Which Mirror Now?
I highly suggest you turn your eyes to this lengthy post by Vince Grzegorek of Cleveland Scene, on the touchy subject of how the fuck a beat writer covers Delonte West. Vince and I had talked about this a few times prior; he felt the team was trying to make like this was a non-issue, and had decided, for political reasons, to pretend this wasn't an incredibly important topic to pursue. But then he changed his mind, got some quotes, and has started the conversation.
To me, the tricky part is that West's is a medical situation that can't be discussed, for fear of aggravating it. It would be like if asking a guy about his back sent shooting pains up and down it. Hopefully, at some point that won't be the case. But then what? Can West ever be asked about his brain, or is that the equivalent of trying to take a photo of a healing knee with a bunch of rocks? And do we attribute anything that goes wrong with him, on or off the court, to some sort of relapse? Over at my other place of employment, some asshole commenter lit into the BREAKING item about Delonte's charges with the typical "millionaires shouldn't complain stupid thug excuses". That's part of why I'd prefer to broach these issues on FD, but at the same time, can we ever blame West again (say, in the airport incident), or assign him typical human responsibility? If not,that would suck for both those out to skewer athletes and for the man himself. Does this mean the media has to giggle nervously whenever West says anything the least bit odd or funny?
Also, off of Vince's piece, there's the question of covering sports vs. covering the person. We saw this already with Kobe's trial. It's hard to tell exactly where the line is between "this guy affects the team" and "this guy has a mess of other stuff going on." I wonder, though, why this is suddenly such a problem, when the press routinely doesn't ask athletes shit about their personal life, and keeps plenty of skeletons in the closet. I think it has to do less with the weapons incident than the fact that, presumably, West's issues enter the exact space at which he interacts with the media. This story is as much about the media, their individual relationships with West, and the awkward position both parties are in, as "how to objectively cover an athlete." The arrests are off-court, and we know how to deal with those; basketball-wise, he's just fine. It's really a matter of everyone learning to trust each other, of finding a comfort zone where learning to read Delonte, and being polite, tactful, or tolerant, eventually leads to him fitting into coverage in a logical way. The same way you walk around a seven-foot guy who's always stretching out his bum knee in the middle of the locker room.
Addendum: When I ran this by Vince, he raised the further point of "the team dealing with someone who they very well probably don't want speaking on the record in front of microphones right now." Which, if you think about it, might explain why West was held out of preseason games.