Toss Off Those Glittery Outlaws

So that's how I found myself in the position of reputationally damaging one of my favorite players.

On Saturday, when the sun should've been setting and I should've been buying chicken broth, I ended up having an impassioned phone conversation with Chris Littmann over those Jennings/Budden tapes. I hadn't taped them off the original camera feed, or put them on message boards, hip-hip with a trace of Knicks, in the first place. But we were in a position to, as the kids say, blow up his spot in a major way. The question was, how to do so without coming over as prudish, judgmental asses who don't actually like getting to hear players really, truly be themselves.

I think we—well, actually, Chris—did a good job softening, or ambiguifying, the blow. But the fact remains: The Baseline, formerly known as the mainstream media outlet most devoted to Jennings cheerleading (and Rubio-hating), was now spearheading the movement to get out some quotes that, in the hands of the stupid, would further tarnish Jennings's already tricky image. In the past, I'd resisted putting up incriminating Twits, Here, though, I thought of throwing these videos up on FD before the whole prospect of going platinum with them came up. For anyone with half a brain, or half a clue as to how NBA players—especially an outspoken nut like Jennings—would talk in a "safe" situation, these are gold.

Are there people too foolish, or walled-in, to not catch the obviously whiff of absurdity and playfulness in everything Jennings says here? Of course. Should I spend my whole journalistic life dancing around these assholes with kid feet? I don't want to. To me, Jennings follows naturally from Beasley or Arenas, both of whom are distant descendents of Muhammad Ali. They talk. We listen. They do or don't back it up. But we listen because we know they might.

The reason we ultimately went big-time with the story was the abrupt cover-up/misunderstanding/Twitter shutdown surrounding it. As Chris said in his post, we like seeing this side of players. But it's not clear the players themselves have really thought this "people want to see the real me" thing through all that well. Most importantly, are they supposed to be showing us the edgy outskirts of their public persona, or the first shores of who they really are? That is, are Twitter, or presumably ephemeral, semi-private (if you don't know. . . ) camera feeds, meant for the hardcore fans who just want more, more, more content, and will tolerate some rough edges—or those so in tune with the player that they actually "get" them?


It's clear that ballers understand the marketing potential of Twitter, and recognize the authenticity factor contained therein. But again, are they supposed to just do them, and let the interested public see a little, or learn a whole new set of rules for how to reveal layers of their persona that are off-limits in press conferences without having to stage a Cultural Translation 101 seminar on the internet? Check out the Wade Twits in the Baseline post. Hard to see these utterances as anything other than Wade ignoring the public, or figuring anyone watching his Twitter exists in some sort of idealized fan vacuum. Either way, the question of audience, and public presentation, has gone out the window. That must be liberating—not just to get to say whatever, but to know there's an audience for it. But exactly waht "say anything" means remains to be seen.

As we can see from the deletion of Jennings's Twitter, it's not like agents know exactly how to deal with this newfound questions of real/too real. By its very nature, athlete social media should push the envelope a little. Remember Arenas's blog, anyone? However, that was far more mediated, vetted, and no matter how renegage it seemed at the time, a so-called "underground" version of the Arenas emerging in the press. What Jennings or Wade is saying here is irreconcilable with their mainstream personas. It forces us to acknowledge who these players might really be—a "real" that's only terrifying if you're incapable of reading "fuck the Knicks" as anything other than an off-hand joke.

So consider this a challenge not to players, but to fans, the media, and agencies. These guys want to put themselves out there. Clearly, it's seen as an opportunity for them to be themselves, in a way that the strictures of modern marketing doesn't allow for. How to reconcile this behavior with the vanilla image that moves real money? Where's the ledge? Amidst all the juvenile finger-wagging that will spring up around these Jennings comments, I want to know what's next: What happens to those of us who want to hear raw and uncut Brandon?


LIke I said after these broke, if only Jennings had cleaned up his language a little bit, this could've been viral gold and an absolute marketing coup if the plan is to sell his Hollywood persona as something for the next generation. As it is, we're plunged right back into some of the most tired culture wars, or even clash of basketball civilizations. When that clucking clears away, though, it's up to young players and their management to figure out the new rules for unfiltered interaction with their public. At least that way, maybe the rest of the world can learn the difference between Jennings acting out and the rookie PG really sowing the seeds of discontent.

Post-script worth noting: It appears (from what we're hearing) that Brandon himself pulled the Twitter page. Maybe it was reactionary, preparing for the worst from all other parties involved. But certainly, this indicates that even this most "naive" of social media doyens realizes he needs to regroup and figure out what balance to strike.

(Working slowly toward a Suns post. Maybe we'll wait to see if it actually goes down.)

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At 6/29/2009 12:25 PM, Blogger Alexander J said...

Polish Sausage!

Jennings is too cool for school.

French Kicks.

At 6/29/2009 12:29 PM, Blogger Ziller said...

These comments are less inflammatory than the "all hype" talk about Ricky if only because these comments are perfectly sincere. The Rubio stuff was reactionary insecurity/anxiety combined with an endorphin high. This is truth-telling: a running team with Chris Duhon at the point passing up the quickest point guard in the draft for Jordan Hill deserves a four-letter word.

At 6/29/2009 12:36 PM, Blogger d said...

"As it is, we're plunged right back into some of the most tired culture wars, or even clash of basketball civilizations."

I love ya Shoals, but, um, you guys were the one that posted about the video. You had to have known you were going to be blowing up his spot, right?

When I saw the Youtube video (from a link on your Twitter), there were only 303 views. If it wasn't "reported" on by other places, it WOULDN'T be a big deal. Budden fans and hardcore basketball fans would've seen it and wouldn't think twice about what he said (because it wasn't that bad at all). Now, if it continues to blow up, the story could land on PTI. Then the casual sports fan is going to see Jennings as some kind of thug.

I think this whole situation has just as much to say about blogging and internet media than it does atheles' social media use.

At 6/29/2009 12:42 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Why does it have to be seen as blowing up his spot? Because some people freak out about that kind of talk and don't know how to interpret it? Because players are trying to negotiate the fine line between letting us see who they really are, and corroding their media masks?

I'm not saying "if I hadn't someone else would've," but if you look at our post, we're not playing "gotcha." We think it's hilarious, and the mess that followed is pretty intriguing. The blogging/internet media part is whether I have some responsibility to not post it because a lot of people are stupid about shit like this. I think that's outweighed by 1) my interest in the video 2) the issues this raises.

If people choose to focus on "fuck the Knicks" and the n-word, fuck them. I can't conduct myself in a way that always tip-toes around the most ignorant denominator. Again, we went out of our way to qualify/explain things. If FanHouse or SBB don't, that's on them, not us.

At 6/29/2009 1:08 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I think the problem is "the most ignorant denominator" includes the majority of mainstream sports media, and possibly fandom.

At 6/29/2009 1:12 PM, Blogger R said...

Good post. Well written and on point. Nothing really too explosive in what Jennings said...in my humble opinion.

At 6/29/2009 1:18 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...

I wonder if Brandon knew this was going online at first?

Something tells me Joe Buddens, who is struggling to stay viable, just may have sandbagged Brandon for his own benefit. I'm curious to find out how these two became such good friends. I can understand Jay Z riding LBJ's jock, but Jennings and Joe Buddens?

I just wish we could get LeBron on tape speaking his mind, instead of message tees.

At 6/29/2009 1:23 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

There's two issues, and this is what I was referring to with the semi-privacy of streaming cams: 1) Did Jennings know the convo was "on the air"? 2) Did either one know it was being recorded for posterity? I think the latter is "no," if you look at the overlays on Budden's original 'cast.

I've heard Jennings is going to say he never knew this was public in any way.

At 6/29/2009 1:45 PM, Blogger Tony Christopher said...

That video says a whole lot more about Joe Budden than it does Brandon Jennings. I don't know how close these two were, but it's clear they weren't as close as Brandon thought. Budden used this as a marketing stunt as best I can gather, given the extreme joy he took in the Budden/Jay-Z and Jennings/Knicks comparisons, both of which are completely hollow. He definitely tries to convey with facial expressions that he thinks Brandon is full of it and I think Brandon is being earnest in his attempts to win someone's respect. Basically, he was a 19 year old trying to keep his ego in league with a rapper he looked up to. Pretty sad, really. He has plenty of time to grow up. I will miss his twitter feed, it was going places.

At 6/29/2009 1:52 PM, Blogger Todd said...

What would I pay to watch games with the whole court legitimately miced up?

At 6/29/2009 2:26 PM, Blogger Robert M said...

Nice post, though it may be too much to ask for a more thoughtful consideration of these comments from the average sports fan, given how inflammatory they are on the surface. With that said, I thought they were hilarious and refreshing, and enjoyed the playful trash talk.

More disappointing: that the biggest example of half-assed judgemental analysis in this thread comes from Ziller, of all people.

"This is truth-telling: a running team with Chris Duhon at the point passing up the quickest point guard in the draft for Jordan Hill deserves a four-letter word."

Give me a break: this isn't "truth-telling", it's worthy of the average knuckle-dragging commenter on the New York Post website. Let's try this again: a *team* (not just a "running* team) that has holes at every position and no inside presence picks the best available player for its immediate needs. You can throw a four letter word at the rationale for the decision, but there's no "truth" or magic to be found in choosing a motor-mouthed, lightning quick, extremely raw point guard as a substitute.

At 6/29/2009 3:21 PM, OpenID chess0gambit said...

Good piece and I like all the issues it raises - about athletes, how we view them, social media, JayZ riding BronBron's jock and Budden maybe doing the same (so does an artist's quality of jock riding say something about how good the artist is? B level artists jockride B level athletes)

Another angle on this is that artists and agents and sneaker dealers are all looking to get a piece. Budden just tried, and I bet someone informed him of defamation and privacy laws hence he took down the video. But the sad thing is a young 19 year old kid like Jennings is barely equipped to handle a world where everyone is looking to grab a piece of his money. He's the perfect mark - insecure, young, has ego and $ he has no idea how to manage, and wants to be a star immediately. These are the perfect characteristics a con is looking for - play to those, and you have a sucker. If Jennings isn't grounded in friends or family like LBJ was, there's yet another weakness. Any shady agent would love to get a hold of this young kid and milk him for all he's worth. It's child-actor gets ripped off - syndrome. I hope Jennings learns from this, grows up, and realizes it is his image to shape or play with, rather then letting the jockriders and con artists of the world shape it for him.

At 6/29/2009 3:50 PM, Blogger W2 said...

I can't believe there are people suggesting that Shoals and Co. Should have looked the other way on this.

Jennings is the best thing to happen to the NBA since game 2 of the finals and the dude has yet to lace em up. Can't wait to see how this translates to the court under the iron fist of Coach Skiles.

At 6/29/2009 4:18 PM, Blogger T.A.N. said...

Good post.

We are slowly but surely moving away from the whole construct of mainstream media artifice. Every little media-pr snafu like this represents another crack in the foundation. right? right??

i mean, that's the only way to look at it. it's not like [athletes on] twitter is suddenly going to go [back] underground. everyone's learning, everyone has their own morals on private vs. public. i sort of have a frozen smile on my face as i'm shocked/scared/amazed/delighted at our velocity. but if wade uses the n-word, that's all there is to it. okily dokily. the people who care about such a thing, sans context, are dying.

what's the current state of the "blowing up/gowing platinum"? For me, it hasn't crossed over out of my sports feeds. Is Fanhouse big ticket now? (c.f. velocity comment above)

the tiptoeing, shoals, seems to be the big deal, and only legit dilemma. my sense, is it's transitional. everyone's getting comfortable with the power/responsibility which, quite literally, everyone has a little stake in. so we're all tiptoeing now, but in a year (week?) we'll be firing shots with reckless abandon [insert archetypical NBA volume shooter here]-style. then back to nba creationism, which is why we come here.

(TZ: i had no problem with the Hill pick. a big who can run was a glaring need, all things considered. one can debate player v. athlete etc, but duhon did ok for half a season which to me means you could probably get by with two duhons in lieu of an upgrade. or re-stated, we needed a Duhon in the frontcourt, at the least, before investing in a *possible* upgrade.)

((jeez, i need a twitter if only to get my excess verbiage disorder under control.))

At 6/29/2009 4:21 PM, Blogger T.A.N. said...

agents, publicists etc are all very much shook, i think. the margins on middle-men industries are shrinking fast.

no disrespect to that work, it's very much needed, but probably the area where there's been the most lack of transparency and $-bubble inflating etc.

At 6/29/2009 4:38 PM, Blogger Deckfight said...

just b/c it was mentioned in the comments a few days ago, here's a polvo live review at Deckfight (no NBA chatter):

At 6/29/2009 4:51 PM, Blogger Joey said...

one of the worst things about twitter and everything else that brings fans closer to athletes is that we get to see how boring most of them are. you're about to eat, workout, and then sleep, wilson chandler? great. i don't care. i bet that something like 90% of the nba's players wouldn't be much fun to spend time around because they wouldn't be all that interesting. and it's not their fault anymore than it is the fault of the many, many "regular" people around whom spending time is no fun for the same reasons.

this jennings episode is great because it's real. the profanity, the n-word, the supposed disrespect--i am almost neutral about all of it because right or wrong, it's just someone being colorful. it gives everyone who cares enough to think about jennings a surface upon which a more meaningful connection, one of love or hate, can be established. that's fun.

as such, i wish that those who experience consternation in response to this incident would step back and appreciate thhow rare it is to happen upon an athlete who is provocative (in the best sense of the word). objections to curses or the n-word or rookie arrogance are almost separate and should fall outside of this conversation sphere.

At 6/29/2009 4:53 PM, Blogger djturtleface said...

Sorry guys but nobody is any closer to blowing up the constructs of mainstream media. See the fact that Shoals and Littman made a fine explanation and have unabashedly supported Jennings in the past two weeks on the Baseline, and still get posts like: "You guys are really upset that he went to europe on your azzes and came back and got drafted. Yall want this kid to fail so bad that you are reaching for anything. Pitiful"

If this situation has told me anything about anything it's that you still can't write a respectable, smart piece on the more sociological questions surrounding sports without the vast majority of your audience blowing up. Chances are the people who are disagree will be appalled, and the people who agree with you won't know that they are on your side. Not that the sports audience isn't smart enough to read through the piece, because I don't intend to be an elitist, but because they don't want to listen. The vast majority of the time sports are only sports to most people, they do not and cannot reflect anything greater.

This fact is strange because, so often, the greatest moments in sports are inextricably linked to momentous occasions in society (Jackie Robinson, the Miracle on Ice, etc.) and are widely recognized for that value. But for whatever reason the sports audience cannot accept that the minutiae of their entertainment also intersects with the the minutiae of their life, society, and culture.

Coping mechanism for this: Bill Simmons incredibly ignorant, old-fashioned Draft Diary (and I normally like Simmons). Hey, you either laugh or you cry, right?

At 6/29/2009 5:12 PM, Blogger T.A.N. said...

djturtleface: that roaches/trolls will always be around doesn't mean the landscape isn't changing. Obama was a long time work in progress.

10 years ago what would the Jennings/Buddens/Twitter story have been? Nothing, it's wouldn't have existed. Isn't that case-in-point right there?

in another 10 years jennings and rubio will be shit-twit talking before the game and nbc will use it to promote. not to mention the mandatory bluetooths that will record and transcribe all the on-court chatter directly online. we will be able to atomically deconstruct and analyze both psychological and physical aspects of the game instantaneously.

and the best part will be the comments where someone says: rubio sucks hispanish balls first!!!21111

At 6/29/2009 6:15 PM, Blogger Jacob said...

"Coping mechanism for this: Bill Simmons incredibly ignorant, old-fashioned Draft Diary (and I normally like Simmons). Hey, you either laugh or you cry, right?"

Damn, I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I like when Simmons writes about basketball, but he came off as ignorant, arrogant, and a bit clueless. He acts as though he knows more than scouts, but if you read his previous draft diaries, you'll notice he's more wrong than anybody. He tried suggesting that Jennings would be back in Italy in three years. Give me a break.

At 6/29/2009 7:31 PM, Blogger wondahbap said...


It's nothing new with Simmons. It's always been his schtick. He's a semi-comedian who writes about sports in a way most of us think about it. Through somewhat realistic lenses. Not some self righteous pulpit like the Sports Reporters or Around the Horn bobbleheads do. It used to be a breathe of fresh air.

I think he's been mailing it in lately, due to boredom and work on his book. His commentary has always been off because he just hasn't been funny lately. Then all you notice is how wrong he is, instead of just disagreeing with what he said about whatever team you root for.

His Clippers article was trash, and I could care less about the Clippers. How long did it take him to come up with that garbage about the Buffalo Braves?

At 6/29/2009 7:32 PM, Blogger Mark said...

is interesting to compare the twitter of Jennings to that of Durant.

At 6/29/2009 8:38 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

Re Simmons, that "curse of the native American" stuff in the Clippers article was, well, ugly and horrible.

At 6/29/2009 10:55 PM, Blogger themarkpike said...

The Twitter discussion that has emerged from this event has been enjoyable, and relevant... but I wonder if at the end of the day this was just an old-fashioned privacy invasion.

Sure, Jennings opens up and perhaps overshares a little bit on Twitter. But this was completely different. The dude was on speakerphone. You just don't do that to somebody!

Not sure where Jennings/Budden were located during the recorded phone call, and this is tangential to the overarching discussion... but did Budden break any laws by not getting Jennings consent here?

Any FD, J.D.'s wanna chime in?


At 6/29/2009 11:25 PM, Blogger Pico said...

It's too bad that this Brandon Jennings/ Budden conversation will likely stay withing a circular reference world of bloggers and avid blog readers... I think that kind of "that's just how he feels" sentiment could have won Jennings some fans. He talked like people talk; I heard it, and I thought "that's what NBA players really sound like behind closed doors;" confident, a little arrogant, and a lot of the N-word. Who doesn't know that people - well, black and latino people, mostly - talk like that? Jennings' personality, if let free, could resonate.

Just not in the suburban cul-de-sacs or the upper middle class urban homes, and that's where the marketing benefits are reaped.

At 6/30/2009 12:46 PM, Blogger Jacob said...

"His Clippers article was trash, and I could care less about the Clippers. How long did it take him to come up with that garbage about the Buffalo Braves?"

Word. It was lazy, and one of the few articles of his that I didn't finish. Although I will admit that it really makes me want to root for BG and the Clips...

At 7/01/2009 5:31 AM, Blogger ox said...

just bought your book. its cool just getting started, looks great though but you said iverson came in the year after kobe, they were both drafted in 96.

At 7/05/2009 3:00 PM, Blogger tray said...

I don't see what's interesting about the fact that Mr. Jennings speaks exactly like virtually every non-white basketball player in their 20s or teen years I've ever met. It's not colorful, funny, jarring, transgressive, subversive, anything. It's just totally normal conversation. If there are some Bucks fans who don't like that, that's whatever (though also, I hasten to add, perfectly understandable).


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