It's been a long time. The last time I posted Steph Curry had never been to an NBA finals. Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Kobe were on NBA rosters. Basketball fans were obsessing over LeBron's offseason decisions...OK, some things haven't changed, but there have still been countless stories that came and went in the interim, many of which I wanted to post something about. It just simply didn't happen.
Partly to blame was my return to fulltime employment. My hat is off to anyone who can work a forty hour week and still manage to frequently update a blog with amusing, insightful material. Apparently I just didn't have it in me.
A lot can change in four years. Not just in basketball, but in the world and the culture we live in. In a strange way, I feel like mainstream sports reporting has caught up to this blog, but not necessarily in a good way. Attempts at objectivity have largely been replaced by opinion and derision. The blogger and the journalist have melded to a point where I can't tell one from the other anymore. So what used to be our job, mocking J.R. Smith, has now been handed over to Sports Illustrated. And you know what? They suck at it.
Which brings me to why I find myself with the need to communicate something right now. Like many of you, I've been reading coverage of the J.R. Smith brain fart from Game 1. For a fan of NBA absurdity, this should be an enjoyable experience; however, the more I read, the more I find my reaction turning from amusement to horror at the stupidity. Not at Smith, whose mistake occurred in real time without the benefit of being able to edit, but at the coverage. And last night I read something that has been buzzing around my head uncomfortably
In the insanely titled "Three reasons why J.R. Smith can never be forgiven," a Sports Illustrated writer whose name I'm not going to bother to type wrote the following statement: "There is nothing more fundamental to the game of basketball than the literal score. It’s what separates humans from animals."
Somebody actually thought up and wrote that last sentence, and Sports Illustrated decided to publish it. If a human can remember a score and an animal can't, then by implication this writer is calling J.R. an animal. Maybe it was meant as a joke, but it isn't a good one. It's far too close to what seems to be at the heart of bad sports writing: a disregard for the actual people who make up the sport.
Did J.R. make a mistake? Clearly. Does he deserve to have his humanity questioned for it? I don't think any sane person could really think so. But here we are. Apparently making a mistake in a ballgame now strips the player of their humanity and makes them unforgivable, far more so than a death row inmate who at least has the option of accepting Jesus before the switch is thrown.
|Is this face beyond forgiveness?
Let's be honest. Not a single person reading this (assuming that there is a single person reading this) could snatch an offensive rebound away from Kevin Durant, which is what J. R. did to set up his gaffe. The sportswriter questioning J.R.'s humanity sure as hell couldn't. And even if any of us did get that rebound, we'd probably do something far more embarrassing with the ball than J. R. did. But he can never be forgiven because despite preventing the Warriors from getting the ball in a critical situation, he messed up once he had it.
I love basketball: the good and the bawful. But sometimes reading and hearing what people have to say about it makes my stomach churn.
Anyway, that's what I couldn't resist sharing. My fulltime employment has evaporated, so perhaps I'll write again before four years have past and the NBA Finals are being decided between the East all-stars and the heavily favored
remnants of the Warriors Rockets merger (which will include a triple double averaging 37 year old LeBron). I hope you are doing well and enjoying the playoffs. And I hope J. R. hits a game winning three at the buzzer tonight. Maybe then, and only then, will sports commentators be forced to admit that there's such a thing as redemption. Even for J.R. Smith.