’t let it taint your coverage. Fans want intelligent, honest coverage, not someone with a vendetta pledging to make things right for the time the Knicks “screwed me over.”

For all of the professionalism supposedly absent from the Knicks organization, from the coaching staff to the players (and yes, some of the players don’t know what that word means), the last ones to judge should be those who call their assignment “a gulag”, or “depressing”, and who pine for the old Checketts days when the Knicks treated the beat writers to a catered trips on yachts. Guess what Frank? I don’t get catered trips on yachts at my job either but I don’t elevate that grievance over my duties.

Granted, the good one’s like Hahn, Steve Adamek and Howard Beck are honest. They’re professional. They can have their negative opinions of the organization, as immortalized in the New York Observer article, without letting it cloud their work product. Marc Berman and Frank Isola are driven by personal issues and it’s a waste of time to argue otherwise.

These are circling vultures waiting to twist words and parse statements and misrepresent them, and take them out of context. They do this in order to generate enough controversy to satisfy a decade old grudge, or satiate some narcissistic thirst for attention/sell papers for News Corp. Despite their presence, you can understand why a player like LeBron James would put up with it anyway. He has an empire he wants to build and New York may be the best place to do it.

For an average or even above average player though, all other things are more or less equal. So what is there to gain by subjecting yourself to the daily dishonesty and mind bending disingenuousness? I have some news for the writers on the beat that hate their jobs and take it out on the organization. LeBron might not come, and if McGrady, Artest and Bosh represent the feelings of the rest of the players in the league, you’ve got a number of “depressing” years left in this “gulag”.

16 comments

  1. 37 Years

    Dan, this is the best article I’ve read in years! Literally, in years! And, dammit, about time we started talking about this. We, as fans and, more importantly, as consumers, have the power to let these newspapers and websites know what we want and what we don’t, and it’s high time we made our voices heard.

    We get it–the Knicks have sucked for 10 years. Layden and Isiah were abominations are GMs. Dolan is an imbecile whose most intelligent decision of the past 10 years was to hand over the decision-making to Donnie Walsh, a pro’s pro. But that doesn’t excuse Berman and Isola from the obligation to act like professionals. It doesn’t give them the right to invent negative news. It doesn’t give them the right to lie to us, or to maintain agendas.

    So what are we going to do about it, gang? I’ve been a Knick season ticket holder for more than 20 years–I want a good product on the court next year and I’d like to read good things about my team. And if boycotting the Post and Daily News will convince them to get rid of Berman and Isola, and that would, even to a minor degree, make New York a more appealing prospect to top-quality free agents, then why don’t we do that. Even if it wouldn’t make any difference, I’d still rather be able to have honest, credible journalists covering the team next year. So I’m out–no more Post or Daily News until those two are gone–and I hope some people join me. As the page hits diminish and ad revenues decrease, people upstairs will take notice.

  2. EwingOak

    What an awesome article. Nice job, Dan! And a very nice response from you as well, 37 Years. I am with you guys on your view of it all and would gladly take any actions that you guys think would support the concept.

    What a great thing to get started…. and, I know I may be thinkiing way outside the box here, but can you imagine if enough of us fans started stirring this pot that word somehow got out to some players that NY fans DON’T WANT TAHE LIES and that we are honest fans that have (and always will) support the Knicks regardless of their record. For God’s sake.. they haven’t had a strong team for so many years but that building is still sold out so many times!!

    Nice work.. really nice. I hope this grows into something magnificant.

  3. EwingOak

    I really think we could get some people together for something like this. I don’t know about the Facebook thing, 37 Years. I can’t onto it at work so I can’t really experiment. But I think that would be a pretty cool idea.

    • Dan L

      If you guys want, I can goof around with Facebook. Not sure how successful I’ll be seeing as how I’ve tried numerous times to set up a page for this blog and can’t quite figure out a good way to do it.

      • 37 Years

        Give it a try, Dan. I’m not technologically savvy, but I think if you set up a FB group then we can each forward it to any “friends”. I must have about 500 (few of whom I know, of course, LOL). Wouldn’t it be great if Knicks fans stood up with one voice and said that, now that we’re going to start a new era this summer, and reawaken the sleeping giant that is Madison Square Garden and the NY fan base, we demand freshness and honesty–not cynicism–from our local news? (Might also get your blog in front of thousands of new people too, Dan!)

  4. Dan L

    Thanks for your comments everyone. I really enjoy having readers who share my views. Even those who don’t. It makes this fun.

  5. paterickschmede

    This is the best thing I’ve read since someone said we might get Lebron in a couple years. Hope it changes something.

  6. Eimaan Malik

    Dan, awesome job, man! Great informative article, really enjoyed it. Looking forward to your in-depth thoughts on high school/college players and education.

  7. EwingOak

    Yeah, Dan… you have really shown some great stuff here. Not to mention that I hope you realize that you have got quite a few of us on your side. Hope we can make some changes together.

  8. Pingback: New York Media And Professionalism: An Open Letter to Steve Adamek | The Knicks FanBlog

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