Monday, June 12, 2006

Media Killed the Basketball Star

Props to anyone who gets the thinly-veiled Buggles reference there.

The relationship between the Portland media (especially the Oregonian) and the Blazers has been deteriorating for the better part of the last decade. At times the acrimony resembles that of a married couple who should get divorced but for whatever reason can't or won't. They've now reached the ridiculous level that many churlish couples have dreamt of in their worst moments...recording and printing every single word they say to each other so they can quote verbatim what's been said and demonstrate how the other party is misunderstanding or twisting it. Blazer fans have become the children in this little drama, drawn into the middle and encouraged to choose sides. A reasonable person would probably expect more professionalism from both institutions. Since that's not likely anytime soon, how are we to parse this out?

I must admit that I don't like the Portland media very much. But this ill-will isn't directed particularly towards the city or its media representatives. They seem about as good as anywhere else. I dislike Portland media coverage for the same reasons I dislike almost all media coverage: I've observed a general trend of objectivity giving way to opinion, information taking a back seat to sensationalism, and the reporters themselves becoming a big part of the story. I am not naive enough to think these issues are new, but they've gotten worse in the last twenty years. Beat writers fill space with predictions, projections, speculation, and interpretation. Columnists become personalities in their own rights. And we all eagerly anticipate Canzano vs. Patterson IV as if we were children who heard there was going to be a fight by the candy machine after school today. (Whether this has anything to do with the team is beside the point.) Nobody's lying or making things up, but truth is always complex and multi-faceted. Where is the line between what's most faithful to the situation and what sells? When there's a difference between the two, which one will the reporter or columnist choose to convey, especially if notoriety and perceived personality are the keys to success?

This is not confined to sports media, Portland media, or print media--it's across the board. You cannot turn on the news or pick up a magazine nowadays without superimposing the voice of that gossipy Mrs. Kravitz from "Bewitched" over the words. If every story began with the phone ringing followed by "Did you hear???" we'd hardly blink.

This trend has been made worse by the proliferation of blogs in the media. Some may cry, "Hypocrisy!", but obviously there's a big difference between what I do and what a professional reporter or columnist is supposed to do. I hope I have something interesting and meaningful to say here, but there are no implied claims to expertise or even factuality. I may be misinformed about plenty of things, and everyone who reads this knows that. Expectations for a bona fide journalist are much more stringent. A certain level of authority, accountability, and yes, even detachment comes with the territory. And this is true even of those things said in a more casual, but still public, forum such as a blog. My best words carry far less weight than what John Canzano or Jason Quick might put in their blogs as an afterthought even though the medium is superficially common to all three of us. They should bear a far greater weight of responsibility than I carry.

I must confess that I had great trepidation when Jason Quick started his blog at O-Live. I felt that speculation or stories that (for whatever reason) weren't fit to print in the paper shouldn't see the light of day elsewhere either. Having seen the Blazer Beat blog for a while now, I will admit that I am impressed with how the authors have handled it. For the most part they don't print gossip or "inside" material that isn't also available through normal channels. To me, that's Quick respecting his position and I appreciate it. To say I am offended by Canzano's blog would go too far, but it does provide more material to illustrate my point. In the last few days he's mentioned names and threats he got from Bonzi and Sheed when he covered them. I have no doubt that these claims are true. But I also know that I'm only reading one side of the story...a story which started out as an argument between two people. The fact that I would probably side with Canzano if I heard both sides is immaterial. I can't hear both sides. Rasheed and Bonzi don't have that kind of access. It's inherently one-sided and unfair, and not the kind of thing a news outlet should be about. And again, I say this fully agreeing with Canzano's overarching point that Bonzi and Sheed are jerks.

You may argue, "Well, isn't it true?" But truth isn't the only criterion to be considered when divulging information in public. I, myself, have a career where I address groups of people, albeit a much more modest audience than the journalists in question. In some instances I might reference the fact that I'm married. Once in a while that might even be intrinsic to the topic. However, if I got up in front of a group of people and said, "My wife passes gas in bed a lot"...well, that might be absolutely true, but is that fair to her, to me, or to the people listening? (By the way, I should tell you before I get killed that I made that up. She is both lovely and genteel in all ways.) A line exists not just between truth and untruth, but between relevance and irrelevance and between things said for the purposes of edification and things said for personal reasons. As media members merge further with the stories, as personalities become more prominent, and as the mode of discourse drifts away from the detached article towards the personal blog, the lines get blurred. I'm not sure many journalists know where those lines are anymore. And if they don't, how am I supposed to as a reader?

Obviously I have some empathy with the Blazers in their confusion in dealing with the media. I don't quite know how to take them and I'm just a consumer, neither intimately involved nor being reported on. That empathy is finite, however, and probably a lot less than many fans seem to possess. The media spins things, sure, but they don't fabricate. And if you claim they're not supposed to spin towards the negative you must also admit they're not supposed to spin positive either.

I try to be pretty particular about the words I use. To say the media caused the downfall of the Blazers is beyond ridiculous. Even saying they contributed is pushing it. Blazer players and management alike have made horrific decisions over the past decade...decisions which far exceeded the criteria for being reportable. Journalists may have pursued their jobs with vigor and may have tended towards the salacious at times, but they were still just doing their jobs. They neither misled nor entrapped the Blazers into their long list of public gaffes. The Blazers did that all on their own. I, for one, would not expect local reporters to cover up these stories, nor would I be happier as a fan if they had done so. In fact I would feel betrayed.

At best you can say that the Blazers knew there was a dog in the yard yet they insisted on repeatedly rolling in meatloaf anyway. And when the most charitable construct of the situation is that kind of rampant stupidity, you know things have really gone wrong. Given that, it's safe to say they would not have found a different reception from the media in any other town. Only the names on the bylines would have been different.

I have little faith that media trends will reverse anytime soon. You need only glance at a newsstand to see that we're buying what they're selling. The Blazers, however, are not being similarly rewarded for their foolishness. That's why it's incumbent upon them to change. Each side is wasting a lot of energy and emotion on the other, but if it's going to stop, the Blazers need to blink first. Stop blaming, stop fighting, stop stressing, stop taping...just concentrate on rebuilding a winning team which for the most part just doesn't give the media anything bad to report. At that point any journalistic reprobates who loft shots through the blogosphere will either be ignored or find themselves the subject of ridicule. If you cannot manage to do that, then your problems go far deeper than reporters and microphones.

I would say that we fans could help by holding both sides more accountable, but that will never happen and they both know it. Perhaps we could at least refuse to perpetuate the ridiculousness. Canzano and Quick's opinions certainly color their views of some players and events. But to say they're responsible for the team's slide is just inane. On the other hand to concentrate on a couple of bad apples--exaggerating their misdeeds because of what's gone on here in the past when most of the team is both respectable and hard-working--is equally stupid. Even if you take the dimmest, most cynical view of both institutions, when faced with a blindly childish media and a blindly childish team having a blindly childish fan base only makes matters worse.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

17 Comments:

Anonymous jorga said...

So how do we "refuse to perpetuate the ridiculousness"?

It seems to me that the bottom line is "what sells" and the reporters and columnists may not have much choice. It would be interesting to know how they are guided by those further up the chain of command. Is there a different set of guidelines for sports writers than for, say, writers of "hard" news?

I think those of us who are more interested in the facts than the gossip will gravitate toward places of sanity like your blog. That won't change a thing, but at least we'll be in good company.

And speaking of thinly-veiled references (I had to look up Buggles, BTW) - Where have you gone, Joe Friday?

4:52 PM  
Anonymous eli said...

Excellent post, thank you Dave. I've been trying to describe my feelings about the paper/team animosity for a while now, and that summed it up nicely.

I've stopped reading Canzano, his blog or column, the guy is so self-centered. I still read Quick's blog, but only because I'm a rumor chaser and he's the Oregonian's "insider". Helen Jung is great though, and seems to have a well intact sense of objectivity. I say we use our ability to choose and stop reading Canzano - that's "what refuse to perpetuate the ridiculousness" means to me.

5:56 PM  
Blogger jojack said...

excellent points as always dave. i remember the good old days at the O when george pasero was the venerable columnist and dwight jaynes provides his acidic take on things. thank goodness for the trib's online edition so i can still read dwight's stuff.
two things have soured me on the portland media, specifically john canzano (other than the fact that he strikes me as kind of a prick). the first was the adversarial relationship between the media and rasheed wallace. wallace is no angel, obviously, but i really think the media, and by extension the portland fans, just didn't realize how valuable rasheed was, and is. how this guy doesn't make all nba defense is beyond me. garnett, duncan, you name it, they have all lauded sheed's defensive skills. maybe he wasn't the star we all wanted him to be, but in the right environment he is the ultimate role player. for the most part, since arriving in detroit, sheed has had a pretty decent relationship with the media.
the one that really burned me though, was when canzano forced damon to pee in a cup for him. if john canzano came at me with a ua cup, i'd rip his lungs out. in my opinion, it was a GROSS invasion of privacy, and personally insulting. i hate to break it to you, but damon was no good because he's a 5'9" shooting guard, with an inconsistent shot and no ability to finish in traffic. not because he smoked weed. it was well known in nba circles that robert parrish smoked like bob frickin marley. didn't stop the chief from going to the hall. damon wasn't any better after his supposed "recovery" than he was before. it makes me wonder: how many sportwriters would stand up to that kind of personal scrutiny?

6:47 PM  
Blogger ignacio said...

I haven't read the local newspapers for many years (partly because it's too much trouble for me where i live to recycle). I have one who writes for one of the papers whom this irritates no end.

When I became disenchanted with Rasheed it was because of watching him in Blazer games on TV. Yes, he has all the talent in the world. Strange though that he acted like he was mentally ill while in Portland with a no-name coach but suddenly stopped getting technicals when playing for a "legend" (Larry Brown) in Detroit. In other words he could control himself all along.

He's a spoiled punk. With his talent he could have been a go-to guy as good as or better than Karl Malone. That was what Dunleavy wanted. It was too much work.

But (back to the topic of the day) yeah, I've heard that some players around the league supposedly view Portland as having an adversarial press.

Maybe that will change by next season if the team is entirely Nate's. If we get either Adam Morrison or Brandon Roy and they're reasonably good.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Thanks for your feedback guys!

I suppose refusing to "perpetuate the ridiculousness" can mean a lot of things. I think at a minimum it means not buying into the crap in either direction, let alone repeating it as truth. This would include things like saying that the media is responsible for the Blazers' bad image or, on the opposite end, cavalierly assuming that the "Jailblazer" or "reprobate" era is still with us. There's no truth to either, but both perceptions still linger in the public consciousness and discourse.

The only other thing I can think of immediately is simply e-mailing the Blazers to tell them to stop worrying about the media and to drop their stupid, reactionary policy because it's making them look like fools.

I get the feeling that some folks at Blazer HQ regard us as mindless sheep led astray by the big, bad, persuasive media wags. That's a convenient way to shift blame for the last decade when they should be taking responsibility. It's also really insulting. Peruse the comments at this site alone and you will see that most Blazer fans are independent thinking, articulate people. Nobody wants to be led around by the nose by EITHER party in this fracas, and the general response to both of them trying is for folks simply to walk away. That's sad and wholly unnecessary.

--Dave

8:22 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

On Jung and Canzano:

I too have enjoyed Helen Jung's work. I was amazed that she hung the Godfath...uh...I mean the commissioner out to dry like that the other day. Good for her! At the very least I wonder if she's had her last interview with him. I also fear she might get her kneecaps broken. But she's an up-and-comer for sure.

I am not as sour on Canzano as some people. He neither inspires nor offends me most of the time. He's won several awards and the Damon "cup" thing was his big national break, so I imagine he's in good standing at the "O". Ever since that Damon thing, though, he has struck me as someone who wants to be more than a typical sports columnist. Maybe he sees a Steve Duin-like jump to other arenas, or maybe he just wants to elevate/ennoble the medium. (Or maybe I'm just wrong...I've never spoken to him.) Somehow I've always found the results of him shooting above the mark more amusing/annoying than anything. It's almost like a community theater critic who writes reviews like he's producing on Broadway. You see what he's trying to do, but it just doesn't play well.

--Dave

8:30 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Sorry for the third comment in a row, but I had to add that I think what we do here makes a small difference in circumventing the ridiculousness. And that's not the "royal" we, I truly mean everybody here. By having civil, detailed, thoughtful conversations we at least offer alternatives to the sensationalist soundbites of the mainstream media. No, it doesn't change anything dramatically, but you guys at least offer hope and an example that it's possible to be faithful, passionate fans without having to engage in all the crap. (In fact people like you are probably more of the norm than the exception, despite what we see and read.) These are the kind of things and this is the kind of conversation that used to be commonplace but has been lost over the years. The Blazers would do well to cultivate it again.

--Dave

8:43 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

I’ve read sport pages from many cities with major league teams and I cannot recall any that are as negative or dishonest as the Oregonian. The same holds true for KFXX. They seemingly look for anything they can twist into some negative or sensational point. Canzano & Ian, in particular, are bald face liars- and they not only know it, but it doesn’t bother them in the least.

To me, it’s not so much “what sells” as it is the fact our local media simply doesn’t get “it”. They don’t understand pro sports or pro athletes. It also doesn’t help we have a fairly poor team management.

I long for the days of George Paseo.

8:06 AM  
Anonymous fatty said...

from the outside looking in perception is this the local
media lomg for the days of
paxon,valentine,thompson,natt
clyde,porter,etc. the charecters
that has passed through portland
since game 6 of the finals in 92
blazers fans take a long hard
look at the players who have came
to play in portland !!!
also what you peopledon't realize
it's the year 2006, the african
american athelete look at portland
as an hillbily town with no social
life after the n.b.a.games period
i'm sorry to tell you guys the
truth, next summer will prove my
point and dave qoute me now,
the blazers will have a lot of cap space next summer and i'll promise
you they'll not land not 1 top tier free agent the organization
will spin it as they could'nt
land this guy or this guy but
bottom line no very good to great
a.american free agent will not
sign in portland period !!!!
portland has become utah west
and edmonton south !!!!!!
as far as the organization it's
like yesterday when j.nash was
introduced, the 1'st words out
of his mouth was(hee haw)
why because himself,s.patterson
view you portland people as
hick hillbillies, dave you're
right they have an eliteist
attitude towards the dwindling
fan base 1) because they don't
feel the people can afford the
tickets and 2)the fans would
support the team no matter what
the bottom line is this team
and franchise are in denial
also the fans are in denial
the blazers average fan base
age is 53.7 years of age very
frieghtning thought i've asked
a lot of local young people
while i was out in portland
the ages between 16-40 and ask
them do they like the home team
80% said hell's no some say
sheed leaving but most alarming
is who they like, the lakers
kings,lebron,etc that's the
blazers problem not in touch
with the young hip crowd with money,also loss all the blue
collar-lumberjack man fans
the everyday people in the
community, if they can get
another lottery pick somehow
and get morrison and roy will
go a long long way to winning
back the everyday person, see
portland is at the point now that
wins and losses don't matter
anymore in portland, charecter
does, and having 3 n.w. kids
who can ball can really start
a serious renniassance in
portland !!!!!! when the blazers
have local kids who can ball and
are good people the media,fans
and most importantly the f.office
will begin the healing process
that is if they're still in
portland which sorry portland
people i doubt very much !!!!!!
later dave keep up the good work !!!

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Lance Uppercut said...

A fantastic post Dave. Seriously, great work.
First off, I agree with jojack whole-heartedly. Canzano put Damon in situation where he basically used his position as a journalist to force Damon into taking a UA. If Damon refuses, Canzano harps for months on end about if he has nothing to hide, then he should take the test. I garentee that Damon passing that UA was probably one of the sadest days of Canzano's life, as I'm sure he would have loved nothing more than for Damon to show he was using herb.
Canzano is just lazy, pure and simple. The first thing that strikes me when I read his articles is how it must have only taken him no more than a half hour craft a column. I can't imagine how long it would take John Boy to write what you just posted. 2 or 3 days? You could go to the OregonLive forum and find more articulate and original opinions than you'd get in any Canzano piece (case in point, his article today about why the Blazer should draft Morrison) And his blog is simply the worst. Nothing but self-congratulatory bullshit. It's all but unreadable.
Quick has vastly improved since the Marc Ivaroni debacle. Getting burned has made him a better journalist, and even though he has a tendancy to harp on the interpersonal, rather than what happens on the court. And he and Tokito do a good job on thier blog as well.
But then there's Helen, my personal idol. She deals with the business side of the Blazers, so she doesn't have the difficulty of dealing so much with the personalities of the team, but everything she writes is informative and fun to read. And her blog is awesome, second to only Eric's on OregonLive.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Scott R said...

Man...i'm not sure what point "Fatty" was trying to make, but it was very hard to read and very off base IMHO.

I do agree with most of the points that you make in this one, Dave. It, as always, is a great read with some very objective points(although i think given what i know i'd side with the blazers over Canzano). I don't mind Canzano so much either. I've sent him a couple of e-mails to argue some of his points and he actually does write back and doesn't appear to have the "better than thou" attitude in his replies. He actually does debate some of his points very well(guess that's his job). That does mean a lot to me as a fan and casual reader that he will keep in touch with "the little people" though. But, i do think he tries to railroad players whom he doesn't get along with personally. That is very sad, but i also think it's human nature. But, if i had to blame a single person for the downfall of the relationship with the Blaers and the media it would be Mr. Canzano.

Nuff said about that. Keep up the great work Dave, I really enjoy reading this stuff every day or two.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous fatty said...

bottom line scott r is the
media in portland don't
percieve most of the players
whom have played for the blazers
since the 95-04 seasons as
anything to talk about because
scott maybe most of those
players could'nt carry on
an intelligent conversation
as for management they don't
respect the everday blue collar
person period, is that good
enough for you to understand
now !!!! i'll say it before and
i'll say it again you portland
people don't get it, you'll
complained about needing good
guys well look where the good
guys got you 21-61 the blazers
could'nt even win the damn
lottery, even though next year
is the lottery, also portland
is now like utah scott no big
time f.agents will come to
portland you'll see that in 07
so it's either oden*noah or
sayonara scott for this
franchise !!!!!

2:28 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

fatty, with all due respect, I think you’re dead ass wrong.

Portland has drafted players too young to walk in and contribute now, but will in a season or two. They’re trying (and mostly succeeding) to draft quality people as well as quality players. We’ve unloaded Wallace & Wells. While it can be argued we’ve drafted too young, I like the general direction of the team. Sure, we went 21-61, but Zach was coming off micro-fracture surgery, Miles was injured all season, Theo missed several games, Joel missed over 20 games, Patterson was causing problems… Add to that, Nate had to continuously tinker with his line-ups as a result and play players not yet ready. So why in the world would anyone with an IQ more than their age expect a better record??????? The new players were very accessible to the media and willing to be out in the community. Had we not had the injuries we did, our records would have been much better- but those are the breaks.

I think you need to return to planet earth and take a better look around. Things in Portland are progressing pretty much on schedule- despite what you may think.

Lastly, there’s this- with regard to the lottery we “couldn’t win”, the NBA is going to make changes as they realize they had stacked the odds against the team with the worst record instead of toward it. Why are you holding that against Portland? Please let us know- I can’t wait for this one.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

LOL...OK guys, some back and forth is ok. I think both of you have points, and even if I didn't I'm fine with being disagreed with. Just please keep it on the near side of civil around here. (Good enough so far, but be aware to not let it go too far.) Passionate is ok..."hillbillies" and "other planets" is starting to drift towards the line. Just want to make sure this place offers a true alternative to the excellent-in-its-own-way-but-not-everybody's-cup-of-tea O-Live Blazer forum. (Why duplicate what's already there?)

--Dave

3:37 PM  
Anonymous brian said...

I tend to agree with Jorga as far as the bottom line being "what sells". I think we all have to realize that this is the way sports reporting has gone across the board in America, not only in the case of the Oregonian.
Personally, I enjoy reading Quick's stuff. I think he has a fairly good take on the team and I tend to agree with most of his opinions regarding our players.
Canzano I can take or leave.
My question to those out there who are so passionately against the O's coverage of the Blazers is which specific stories do you feel the players got shafted on? I agree the coverage is mostly negative, but, jeez, so is the behavior of a lot of the players up until recently. Also, what stories are you referring to when citing the O as being "dishonest" and various individuals as having outright lied?
I felt like this last season they did a fairly good job of balancing the good and the bad, especially considering the team's record.
My biggest issue is with the Blazers organization. As a fan, I feel like they don't value me at all. I feel like rather than try to confront certain issues in an honest and forthright manner, they prefer to lie and cover up the truth. I think they look at fans and the media as things to be controlled and manipulated to their own ends. In short, I think they show no respect for anyone outside the organization (and maybe not most of the employees within it).
While I remain a loyal fan, I will never be a rapid supporter as long as Steve Patterson remains.

2:56 AM  
Anonymous fatty said...

as far as you go blazer prophet
if you think healthy this a
45 win team you're as crazy
as the gophers who sit in those
seats, and right on brian read
it blazer prophet, like i said
give these great beat writers
some intelligent and civilized
people to talk to and the
results would be totally diffrent
and as far as an healthy roster
so they would win 25 games
insted of 21 face reality prophet this team sucks period ok ok !!!!

12:44 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

fatty, where did I say 45 wins?

You have a nasty habit of being a liar. Please stop.

12:56 PM  

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