Deconstructing Bad Writing: Krolik's Slam Job on Kobe Bryant, Part IIPart I of this series examined John Krolik's deeply flawed article about why game seven of the Lakers-Rockets series would prove to be the biggest game of Bryant's career.
I casually referenced Krolik's article a few times in posts/comments at 20 Second Timeout, prompting Krolik to author a lengthy rebuttal. This post is my response to that rebuttal.
Part II: Krolik's Rebuttal
Krolik's website is called "Cavs: The Blog," so it is hilarious that he repeatedly indicates that he does not consider me to be objective. Pot, may I introduce you to the kettle? Check out the first paragraph of Krolik's rebuttal:
The fact is this: it’s going to be a long off-season. The team fell short of expectations, and we’re going to be hearing stuff like some of what’s leaked its way into the comments sections here over the last couple of days. And even if we were to trade Pavlovic for CP3 tomorrow, there’s still going to be a weight of expectations unfufilled that are going to hang over this team for a long time, and without any games to fill the void, it’s going to be rough for a bit.
"Even if we (emphasis added) were to trade Pavlovic for CP3 tomorrow, there’s still going to be a weight of expectations unfufilled that are going to hang over this team for a long time..." Apparently, I missed the memo announcing that Krolik had joined the Cavs' front office. That sentence contains the same kind of mixed up language ("there's still going to be a weight of expectations..." instead of "there are") so prominently featured in the original article. You will note that Krolik's rebuttal is littered with misspelled words, grammatical errors and awkwardly constructed sentences. When I found out that he had attacked me I laughed at the very idea of someone who can barely write coherently trying to engage in a war of words with me; this brings to mind the old saying about bringing a knife to a gunfight, except this is more like a broken plastic knife versus a cruise missile.
Krolik says that he is "unhappy" about being "mentioned...quite unfavorably" at 20 Second Timeout. He grumbles about the fact that I did not link to his article and goes off on a tangent in which, among other things, he calls me "a man who certainly, at the very least, doesn’t mind dragging folks into the mud if the opportunity presents itself." What does that have to do with Krolik's article and my criticisms of it? Nothing, of course. How can a bad writer who does not think clearly defend poorly thought out, bad writing? He has no choice but to resort to ad hominem attacks. Hey, I am used to this; Krolik is not the first bad writer who responded to me by using such tactics, as I discuss in the Postscript.
Krolik proceeds to list persons/entities who he says are my "enemies." Apparently, Krolik considers Slate to be an enemy of mine because I disagreed with something that Slate published. Krolik's thinking in this regard is very immature. I am not at war with Slate or anyone else who Krolik listed; I simply expressed dissenting viewpoints regarding various articles.
Krolik suggests that his readers visit Ballhype and read the comments that I have posted on other people's articles. This is his attempt to prove that I am a bad person and thereby convince himself that my criticism of his article is the product of my maliciousness as opposed to an objective evaluation of his flaws as a writer/basketball commentator. The Ballhype comments make more sense if you click on the relevant threads and read them in context because otherwise you are just reading one side of various ongoing discussions but in any case it is obvious that most of my comments were not hostile. The first "hostile" comment that is listed is almost all the way down the page and it is my response to Kelly Dwyer stating--incorrectly--that I voted down a certain article and that I consistently voted down other people's articles. Dwyer told a bold faced lie in order to make other bloggers feel antagonistic toward me and even though the voting records are confidential I told the Ballhype owners that they had my permission to reveal my voting records to prove that Dwyer lied. In a later comment I also pointed out that anyone who monitored my voting habits as closely as Dwyer alleged that he did would know that the number of "no" votes registered in my name (a stat that Ballhype publicly tracked) had not increased during the relevant time period, proving that I did not vote down the article in question and that therefore Dwyer lied. My refutation of Dwyer ended that thread.
Nearly halfway through his purported rebuttal, Krolik finally gets around to actually discussing his article. Krolik says, "As I noted in the article, a loss in that game would have been by far the most damaging loss of Kobe’s career." As I mentioned in Part I of this series, Krolik stated that premise somewhat awkwardly in the first paragraph and then rambled aimlessly for a stretch before returning to that theme--via a David Foster Wallace quote--at the end. Krolik's contention is faulty and his writing is slipshod both in terms of content and craftsmanship. This is Krolik's interpretation of my critique: "Mr. Friedman seems to think the upswing was 'Hey, if Kobe loses, we can say he SUCKS!' Why I would not have waited to write this article until after the Lakers would have lost is unclear if this was my only interest."
No, my critique of Krolik's reasoning skills and writing ability goes quite a bit deeper than Krolik imagines; I think that what he wrote is illogical but even worse than that he disingenuously wrote the article in a fashion that enabled him to have the best of both worlds, from his biased perspective: Krolik bizarrely asserted that the Lakers had an easy road to the title if they could get by Houston, giving himself an excuse to dismiss the game's importance if the Lakers won. However, by later rambling back toward his original statement that this was the biggest game in Bryant's career, Krolik couched his words in a way to leave open the possibility of writing a very critical piece about Bryant if the Lakers lost.
Sure enough, Krolik says that because the Lakers won in a blowout, "Game 7 became an insignificant footnote." If the game carried such weight for Bryant's legacy, how can the outcome be "insignificant"? Are we really supposed to believe that a die-hard Cavs fan like Krolik would have thought that a Lakers' loss was insignificant, even if Bryant performed very well? After all, as a Cavs fan Krolik feels compelled to downgrade Bryant in order to elevate James, something that I have never done with either player; I have consistently said that they are the two best players in the game today. It is ironic that some of the people who commented on Krolik's rebuttal implied that I am someone who bashes James in order to praise Bryant. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that I have praised both players extensively and I evaluate them objectively using the same skill set based criteria that I use to evaluate all players.
Imagine if the Cavs won a game that the proprietor of "Cavs: The Blog" had declared to be hugely important for LeBron James' legacy. Do you suppose that he would not write anything in the aftermath of such a game? Krolik made a big deal about this game seven but, after the Lakers eliminated the Rockets, Krolik threw the whole issue down the memory hole.
The use of "advanced basketball statistics" provided one of the sidebar stories to the L.A.-Houston series, because the Rockets asserted that they used such concepts to devise the best possible defensive scheme to use against Bryant. I covered that angle of the series with a lot of depth, but Krolik dismisses my work by quoting a fragment from one sentence that I wrote--"after this series is over the New York Times should do a followup article detailing how Bryant overcame Houston’s defensive preparation by utilizing his skill set strengths to maximum effectiveness"--and then snidely remarking, "Take note, SLAM during playoff time and the New York Times Magazine: If you don’t fufill your puff piece responsibilities on Kobe Bryant, the public will not stand for such a wanton disregard of their need to be informed." I hardly am interested in reading or writing a "puff piece" about anyone. Check out the right hand sidebar here: do you see any puff pieces? Krolik's attempts to mock me--complete with spelling errors and awkward sentence construction--are hilarious and yet pathetic.
Krolik then makes some more snide remarks while wondering why I would attack a SlamOnline piece since I wrote some articles a while ago for SlamOnline. If you write for a publication does that mean you should never disagree with anything that is published there? He mocks the Scouting Report: Kobe Bryant Vs. LeBron James that I wrote for SlamOnline almost a year ago. Read it and judge for yourself who writes better, who understands the sport better and who is more unbiased; keep in mind that I wrote the article prior to the 2009 season and I amended my evaluation slightly by the end of the season. Don't hold your breath waiting for Krolik to produce a coherent, in depth and objective comparison of Bryant and James.
After professing that he got the SlamOnline job purely based on his talents and not his networking abilities, Krolik writes, "It’s pretty clear that what I really did was make a percieved slight of Mr. Friedman’s favorite player-if that article had been about anyone else, I do not imagine my abilities getting publicly called into question. What Mr. Friedman is essentially attempting to do is to use Kobe Bryant’s considerable basketball proficiency to prove my essential worthlessness as a professional and a human being." Note once again the misspelled word and the awkward sentence structure; apparently, Krolik believes that poor spelling and lack of writing ability are much sought after "talents" at SlamOnline and ESPN.com--and, based on the stuff that they publish, he may be right!
My favorite player is Julius Erving, not Kobe Bryant, but I am able to write objectively about Erving, Bryant and all other NBA players because I take my craft seriously. I don't think that Krolik is "worthless" as a human being. His article about the significance of the Lakers-Rockets game seven is very poorly thought out and very poorly written. I also wonder what value the editors of ESPN and SlamOnline see in such work. The fact that Kobe Bryant is the subject of Krolik's piece is irrelevant to my assessment. I have criticized various publications for sloppy/unprofessional articles about players ranging from LeBron James to Dave DeBusschere to Daequan Cook. If Krolik had said that LeBron James' career will be defined by the number one seeded Cavs losing to the Orlando Magic I would have responded the same way that I am responding now.
If you read the comments section in Krolik's rebuttal piece you will see some additional references to my "feuds" with various people. Those "feuds" happened a while ago and most people probably do not know the details, so I will take this opportunity provide the correct information; it is tiresome to hear the allegation that I seek out "feuds" when the reality is that I am the one who has been the victim of classless behavior by the very people I am accused of wronging--and it tells you a lot about Krolik's character that instead of researching these incidents he simply tried to create a diversion by attacking me. Krolik proved that he would stoop to any tactic to avoid dealing with the real issue at hand: his poorly written article about Bryant and the shockingly low quality of his writing in general at "Cavs: The Blog" and various other outlets.
My "feud" with Kelly Dwyer happened after I read one of his articles (my first mistake) in which he bragged about how many basketball games he watches each day--it worked out to something like 27 hours a day of basketball. I made a comment at a blog called Hardwood Paroxysm in which I alluded to someone--I never mentioned Dwyer's name--who watches basketball more than 24 hours a day. That is pretty mild stuff in the Wild West climate of blogs; people have certainly said much worse things about me. Dwyer then fired off an email to me fuming that everyone in the world knew exactly who I was talking about (at least he doesn't have an inflated sense of his importance) and that I should have been man enough to first write to him directly, as if I need advice from him about how to be a writer and a man. He offered some elaborate explanation of how he watches the key portions of 10 different games but not all of the footage of all of these games; the original passage in his article did not make that clear at all or explain how he magically is able to only watch the essential game segments. After I responded politely but correctly that it is not my fault that in his article he did not clearly express what he meant Dwyer sent me an expletive-filled email. I initially posted that email on 20 Second Timeout so that everyone could see just how much bile oozes out of him but then thought better of it and took the post down.
My "feud" with the blog Basketbawful consisted of my attempts to politely correct his/their mistaken impression that Steve Nash is a more valuable player than Kobe Bryant. You can read my post on that subject here. Basketbawful responded by making fun of my physical appearance. I replied with a post in which I chided Basketbawful for veering off topic and attempted to steer the conversation back to the subject at hand. That exchange took place several years ago and the passage of time has not made Basketbawful's case for Nash versus Bryant any more compelling. Like Krolik, the Basketbawful crew are unabashed fans who do not pretend to be unbiased; the Basketbawful crew make it quite clear that they despise Kobe Bryant--and yet they assert that I am the one who lacks objectivity. Let's see, Larry Bird, Jerry West, Mark Jackson, Steve Smith, Jeff Van Gundy and countless other players/coaches/executives speak about Bryant in largely the same terms that I do--Jackson and Smith actually say that Bryant is better in some respects than Michael Jordan--but a guy running "Cavs: the Blog" and some clowns who don't even use their real names are the unbiased, objective observers. Right.
Later, I "feuded" with some guy named Kellex, who tried to cover a conference call about SlamBall without using a tape recorder or taking notes; he published a "transcript" riddled with errors--he misattributed various questions and quotes--and when I contacted him and politely suggested that he correct what he posted he made fun of my physical appearance. Here is a post that I made about that incident. There is something seriously wrong with a person who is so unprofessional about his work and then lashes out so viciously when someone else tries to help him. I'd never heard of Kellex before that time and all I tried to do was help him out by sharing with him the information from my transcript (I tape recorded the conference call). I assumed--wrongly--that someone who is so obviously inexperienced and clueless would welcome some assistance from someone who is an experienced writer/interviewer. Kellex' writing skills are actually even worse than Krolik's, so I am surprised that Kellex is not an NBA editor at ESPN.com or SlamOnline.
Let me be perfectly clear: I am not self-conscious about my appearance and I could not care less about the opinions of fools--particularly ones like Basketbawful and Kellex who don't even use their real, full names or post real pictures of themselves--but my point is that all I contributed to these so-called feuds were my attempts to analyze basketball in a professional manner (or have a little fun with Dwyer for taking himself so seriously). I learned that Dwyer is pompous, humorless and vindictive; I already knew that he writes in a ponderous, deliberately obscure style that obfuscates more than it clarifies. I also began to realize just how much the basketball blogging universe resembles nothing so much as a snobbish high school clique. You don't have to do much research to see that Henry Abbott, Kelly Dwyer, Basketbawful and a few others repeatedly link to each other and promote each other's work. Krolik has skillfully maneuvered himself into the good graces of that clique and this will surely lead to his rapid advancement in the field even if he never actually learns how to write well. Many bloggers seem to think that they have to bow down to these guys but I have never kowtowed to anyone and I never will.
If being honest and objective has cost me "friends" in this business it really has not cost me anything at all, because I would not want to be associated in any way with people like Dwyer, Basketbawful and Kellex. Their responses to me revealed their lack of character and I am grateful that I learned the truth early enough to keep a wide berth from all of them.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:07 AM