Bissinger misses the mark

2 03 2011

I went into a rampage a few weeks ago after I read a post from a blogger who advocated firing ESPN’s John Clayton. Imagine my dismay once I read Buzz Bissinger’s Feb. 17 article for the The Daily Beast about how race has helped put the NBA in a troublesome state. I don’t read The Beast, so I found out about this only yesterday, after someone I follow re-tweeted Bissinger and Mark Cuban’s Twitter argument regarding the subject. Bissinger’s point on race isn’t an original opinion, and the other points he made are maddeningly irresponsible.

I won’t contest Bissinger’s claim that NBA attendance isn’t what it’s reported to be — plenty of teams account for paid attendance rather than the number of people who actually show up. Of course, a few days after Bissinger wrote his post, the NBA reported that its All-Star Game in Los Angeles was its most watched all-star contest since 2003. It’s Saturday Night series of events, which includes the dunk contest, racked up more viewers than any other Saturday night event in the event’s 26-year history.

Other claims, such as the NBA has devolved into a game of one-on-one, are ridiculous. Watch the Spurs, Celtics, Lakers or Mavericks and tell me if you see consistent one-on-one basketball. There are one-on-one moments, but it’s not the modus operandi of most teams. Then watch Dr. J in the ’70s or Mike Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in ’80s and tell me if they played a “team” game. The point is, writers looking to make a point to their benefit can paint a situation any way they want — accurate or not.

Bissinger’s racism theory is wholly uneducated. There’s racism everywhere in our country, and it isn’t just in the NBA. There are probably folks who don’t like the NFL or MLB because of the minorities who play those sports. So what? Racism will always exist, and it’s not negatively affecting the NBA. Despite complaints from NBA critics that stars are leaving small markets for big ones — I’m writing a story on why this isn’t exactly a new thing — fans are inevitably drawn to the star-ladenteams that have formed — the Heat, the Lakers, even the Knicks.

Bissinger justified his article through various Twitter back-and-forths with readers, claiming that the point of his column was to initiate discussion on the topic. Which is precisely what infuriates me most about the story.

He was abusing his power and his platform by opining on a subject he conceded he knows nearly nothing about. He provided sharp opinions while admitting he had no statistical proof to back his claims, particularly that he couldn’t prove that racism is a factor in his preceived state of the NBA’s suffering. When I break it down like that — and I’m trying to be level-headed about it — I find it hard to see what value his story serves. And if an article doesn’t serve value to the folks who spend their time reading it, I really have no clue why it should be written in the first place.

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One response

9 03 2011
Angel Navedo

I tweeted you back, and agree with your thoughts. Like I said (and you did, too), Bissinger’s idea isn’t novel. Citing racism is something a lot of people do, from my own father to regular folks in a sports bar. Usually, it’s someone asking, “Why should I pay all this money to see a bunch of rich, tattoo’d thugs play basketball?”

It has no substance. And when you try to break past that initial, ignorant assessment, they follow up with vague remarks about the diminishing talent level in the post-Jordan era; they say there are only a handful of stars worth watching, and they’re all greedy thugs, too.

I can hear these thoughts in my parents’ living room. I don’t need it reiterated by an accomplished journalist and author. I was hoping Bissinger would write for the readers who already know and understand the ignorance, and would provide something real that supports or contradicts it. That’s 101.

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