What Lies Above the Rim: An FD Guest Lecture
Maybe you remember a few months ago, when FreeDarko and Friends sat down to discuss the enigmatic Elie Seckbach. Subsequently, said NBA correspondent went on TBJ and gently suggested we do a little research. That stung, but we did find out that Jordan Farmar's dad had read FreeDarko. Anyway, a few weeks back Elie emailed us to let us know Elton Brand's light-hearted opinion of said roundtable. . . and offer us a guest post about his experience behind the scenes. And thus, here cometh the latest installment in our Guest Lecturers Series.
It's funny how in sports everyone is so concerned with the accuracy of the athletes, but no one seems to question the accuracy of the media. Why does the media love to hate certain players, while glorifying others? I am amazed by this time after time—it usually hits me when I interview a player who is more than often portrayed in the worst light, as if he's top 10 on America's Most Wanted, only to find a real personable and genuine individual.
Shaq gets hated on, constantly, for no apparent reason. Ron Artest gets hated on; I don't have the details of this weeks incident. While there is absolutely NO excuse for domestic violence, we have to remember everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I know of three NBA players who in recent years have been accused of such incidents and in the end charges were never filed. I don't want to embarrass them so I won't mention their names. And of course Stephen Jackson, who I happened to interview this week. I am not Stone Phillips, but I can tell you this much: Jackson was as far from the image thrust upon him as the Israelis and Palestinians are close to peace, and there will never be peace in the Middle East. I know it does not sound good, but yo, I keep it real. Where I'm from, we don't have a Pac-10 tournament—we have a Pack-9.
It was 1991, I was still in the West Bank of Israel, between Bet-Lehem and Hebron, watching the NBA Finals. The Bulls were playing the Lakers. I had no clue I'd be covering the NBA one day—in fact, if anyone had told me that, I would have sent them to have their head examined. I grew up in a city with one basketball gym, which was also the town theater, the concert hall and used by the local school during the day.
In any event, during half-time there was a feature about Scottie Pippen that went something like this:
"If the Grand Canyon could talk it would sound like Scottie Pippen. . . If the Mona Liza came to life, it would look like Scottie Pippen. . ." It went on and on about what an outstanding individual he was. I have to admit I was impressed—not only was Pippen a great player, but he seemed to be the closest thing to Mother Teresa.
Then a few years later, I was at the L.A. Sports Arena covering a Clippers-Bulls game. I was so excited to meet the Renaissance man Pippen, and let me tell you, wow, what an eye opener. If the Mona Liza were a meany she would sound like Scottie Pippen... if the Grand Canyon would talk trash even un-provoked it would sound like Pippen. Nothing like the image illustrated in the story. Pippen was an outstanding player, you can't argue with that—a key component to all those Bulls championships. But from there to present him as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate is a stretch.
It's not only in sports—this style of reporting goes on in other fields. One day I got to meet Steven Spielberg—I was shocked and walked up to him in excitement, only to be brushed away rudely. No joke. I held back, thinking it may have been me. In fact, I was very close to telling him the first thing that came to mind: that he cares more about Jews who are dead than Jews who are alive. But I didn't. Only later when I shared my impression with other people who know the party in question did they validate the sentiment.
We are all entitled to a bad day, but that should not be the ultimate focus. There's an old Indian saying that if a white board has a black dot on it, everyone will focus on the dot. Athletes are human—they make mistakes too. I don't know anyone who has never made a mistake in their life. Labeling someone as a troublemaker or in other cases a model citizen, when it's not true, is wrong.
Life does not start and end on the basketball court—there are things more important. Last month Jordan Farmar's grandfather passed away. His name was Dr. Howard Baker, a renowned neurologist and a successful horse breeder—real successful, as Dr. Baker was a member of the Racing Hall of Fame in Kentucky. While talking to me, Dr. Baker said that he was extremely proud of his grandson, and basketball had nothing to do with it: "What matters is what type of person he is, and he, Jordan, is a great person."