Editors’ Note: We are overjoyed to introduce Kris Fenrich as a regular contributor to The Diss, as well as the new author of an old standby: Diss Guy Miss Guy. Kris is an accomplished basketblogger in his own right; the lead-man of Dancing With Noah, as well as a regular contributor at Hickory High. Kris has long been at the top of our wish-list, and we’re lucky to have him. Both Kris and Dancing With Noah have been huge influences for myself and Kevin, and to think that he’s writing for The Diss regularly is a real treat. Look for DGMG every Friday, and do follow Kris on Twitter.
Diss Guy: Open Court Series Covers Sensitive Topics with New Faces
NBA TV’s popular series Open Court is back for a third season and I caught the October 15th episode with a few new faces: Dominque Wilkins, Rick Fox, Dennis Scott and Tracy McGrady. Gone are Chris Webber, Shaq, and Reggie Miller. The addition of new voices and perspectives is a refreshing mix that’s already leading to a different set of interactions; particularly with Fox and McGrady who both presented themselves as self-confident and secure among this mostly well-seasoned group.
During an otherwise forgettable discussion on PED usage, McGrady made the most notable contribution when he said he had considered using PEDs to accelerate the recovery during one of his numerous injuries. This type of admission is, sadly, acceptable for former players, but not current players. A more open and honest conversation around the temptation of PEDs would offer a dialogue that’s not currently part of mainstream coverage of the topic which insists on painting in black and white despite what McGrady showed is a complex palette worth of perspectives.
The conversation on racism was one of the better segments I’ve seen on the show. Barkley, with his cross-cultural cache of respect, framed the discussion primarily around the intent of anyone who uses the n-word while the camera-savvy Fox established himself as the most thoughtful panelist and addressed the issue as one of fear. When the conversation shifted to embattled Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, Riley Cooper, the discussion took an interesting turn as Barkley and Fox, represented an older, more mature viewpoint. Barkley, in his brutally honest way, was able to give Cooper a pass because he had been heavily drinking and Barkley was able to relate with saying something in anger while drunk; while Fox took the high road in genuine fashion (which is more than I gleaned from Cooper’s apology) and offered education and forgiveness. To be clear, neither man condoned Cooper’s racist behavior. By contrast, McGrady, the youngest member of the group, was adamantly against forgiving Cooper; representing a view that felt (although admittedly, that may a false assumption) younger and more emotionally charged. The unique group of perspectives and experiences made this topic the most engaging and meaningful of the episode. Because of this country’s troubling history with racism, it’s a topic that deserves an entire episode; as exhausting and uncomfortable that may be.
Steve Kerr was uncharacteristically clumsy with his attempts at levity as he tossed around “honky” during the conversation on race and compared commenting on a gay friend’s sexuality as no different from a friend critiquing his haircut – within a locker room, ball-busting context. Even within that context, which provided a big part of the conversation on racism, Kerr’s jokey attempts were in poor taste.
Open Court continues to do a great job avoiding the pitfalls that seem to entrap so many sports talk shows. Nowhere to be found is the self-righteousness or forced confrontations to which we’ve become accustomed. Judgmental commentary that plagues some NFL shows and much of ESPN’s programming is nowhere to be found. The awkward jock-buddy, back slapping or conversations at the pub are unnecessary because the talent is put in comfortable positions where they can succeed without relying on disingenuous cheese dick props.
Miss Guy: Strange Strategies from Melo
If there’s a sure way to ignite a media shit storm in the NBA, it’s a player prematurely talking about free agency. The player might be delivering the honest-to-God, straight-from-the-gut, genuine insight they’re so often ridiculed for not giving, but when it comes to free agency, any admission that you’re even aware of the existence of such a concept leads to immediate rumor mongering and speculation. Yet players still waffle back and forth, straddling the line between craving the attention given to aspiring free agents and attempting to dodge the distractions of the inevitable media crush. The latest statement comes from Carmelo Anthony who shared this with Rafi Kohan of the New York Observer: “I want to be a free agent.” He went on:
“I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It’s like you have an evaluation period, you know. It’s like if I’m in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.”
Less than someone wanting to steer their career with their own hands—a common reason for exploring free agency—Melo’s comments stink of a desperate need for validation. Kohan’s story above paints Anthony as someone who’s in demand, who’s wanted—by brands, charities, everyday New Yorkers. He’s led the league in scoring, has gold medals, an NCAA Championship yet still craves validation of evaluation. Spoken in a different context, this is a revealing admission of insecurity that most of us encounter to some degree, but coming from the Melo we see in Kohan’s piece, it comes across as another milestone on the timeline of Anthony’s grand branding strategy.
For a player who was the daily subject of “Melo-Drama” trade rumors during the 2010-11 season, this pre-season statement comes across as selfish and shortsighted. While Melo was able to perform at a high-level during 2011’s constant headlines and speculation, his part in the process led to his coach asserting that he was “very distracted” at practice and suggested he may have to cut his star’s minutes due to that distraction. Fair or not, it had a negative impact on how fans view him and for a player who’s become so enraptured with his own brand, these recent statements do nothing to enhance his reputation and the brand he’s attempting to build. It’s fair to assume the incessant rumors impacted his teammates as well. Beyond his first-hand experience with feverish rumors and daily speculations, Melo’s relationship with LeBron James, who so infamously fell from the throne during his own free agency period, should offer some level of caution around how to not handle free agency. And to top it off, Melo’s in one of the nation’s top markets for salacious journalism and rumors. To doubt that this free agent statement will become anything less than a distraction at some point during the regular season is to blind oneself with the leady points of sharpened number-two pencils.
The media and social media are part to blame for the eventual nausea-inducing flood of rumors we’ll be subjected to when the Knicks hit rough patches this season. Technology has created a world where we’re constantly connected which has resulted in not just daily updates, but hourly updates, never-ending tickers, and “breaking news” flashing across the prime real estate of web pages. We’re a refresh-happy culture that opens browsers and feeds to get informational fixes. Athletes and their agents, while often criticizing the media machine for manufacturing unsubstantiated rumors, are quick use that same media to strategically place quotes and angle for better-leveraged positions in future negotiations. To say, “I want to be a free agent” shouldn’t be an issue, but in the world in which we live where we fill our boredom with hours of over-analysis and speculation, it sets off a predictable chain of events of which Carmelo Anthony and his team of handlers are highly aware.