Wednesday, February 04, 2009

BASKETBALL: The Sins of Stephen A. Smith

You have to get noticed to get ahead in the media game. It IS that simple. And Stephen A. Smith, the perpetual mouth that roared for ESPN, is a perfect example of somebody who got noticed. He chummed up with some occasionally put-upon athletes, got to be their voice in the void that is irresponsible journalism, and rose to a position of media whore.

In earlier years, the script was written for Howard Cosell.

The problem with taking that career path is that you have to be a little volcanic in nature. You have to explode or threaten to explode or you just become a big heap of rock that nobody respects ... or fears. So, every now and then, Smith erupts with some vague nonsense fueled by 'sources.' I have my own sources within the Raptor organization and I used to have the same for the Blue Jays. I never cared for the Leafs, so I never cozied up to anybody within that organization. I DO have standards you know! Not ONE of the sources I have or had, have been witness to private conversations between upper management and their star players. Not one. They might hear, maybe, what happened third hand, but not one has an ear in the big guy's office.

I want to make it clear. I get talked to by people who know more about the Raptors than 99.99 percent of the fans and workers in the Raptor universe. But Bryan Colangelo wouldn't know me from any other dumpy middle-aged white guy he might stumble over, him being a LOT taller than short old me. I can NOT tell you if Chris Bosh and Colangelo had the conversation Smith purports to KNOW they did. His SOURCES weren't in the room either.

A really good analysis of the tempest can be found at the Globe and Mail (one of my former employers) in Michael Grange's From Deep blog.

Now, had I ended up hearing the rumour before Smith, and was still working professionally, I would have made one or two phone calls. One would have been to Colangelo, asking for a confirmation or a denial (he would have denied it and I would have taped it). The other, following the same process, would have been to Bosh. I would then have reported the rumour my SOURCE fed me, then would have said, Bosh and Colangelo denied the story on the record.

This is the sin Smith committed. He got half a story. I've done that in MY past too. One paper I wrote for ended up in legal difficulties because they said I reported half a story. They buckled and I had to cough up a retraction ... even though the story was completely and utterly accurate. Because I hadn't got the 'other side,' my story was considered, legally, factually inaccurate. In fact, I was offered the chance to skip the retraction by writing a favourable review of the piece of crap software that was the heart of the issue. I went with a mealy-mouthed retraction that was as weaselly a piece of obfuscating word art as I have ever written. Then I quit the paper, madder at myself than at the publisher for failing to go to war with the weasels I wrote about.

Smith could have presented a balanced view of the story. That would not, and did not, serve his immediate need to create a media buzz. He still stands by his story. He MIGHT even be right. Somebody is lying and I'm not ready to tar specifically Smith, his SOURCE or even any of the Raptor people involved with the liar label.

But one or more of them obviously IS lying. It's just ODDS ON that it's Smith, given his sins.

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