Tuesday, August 16, 2005

This column is, simply, a mess

I've never read much in terms of sportsblogs, mostly because they're so insular - unless you're a big fan of a particular team, they're usually too specific for the transient reader. But with the coming college football season, I've started reading a bit more. And that's a good thing, as I've learned a good amount. There is, however, one thing that seems universal among sportsblogs. And that is a tremendous loathing for Scoop Jackson. I've been reluctant to piss on the gas fire, since I don't really give a shit about 90% of what he writes. The subtle comparison of criticism of Dusty Baker to a lynching last week was, well, too soon to use that card. Unless he plans on using it all the damn time.

Today's column is on the Hawks. I would never assume to know more about anything basketball related than an award winning journalist for Slam or Hoop magazines. But damn if this column doesn't make me feel superior. The problem is factual errors. Before this went online, Scoop wrote, edited, rewrote it, and then his editor(s) read, edited, revised, fact checked and reedited it. And these people got paid to do these things.

Before I got to the bottom of the first page I was embarrassed for them all. Perhaps one of the main premises in the article is that the ownership structure caused the trade problems. Doesn't anyone at ESPN think they should get the ownership structure right?

The owners decided that Joe Johnson was worth $70 million and two first-round draft picks. They decided that Joe Johnson was the answer to all of their basketball problems. They decided that Joe Johnson was going to be their LeBron James.
Well, only two of them did.
Steve Belkin. He was the one owner who felt different. He felt that Joe Johnson wasn't worth all that, because in his mind (as opposed to the mind of Joe Quinn, the lawyer for the other two owners who compared Joe Johnson's arrival in Atlanta to Larry Bird's arrival in Boston), Joe Johnson wasn't all that.
When the asinineness clears, he's the one that might be right.

There are nine principal members of the LLC. One group of principals in Atlanta, another in Washington DC, and Belkin flyin' solo in Boston. All the Atlanta and DC members, the General Manager, and the President of the LLC were in favor of the trade. Belkin was the only one in the entire hierarchy of the franchise that opposed the deal. Belkin is the largest ownership interest holder in Atlanta Spirit LLC, but he still owns only 30%. The LLC Operating Agreement sets out that the Atlanta members, Washington Members and Belkin each have one vote on decisions, majority rules. For this trade, it was 2-1 in favor of doing the deal. The only reason why this was even a problem was that Belkin had the figurehead position of NBA Governor (one of the DC members is the Thrashers' governor). Belkin lost the vote, but then wanted to take his ball and go home. And as numerous article have set out, it was clear that Belkin's opposition to the deal on the merits was a complete ruse. Belkin did not want to pay the salary at all. It had nothing to do with what the Hawks gave up.

But somehow Atlanta LLC couldn't. The incompetence of the parent company of the Hawks, the NHL Thrashers, and Philips Arena, where the teams play, allowed a petty disagreement over a mid-level free agent to get out. To the media and to the public.

This is not a petty disagreement. Belkin wanted to spend 1/3rd less on salary than the other owners. Belkin wanted to spend less than half of the luxury tax cap. This was a fundamental philosophical argument over the future of the franchise. Do we want to take the NBA shared revenues, go cheap cheap cheap on the team and become the Clippers East, or do we want to invest in the club and try to win and maybe approach a wider audience. This is not a petty disagreement.

Scoop supports Belkin in this column, but bases his support on a false argument. It would be one thing to say "the Hawks overpaid for Joe Johnson". This is not the dispute between the members of Atlanta Spirit LLC. The dispute was getting Joe Johnson or not. If Scoop wants to have an academic debate over the costs, that's a fine idea for a column. But in doing so, if he had done any in depth research on the controversy, he would know that he shouldn't "take Belkin's side".

What does Joe Smith have to do with the Hawks? And what's with the Al Harrington bit? Scoop seems to imply he's wasting his talent on such a shitty team, but if he were good, wouldn't the team be better?

The rest of the article is all about how shitty the Hawks are. OK, they suck. They have a bunch of players who play the same position. Johnson isn't a traditional point guard. One of the picks they gave up might turn out to be the next Jordan or something. All decent points. Of course, he could also mention that the Hawks have swung and missed the last few years on free agents, and money unspent is money wasted. Or perhaps that the Hawks have enough picks from deadline deals the last few years that they have a good chance of still getting a top pick the next few years. I think the Hawks had to do something to get a little buzz in this city, which will support a basketball team worth watching. They might've overpaid, but nobody's going to give the Hawks a discount. The best thing about this trade controversy is that a miserly owner has been outed (and likely ousted). Anyone who likes basketball should think that's a good thing. While, sure, player salaries are way high, teams that suck from the shared revenue teat without adding anything to the league should be shunned. Belkin wanted to do that. Good riddance. Scoop Jackson was really on the wrong side of the issue. And then he wrote a factually incorrect article.

Another shitty Page2 writer. Hruby sucks. Shanoff offers a mistake a day, guaranteed. Just for the heck of it, Brian Murphy is lame. Jim Caple never met a story he couldn't turn maudlin. Skip Bayless courts controversy, then sucks the life out of his columns with his aging hipster shitty references. I like Simmons, but his Boston columns annoy me after a while. Just weak all together.

Edited (poorly) for clarity and because I wasn't satisfied with it.