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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Dayton Daily News Flunks NBA 101

Dayton, Ohio does not have an NBA team, so I guess it makes sense that the Dayton Daily News does not have an NBA writer. What does not make sense is that the DDN repeatedly publishes articles about the NBA that are inaccurate and biased. Prior to the 2007 draft, the DDN ran an article that blasted local product and Ohio State player Daequan Cook, saying that scouts "question everything about him, including his ability to understand the game." That's funny, because the scout I talked to prior to the draft told me that Cook would be a first round pick, which turned out to be correct. The DDN later ran a piece that suggested that Cook would be sent to the NBDL. Cook is averaging 7.6 ppg in 20.1 mpg for the Heat and he has even started a couple games. The DDN also indicated that "stat-stuffer" is a negative term, apparently not realizing that it refers to a player who stuffs a boxscore with good statistics.

The Wednesday February 7 edition of the DDN carried two NBA stories on page 2 of the sports section. Again, that seems like a lot of coverage for a city that does not even have an NBA team but that's OK; obviously, I believe that the NBA is worthy of a lot of in depth coverage--and maybe someday the DDN will actually hire a writer who knows something about the NBA to provide such coverage. Instead, readers are stuck with an article about the upcoming three point shooting contest at All-Star Weekend that refers to a "fictitious" playground player named "Lamar Lundane" who was featured in a commercial in the 1980s (the DDN writer did not even know that it was a Reebok commercial, a tidbit that any true fan remembers). I suppose that "Lundane" is a fictitious player but Lamar "Money" Mundane, the actual subject of the commercial, grew up in Chicago and played at Marshall High School and Malcolm X Junior College. Former NBA All-Star and Chicago native Mark Aguirre once told Lacy Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times, "If you wanted numbers, 'Money' was your man. They didn't have three-point baskets in those days, but that's what Lamar specialized in. He'd pull up from 25 or 30 feet and rain down jumpers."

Sometimes, I try to figure out how articles that are riddled with misinformation get published in the first place. If the author did not know the real story about Mundane, why didn't he spend five minutes and google the correct information? You may think that the answer to that is that he did not even know his real name, so if he did google it he would not have found out anything. Wrong! If you google "Lamar Lundane," google asks "Did you mean: Lamar Mundane?" I used to think that it was easy to be stupid and/or lazy but with the advent of search engines it actually takes a certain degree of effort to get the basic facts wrong.

The other DDN article about the NBA had this headline: "Teamwork rarely on display in selfish NBA." It's not a good sign when the headline simply regurgitates a tired stereotype. The author of this piece, Hal McCoy, is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is truly one of the best baseball writers around. However, he drew his conclusion about the NBA on the basis of watching one game between Denver and Portland; McCoy admits in his first sentence, "Ordinarily, I wouldn't watch an NBA game unless somebody offered me a free $20 cigar, that is, unless LeBron James is playing." At least he is upfront about his bias; the bias in other sections of many newspapers is generally shrouded beneath a veneer of objectivity. McCoy's beef is that Kenyon Martin--who played at the University of Cincinnati and apparently loosely qualifies as the reason for local interest in this particular game--does not get the ball enough because Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson shoot a lot. Of course, if McCoy watched the NBA regularly, then he would know that Anthony and Iverson are two of the top scorers in the league, while Martin is an injury prone role player who is not expected to--nor capable of--carrying the offensive load. Iverson ranks in the top ten in assists this season but McCoy apparently believes that citing a few sequences from this game proves that there is a lack of teamwork in the NBA. There is nothing like drawing sweeping conclusions on the basis of minuscule data. Would McCoy think that it would be appropriate or fair for someone who knows nothing about baseball to watch part of one game and declare that the sport is boring because the players spend most of the time just standing around? There is an issue of respect here. If you are going to write about a sport that you don't normally watch, have enough respect for the players, the fans and writers who are informed about the sport to do your homework. Don't watch one game, decide that it fits your preconceived--and false--notions and then trash an entire league. I have been critical of Anthony and the Nuggets at various times but my critiques result from watching many games as an informed observer and analyzing what took place. I would never dream of doing a hatchet job on baseball--or anything else--the way that McCoy did to the NBA.

The bottom line is simple: write what you know. If you write what you know, then you will produce work that is passionate, informative and entertaining--and if you are assigned a subject that you know nothing about, do yourself and your readers a favor and actually make at least a small effort to do some research.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:31 PM

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4 Comments:

At Friday, February 08, 2008 8:57:00 PM, Anonymous mookie said...

I'm loving the fire-breathing.

NY Times should give you a call.

 
At Saturday, February 09, 2008 5:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Mookie:

Not sure if you are being serious or sarcastic but my point is that newspapers should take what they do seriously.

 
At Tuesday, May 13, 2008 10:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Money's last name is spelled Mondaine. He's a good buddy of mine.

 
At Wednesday, May 14, 2008 5:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I have seen a couple different spellings for his last name but most sources--including Banks' article--employ the one that I used. Unfortunately, the link to Banks' article no longer works.

"Mundane" is the spelling used in the book "Pickup Artists: Streetball in America" and it is the spelling used when Dale Ellis was nicknamed "Lamar Mundane" during his NBA career.

If you are in contact with "Money," though, I'd love to interview him and set the record straight about the correct spelling of his name.

 

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