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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Has Journalism Reached an All-Time Low?

I savor the opportunity to read great writing but bad writing hurts my head more than listening to long fingernails slowly scratching a chalkboard. One must be careful about becoming too nostalgic for the "good old days" but I am very concerned about the future of journalism. Long form, in depth, well researched articles have been replaced by tweets--the triumph of instant, thoughtless reaction over thoughtful deliberation. Examples of this trend abound, from the premature (and thankfully false) reports of Congresswoman Giffords' death to the babbling about Jay Cutler's body language on the sidelines during Sunday's NFC Championship Game. I have exposed many examples of the low journalistic standards that prevail specifically within the realm of NBA journalism and in the comments section of one of those critiques I correctly predicted that the unqualified writer whose work I completely refuted would no doubt advance further up the ranks (he currently "writes"--and I use that term loosely--for NBC's NBA website); that prediction did not require psychic powers but merely the sad realization that what advances one's career today in journalism is not the quality and depth of one's work but rather the quantity and depth of one's brown-nosing.

Paraphrasing a line that Bill Walton often uses, I am old enough to remember when Tony Kornheiser was an outstanding sportswriter for a variety of outlets instead of being a high paid television personality who seeks out cheap laughs. TV's big dollars have enriched individual writers at the expense of cheapening the quality of their work. Perhaps I should not single out Kornheiser, because many other great (and some not so great) writers have forsaken the dying newspaper industry for big TV money, but I think that Kornheiser's fall is particularly painful because of the unquestionable depth of his talent; he is smart, witty and insightful, despite his best efforts to hide those qualities now. Few writers display the self awareness and ambivalence that Woody Paige expressed to me about transforming himself from a serious writer to a TV jokester.

It has been obvious for quite some time that the future of journalism lies not with print publications but rather on the internet; it is disheartening that the sites that attract the most page views contain the crassest, most low brow content. I fervently believe that there is a large audience that not only seeks but craves intelligent, well written content but it is difficult for those readers to find such content providers in today's large cesspool of multimedia dreck. Intelligent writers and intelligent readers must fight the good fight against poor quality journalism and work together to carve out a commercially viable niche for high quality journalism.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:05 PM

38 comments

links to this post

38 Comments:

At Tuesday, January 25, 2011 11:42:00 PM, Anonymous bball said...

david,

just curious, are you responsible for the corrections on this site:

http://kellysux.wordpress.com/

hehe, the site is hilarious. spot on

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 3:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

so u dont agree about cutler? or feel like the media should kno as person is dead before they pronouce it? i feel u journalism has been on way down from some time now. it is about the biggest story not the best story or right story. its a big media capatlistic society. wat sells is wat gonna get most play dont agree but jus the way it is.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 5:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

bball:

No, I have nothing to do with the site; I just found out about it recently. It is hilarious to see a high school kid taking on a supposedly professional writer--but it is also sad that someone who simply cannot write has been accorded such relative prominence in the realm of NBA media.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 5:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I don't know what the deal is with Cutler--and neither does anyone else outside of the Bears' organization. My point is that it is more important to get the story right than to be the first person to report something. Instead of reporting about all of these tweets and making all kinds of insinuations, ESPN and the other media outlets should have sent some reporters to actually find out what really happened and then simply convey that information. If I wanted to know what people are tweeting then I would get a Twitter account; reporting about tweets is not journalism--it is gossip.

The Giffords situation is obviously much more serious. What possible justification could there be for any media outlet to report that she was dead unless that had been officially confirmed? What good is it to be "first" if you are 100% wrong? Again, many members of the media have completely lost sight of any journalistic principles or standards: the writers can't write and the reporters report gossip/rumors instead of the facts. It's just pathetic.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 5:17:00 AM, Anonymous yogi said...

"I fervently believe that there is a large audience that not only seeks but craves intelligent, well written content "

David, you can believe what you want but the facts do not bear you out. There is no such audience because if there were, you and thorough, truthful people like you would be writing at NBC and ESPN.

Still, you have a platform and your voice can be heard by those that prefer facts and intelligent analysis.

That's not too bad, is it? And it is surely better than the monopoly that big media had before the internet.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 5:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yogi:

I do believe that the audience I described is out there and that it is large but the challenge/problem/issue is finding a way to connect with that audience; they don't know how to find my work and I don't have a big enough platform to announce my presence--but the cream rises to the top eventually and often there is a tipping point when something goes from being medium sized to huge in short order. There are many examples of "experts" saying that there is not an audience for a certain kind of art only to be proven wrong; the novel "Dune" and the "Star Wars" movies are two examples. Deadspin took the quick and easy way to achieve page views but if you know anything about "Star Wars" then you know what to think of the quick and easy path and you know where that path leads.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 6:06:00 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

Amen, brother.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 1:46:00 PM, Anonymous dsong said...

I actually disagree with some of your points, David. I think the standards of journalism needs to become lower. There are two reasons why I think this needs to happen:

(1) There is still a disconnect between the quality of information and the "credibility" of the news organization. For example, ESPN has long since been a tabloid journalism, except they're not quite as accurate as the TMZ's of the world. However, this isn't always in line with how the organization is perceived. By lowering the bar, rumors and gossip will be seen as what they really are, instead of posing as "news".

(2) News is ultimately a business and there is a need to publish articles that will help the organization sell advertisements. We already know what people really want: rumors and gossip which may or may not be true, but is entertaining to read. I think sites like the Bleacher Report is the future of sports journalism. It's junk, but it's entertaining junk and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. And the articles may be off-the-cuff but that's precisely what makes it both entertaining and useful. If nothing else, you get a good sense of people's opinions and biases.

The real problem is when people gather lies or insinuations and misrepresent them as proven facts. The Mike Leach story by ESPN was a textbook example. They were running tickers of allegations against Leach long after they were proven false.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 3:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Dsong:

Hopefully, no one considers TMZ to be a practitioner of journalism.

The solution to the "disconnect" that you described is not to lower standards but to make it very clear that ESPN--and other organizations that lack journalistic credibility to varying degrees--falls short of reasonable journalistic standards.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 7:31:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

Thanks for sharing the Kellysux site. His writing really is virtually unreadable. I really enjoy most of Yahoo's other blogs and commentators (Passan, Woj, Wetzel, etc), but he just stinks up their NBA blog.

 
At Wednesday, January 26, 2011 10:40:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

J:

You're welcome. I honestly don't have the stomach to wade through the BDL trash but it is good that someone is doing so and pointing out what an inferior product it is. As you said, Yahoo's NBA beat writers are solid but BDL is just garbage.

 
At Thursday, January 27, 2011 12:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

David,

I love that this post comes in the wake of this series of NBA headlines for ESPN (I'm paraphrasing here)

"Jerry West says the Lakers D is getting worse with age"

"Phil Jackson agrees with West"

"Kobe disagrees with West"

ESPN.com has created a community of "journalists," who write about nothing but "what X said Y," and then "what Y said in response."

Somehow Jerry West stating the obvious, and then people politely agreeing or disagreeing with him is news worthy.

 
At Thursday, January 27, 2011 3:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp:

What ESPN and these other outlets also generally do is fail to provide any context whatsoever for the quotes: they don't say what question West was asked nor do they provide his complete answer; this gives plenty of room for their "analysts" and "experts" to provide whatever spin fits their preconceived notions.

I've witnessed this junk firsthand when I've covered games: reporter X asks a player a question about a player on another team and then reporter X goes to the other player and says "So and so said such and such about you--how do you respond?" while neglecting to mention that the first player only said "such and such" in response to a direct question. This is why the savvy players talk to the media as little as possible or else give bland answers; you don't see Tim Duncan being misquoted because he refuses to feed the beast with anything remotely interesting, let alone sensationalistic. Of course, the other approach to take is what Phil Jackson does: he knows exactly how many of these media members work and he uses it to his advantage by controlling the narrative about his team and rival teams by delivering timely quotes that shape discussion.

 
At Thursday, January 27, 2011 3:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Journalism is part of the problem. Athletes and Coaches (and the teams they play for) use the media to create an image and when they screw up, they blame the media. Fans also play a role by what they read - they should be here instead of espn. Rather than fall into a chicken/egg argument (did athletes/teams/readers bring down journalism or vice versa) it's really up to everyone to change. I have serious doubts that will happen. My guess is that there will be a small group of people who are committed to providing quality journalism and there will be an equally small group supporting it, as you see in other industries like film, music, etc.

 
At Friday, January 28, 2011 5:55:00 PM, Blogger ChowNoir said...

Dave,

I thought this post and the latest dustup over Abbot's Kobe piece and his weak journalistic skills are great timing.

Take a look at these two links. One is C.A. Clark demolishing Abbot's poor reasoning. The other, a comment by Josh Tucker in his experiences with Abbot and his double speak.

http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2011/1/28/1961684/how-to-be-statistically-biased-henry-abbott

http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2010/7/22/1582256/the-credits-final-destination#42682926

 
At Friday, January 28, 2011 7:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

I hope you're going to comment on today's "is Kobe clutch" articles on ESPN.com [and subsequent responses on SI.com, Yahoo, and other various blogs), because for some reason, the only "stat" that matter in determining if a player's a good clutch option is FG% on shots taken with <24 seconds left in a game where your team is either tied or down 1-2 pts.... backed up by out-out-context quotes from a book about a season that happened 6 years ago.

 
At Friday, January 28, 2011 9:28:00 PM, Anonymous Martin said...

Speaking of this topic, check out (or preferably not) Henry Abbott's latest idiotic gem about Kobe Bryant's clutch performance.

 
At Saturday, January 29, 2011 2:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

ChowNoir:

In other words, a bunch of people are just now figuring out the things about Abbott that I have been saying for years.

 
At Saturday, January 29, 2011 2:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous/Martin:

I am not going to waste my time reading Abbott's drivel. I already know the drill according to Abbott: "Fans may think that Kobe is the most clutch player because the way he plays is aesthetically pleasing but if you take certain numbers completely out of context then you can determine that he actually is only the 133rd best clutch player in the NBA; therefore, in late game situations the Lakers should always give the ball to some bench player who shoots 75% from the field in those situations"*

* Abbott leaves out that the bench player is actually just 3 for 4 and two of those shots were desperation heaves off of broken plays.

 
At Saturday, January 29, 2011 10:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to hear your response to Abbott's post. The data tells a convincing story. It has for years. And this time it's not just that Kobe misses a very high percentage of clutch shots (by any definition.) They did a little more work and showed that over the span of years that Kobe has played in LA they have had the best offense in the league. But in crunch time the Lakers have been anything but. They haven't even been in the top ten.

How do you explain that, I am genuinely curious?

Owen

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 3:59:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Owen:

Paraphrasing a famous quote, there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and Henry Abbott articles using "advanced basketball statistics" to purportedly enlighten the world about the true nature of the sport. I have no intention of wading through Abbott's pile of horse manure to devise a point by point refutation--but, from what I've seen via the links provided by ChowNoir, it seems that there have already been at least two well crafted rebuttals of Abbott's sloppy writing and selective use of information.

Contrary to what you may assume, I have never asserted that Kobe is the best "clutch" player in the NBA; rather, I demonstrated (in many articles that you can find in the right hand sidebar of the main page here) that from roughly 2006-2008 Kobe was clearly the best, most complete player in the NBA. LeBron pulled even with Kobe around 2009 and has been ahead of Kobe (at least in terms of consistent regular season productivity) the past couple seasons.

Even when Kobe was hitting all of those amazing game-winning shots last season I wrote an article explaining why Being a Clutch Player is More Significant than Just Making Clutch Shots. Hall of Fame Coach Dr. Jack Ramsay agrees with me that the ability to dominate a game for long stretches is more significant that hitting last second shots.

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 4:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Owen (this is Part II of my response, submitted as a separate comment due to Blogger's word count restrictions):

While I have never taken a big interest in "clutch" stats or made any assertions regarding Kobe's ranking in this regard, it is extremely tendentious--an Abbott specialty--to suggest that Kobe Bryant is not an effective "clutch" player and/or that GMs are misinformed for saying year after year that he would be the player they would select first to take a last second shot. Instead of getting knee deep in Abbott's horse manure, let's just look at the numbers. Roland Beech of 82Games.com has posted "clutch" numbers (he defines "clutch" as "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points") for the complete 2008-2010 seasons plus the half completed 2011 season. According to his data, the two most effective "clutch" players in the NBA (based on points per minute) in 2008 were LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. In 2009, the two most effective "clutch" players were Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. In 2010, the two most effective "clutch" players were LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. So far this season, the two most effective "clutch" players have been Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki (LeBron has dropped to 13th and that is not because Miami is supposedly Wade's team--Wade is not even listed among the leaders at all). In case you are not able to recognize the pattern here, the two players who have been the best players overall in the league since 2008 are also the two players who have been most potent in the "clutch" (based on Beech's definition of "clutch").

It is very important to understand that there is not a set definition of "clutch" and also that when one uses Beech's parameters one ends up making a judgment based on roughly 150-200 minutes played over the course of an entire season (for instance, Kobe played 132 "clutch" minutes in 2009-10, while LeBron played 151 "clutch" minutes"). Those sample sizes are so small and so random--with no accounting for injuries, four games in five nights, the capabilities of various opposing defenses, etc.--that trying to draw sweeping conclusions from them is foolish. Beech is no fool; he just presents the data he tracks and he is usually very circumspect when he discusses that data, freely noting the inherent limitations of a particular set of numbers. Abbott, however, has a completely different character.

Another way of defining "clutch" is to list the players who have been the top performers for teams that have won at least two NBA championships in a row:

George Mikan
Bill Russell
Magic Johnson
Isiah Thomas
Michael Jordan
Hakeem Olajuwon
Shaquille O'Neal
Kobe Bryant

If one of those "magnificent eight" is leading my team then I am not worried about last second shots because I know that my team is going to win a ton of games and most likely contend for championships on an annual basis.

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 4:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Chownoir:

I should have made one other point very clear: in the comment from the second link you provided, Josh Tucker provides an in depth, insider's account of what it is like to work with Abbott and what kind of jerk Abbott is both personally and professionally--but Tucker also admits that he swallowed his pride and dealt with this for a long time because he thought that was a necessary sacrifice to get ahead in this business. This is precisely the kind of crap I have been talking about for years; ESPN has granted Abbott a very powerful platform and he uses that platform to advance the careers of those who kowtow to him while not linking to writers whose work he cannot control. Tucker describes at length how Abbott called him on the phone and tried to dictate to him what he should and should not write.

This is all very interesting, because at one time Tucker reached out to me, said that he really liked and respected my work and offered to provide some help with 20 Second Timeout's layout. I responded enthusiastically but never heard much from him again; this was right around the time that Tucker was swallowing his pride and sucking up to Abbott to advance his career. It is difficult for me not to believe that Tucker took less interest in my work at that time because he felt (or was told) that working with me would not be good for him.

So, I believe that Tucker is telling the truth about Abbott but I wish that Tucker possessed the strength of character to never hook up with Abbott in the first place instead of violating his journalistic integrity to some degree to raise his profile only to tell the truth now that he has apparently withdrawn from the blogging scene. Tucker is quite right to accuse Abbott of being hypocritical (Tucker provides many specific examples) but Tucker is hypocritical as well; Tucker is speaking freely now that he does not need or want help advancing his writing career. I spoke the truth from the beginning without regard to potential "consequences" because that is a value at the very core of MY character.

The way that the writing business--and particularly the basketball writing business--is structured now is scandalous but any student of history knows what happens to petty tyrants in the long run (just ask Hosni Mubarak). When sports historians look back at this era objectively, they are going to be astonished at many things, ranging from sportswriters making Steve Nash a two-time MVP to ESPN crowning Abbott as some kind of Emperor of the Basketball Blogosphere. What a joke.

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 2:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

Dave,

Bringing up Nash's back to back MVP awards reminded me of the "Hall of Fame probability," statistic I found on Basketball Reference a while back.

This stat is calculated according to a player's height, the most recent year of their nba career, career averages in points rebounds and assists (excludes blocks/steals since they haven't always been recorded), number of all star appearances and nba titles won. What is relevant here is that it doesn't account for MVP awards.

Based on this, there are 13 players in NBA history who have registered a 100% probability of making the hall of fame (Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Havlicek, Cousy, Magic, Shaq, Kobe, Larry Bird, West, Mikan and Pettit). A bunch of other contemporary players are within the 90-99 percent range (from lowest to highest: Duncan, Iverson, KG, Lebron, Dwade, Pierce, Dirk, Ray Allen, Kidd).

Steve Nash? According to this statistic, would have a 39% chance of making the hall of fame (and this stat isn't even dragged down by his low steals/blocks averages). That ranks him 115th in NBA history. Vince Carter, TMac, Tony Parker, Amar'e, Gasol, Grant Hill, Carmelo, Chris Bosh and Gilbert Arenas (lol) all have better scores than him.

Obviously this is just a number, but it has a pretty strong correlation with hall of fame membership. Only a few players with lower probabilities than Nash have made the HoF, and those were usually players from the 40's and 50's (Joe Fulks, Jack Twyman) or were extremely influential and had careers shortened by injuries (Connie Hawkins, Earl Monroe, Bill Walton, David Thompson). Another exception would be Reggie Miller, likely a first ballot hall of fame player, but he didn't make the all star team every year and his per game averages weren't all that impressive outside of scoring.

Of all previous NBA MVPs, only Bill Walton had a lower HoF probability (on account of spending something like 6 full seasons worth of games on the injured list). The next closest to Nash is Wes Unseld at 58 percent. Everyone else was 90 percent or higher.

But yeah, removing the two MVP awards from the equation definitely does Steve no favor. I've argued for years that he wouldn't even be in the hall of fame discussion had he not won those two MVP awards.

I know you've had your differences with people on that site. Just thought this was interesting.

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 3:58:00 PM, Blogger ChowNoir said...

Dave,

I posted so you can see how Abbot's argument was deconstructed, the same way you broke down other writers.

I suppose if you want to take it as validation, go right ahead.

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 6:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp:

There is a lot of very interesting and useful information at the Basketball Reference site--but one has to know how to use that data objectively and intelligently (as opposed to allowing one's biases and/or lack of understanding to influence the conclusions one draws). The Basketball Reference Arenas article that I refuted is a classic example of biased/tendentious use of data to reach faulty/misleading conclusions.

As I have pointed out many times, Nash has been a very solid All-Star/All-NBA caliber guard whose skill set is very similar to Mark Price's but no one seriously considered Price to be an MVP level player; when one looks at the list of multiple MVP winners Nash's name stands out like a question from one of those "Which one of these things is different from the others?" tests.

When historians look back at this era of basketball history they will be dumbfounded that Nash won two MVPs while the most dominant big man (Shaq) and best all-around player (Kobe) won one MVP each; Shaq should have won at least three MVPs (2001, 2005 plus the one received in 2000) while Kobe also should have won at least three MVPs (2006 and 2007 plus the 2008 honor that he received).

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 6:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

ChowNoir:

I don't need personal validation for consistently writing the truth but anyone who doubted the validity of what I have said for years about Abbott's flaws now has additional information to consider from a source who worked very closely with Abbott.

From the beginning, I challenged the notion that Abbott linked to items based on their quality, I pointed out that his own writing contains a lot of bias and misinformation and I showed that many of the bloggers in the True Hoop Network are incompetent (and thus most likely selected based on loyalty to Abbott as opposed to the quality of their work). I also predicted that Abbott loyalists (like Krolik) would advance in their careers while independent outsiders would be ignored.

Abbott made those long-winded phone calls to Tucker and others because he knew (or at least assumed) that he could bully them; Abbott knows better than to waste his time trying to convince me to kowtow to his whims.

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 11:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David - I would say we see eye to eye on this then.

Ultimately, the issue here, at least for me, but I think for most numbers oriented people. is that Kobe has a reputation for last second greatness which he clearly doesn't deserve. Not to say he isn't a great player at the end of games. He is pretty much exactly the same player in the last six minutes that he is the rest of the game (and we have had enough discussions on that point.)

What geeks a lot of people out is that this is such a clear case of a cognitive bias. You could write it up in a textbook.It's low hanging fruit to be totally honest from a cognitive psychology perspective.

But, I would agree with you and most of the commentators, this shouldn't be a big deal.

I do hope though that this might slow Mark Jackson down a little bit when describing Kobe as the most dangerous "assassin" in the game and what not...

Owen

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Paolo S. said...

Great blog David,

Seeing as how numerous articles on the web see Kobe's performance against the Celtics yesterday (30 January 2011) as detrimental to the Laker offense, I'd like to tihnk what's your stance on this topic?

Personally, I thought Gasol looked too tentative out there, settling for fadeaway jumpshots and just not being aggressive.

 
At Monday, January 31, 2011 11:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Owen:

Last second shots are inherently low percentage plays. Jordan missed a ton of them and so has just about anyone else who has taken a large number of them.

Attempting to rank players based on their shooting percentages in those situations is just silly; we are talking about small sample sizes of data and that data describes vastly different situations: in other words, some last second shots resulted from plays called in a timeout when there was 10-20 seconds remaining and a team could really run a continuity play to get a good shot, while other last second shots are simply desperation heaves. I remember covering a Cavs-Lakers game a few years ago when Luke Walton made a terrible inbounds pass (instead of calling a timeout) and Kobe had to jack up a long distance, off balance shot as time expired. Does that play "prove" that a smart GM/coach should not want the ball in Kobe's hands in a normal situation with 20 seconds to go? Does it even prove that Kobe did not have a better chance of making that desperation shot than someone else? Buzzer beaters and last second shots are fun to watch and the data that Roland Beech collected is interesting to look at but Abbott is a fool if he really thinks that this data "proves" anything--and he is a hypocritical liar if he knows better but wrote that article anyway.

When GMs are asked who they would give the ball to in a last second situation I think that they are interpreting the question to mean which NBA player is most difficult to guard on a last second possession lasting 10-20 seconds, not who is most likely to throw the ball in the hoop from 35 feet with .08 seconds left. That is also why those GMs annually say that Kobe is the most difficult player in the NBA to game plan against.

I have never said that Kobe is (or is not) the best player in the NBA in terms of hitting buzzer beaters/"clutch" shots but he is definitely the player in today's NBA who I would pick first in terms of taking over a playoff game/playoff series. LeBron has had great playoff moments and has put up great playoff stats but he does not understand the moment quite the way that Kobe does and LeBron still has some lingering skill set weaknesses (outside shooting, low post game) that the elite teams can exploit at playoff time.

 
At Tuesday, February 01, 2011 12:02:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Paolo S.:

I will discuss the state of the Lakers in greater detail soon. Regarding Sunday's loss to the Celtics, it is difficult to think of another player who would receive so much criticism after scoring 41 points on 16-29 field goal shooting, particularly when that player is an established elite performer. How can someone rationally blame the Lakers' defeat on Kobe Bryant when his teammates displayed so little mental and physical fortitude?

Bill Walton once recalled a Celtics game in which Larry Bird took a large number of shots because his teammates simply were not focused; Walton said that Bird essentially told his teammates, "Get your act together or get out of my way and I'll win the *&#$%^ game myself!"

 
At Tuesday, February 01, 2011 5:55:00 AM, Anonymous Matthias said...

Hi,
geting back to your original thesis about the downfall of (traditional) journalism i have to agree with you David. Without a doubt there is a tendency to entertain more than to bring relevant informations and analysis, especially in tv-couverages and written articles by such companies. But there is also a development primely through blogs of more or less educated people, that concentrates an deep analysis. Often they are driven by individual motivation (for quality analysis) an enthusiasm and therefor its amazing what output they can generate without great resources and in some cases journalistic education. True, its a shame that espn an co. are incapable of doing it themselves. (It looks like they have focused an the profitable entertaining part and are not interested in the "advanced fans of the sport") But that is the disadvantage of private companies which are not interested in the greater good :-(

Nevertheless examples for sources of deeper analysis exist (not only in the nba). In Germany we have the same problem with for instance football. It´s hard to find knowledgeable sources and often they belong to individual motivated fans (of the sport or a special club). The traditional (tv-)media is focusing more on entertaining and the written press often copies themselves or press releases from fifa, uefa or clubs, mainly because of lack of money, time or whatever. This development is truly saddening. (Sometimes you can only turn off the sound to protect your ears of the nonsense or irrelevant comments.)

But look for instance to http://www.zonalmarking.net/ (football) and you see light in the darkness.
Only yesterday i found http://skepticalsports.com/ which in case of the NBA might be a positive sign and a help for the fight against numbers and there statistical over- and misuse. (They discuss the worth of rodman and analyze the empirical relevance/usefullness of advanced stats, like Hollingers player efficiency rating.

Matthias

 
At Tuesday, February 01, 2011 6:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Matthias:

The analysis of the flaws of Hollinger's PER is interesting but while it may be true that Hollinger overvalues scoring it is just as true--if not more so--that Berri overvalues rebounding; the way that these "stat gurus" are fumbling around in pursuit of the "Holy Grail" of a perfect stat to quantify individual player performance is akin to the parable of the blind men trying to describe an elephant by only touching one part of the elephant's anatomy: each stat guru focuses on a very small part of the overall picture and then tries to convince the world that he has produced the definitive theory about basketball.

 
At Tuesday, February 01, 2011 3:36:00 PM, Blogger ChowNoir said...

Well, I had a long reply written that got swallowed up and is gone. I'll try to do quick rewrite.

Dave, I put up the original reply as just as another example of deconstructing bad journalism which fit the theme of your post.

As for Josh Tucker's comments, I put that up as just another viewpoint. I don't know Josh personally, but it seems rather harsh of you to be making such severe character judgments. Also seems like you're making assumptions about his current career and current actions with no facts to back it up. That's very unlike you.

Everyone makes mistakes, just because he made some doesn't invalidate everything. That's great you were such the strong paragon of virtue that you could see right through Abbot. But to say that Tucker is now hypocritical because he's now not an Abbot supporter is a bit of a stretch in my opinion.

People change, circumstances change. Smart mature people learn and grown. We can't always be born knowing everything. I hold many opinions now that are contradictory to what I had when I was younger and less experienced. I don't consider that hypocritical.

I enjoy your writing but in my opinion you tend to be pretty stubborn about holding on to a point even if circumstances have changed. If your future analysis were to be weak and watered down, it still would not invalidate your past writing to me. Doggedness and stubbornness can be great virtues but also a weakness when refusing to look at any other viewpoint.

I'm sure we can keep going at this and it wouldn't be to anyone's advantage. Thank you again for the good writing and I look forward to more solid analysis.

 
At Tuesday, February 01, 2011 4:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Chownoir:

Sorry that Blogger swallowed your original comment; the same thing has happened to me sometimes, which is why I now save my comments first in some fashion (by copying them or writing them in a Word document) before hitting "publish your comment."

I don't know Josh either (other than a few email exchanges) but I made my judgment based on his interaction with me and on his own publicly described version of his actions; he is (rightly) calling out Abbott for hypocrisy and other faults yet based on Josh's own account of his actions he was hypocritical, too--he knew that Abbott operated in a shady manner yet he bit his tongue because he thought that Abbott could help him. Josh then reached a point where he either could not put up with it anymore and/or no longer needed Abbott's help; based on Josh's own words this does not seem to be a case in which his understanding of Abbott evolved so much as a case in which he got all he needed from the relationship and now decided to vent. I did not make any "assumptions" about Josh's career but merely trusted what he himself said about what he is doing now.

I agree that I can be stubborn and I fully realize that there are both positive and negative aspects of that character trait.

I hardly consider myself to be all knowing. The reality is that the more intelligent one is the more he realizes how little he actually knows; in a recent interview, Grandmaster Boris Gelfand said that he expects to continue to learn new things about chess for the rest of his life but he agreed with his interviewer's observation that 1700 players (i.e., slightly above average tournament players) often think that they know everything and can have very dogmatic viewpoints about certain moves/positions.

I have no intention of ever posting "weak and watered down" analysis; if for some reason I could not continue to write at the highest level I sincerely hope that I would just stop writing.

I sense that you mean your comments as constructive criticism and, while I do not completely agree with everything you said, I take no umbrage at your approach. Thank you for providing those links and for being an active participant here.

 
At Wednesday, February 02, 2011 4:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris

David,

Do you have any theory as to why the media blames Kobe for losses any time he scores a bunch of points but his team loses? Other high volume scorers like LeBron, Wade, and Durant seem to get a free pass whenever they put up a bunch of points but their team loses. If Kobe scores a lot and his team loses the media says "Kobe was selfish." If LeBron scores a lot and his team loses then it's "LeBron got no help from his teammates."

My theory is that it's a relic of Shaq's days in Los Angeles. He buddied up with the media and planted the seed that Kobe was a selfish player. Now the media is conditioned to be hyper critical of everything little thing Kobe does.

 
At Wednesday, February 02, 2011 2:33:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Chris:

That is a very good question that I have often wondered about and I am not sure what the answer is or even if there is one single answer that applies to everyone who does this. I have written several articles pointing out that the supposed correlations between Kobe "shooting too much" and the Lakers losing are bogus; for instance, the Lakers' winning percentage during Kobe's career when he scores at least 40 points in a game is .679, which projects to roughly 56 wins over an 82 game season.

The other interesting aspect of how Kobe is often portrayed is that when he has games in which he shoots less frequently he is sometimes said to be "making a point" by not shooting, particularly if the Lakers lose. So, when Kobe shoots a lot he is called "selfish"--and when he does not shoot that much he is also called "selfish." That is what I call a "heads you win, tails I lose" scenario; no matter what Kobe does, he will be criticized. You may recall that when Kobe scored 62 points in three quarters versus Dallas he was criticized for sitting out the fourth quarter (and denying fans the opportunity to see him rack up more points, even though the game was a blowout for the Lakers) but when Kobe then scored 81 points versus Toronto he was criticized for supposedly padding his point total (even though he had virtually singlehandedly led the Lakers back from a double digit deficit).

 
At Friday, February 25, 2011 6:42:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

One of the most disturbing trends in today's journalism is the constant pushing of certain storylines in place of reporting the facts. If enough idiots scream something loudly enough, the press will legitimize that opinion. Somehow, it has become reasonable to wonder whether a president who is ideologically similar to Richard Nixon is an extreme, radical socialist. Somehow, it's become acceptable to view health care reform that is not substantially different from the Republican plan of the 90s as a scary, government takeover that could destroy this country. The responsibility to present such issues in a reasonable, honest way falls on journalists, and they are failing us.

 

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