Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

February 4, 2011

As journalism and tempo decline

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:38 pm

Prior to Syracuse‘s game this week at Connecticut, which the Orangemen won 66-58, a rumor hit the far corners of internet to the effect that the team’s preceding four-game skid could be explained only if the players were shaving points. Jim Boeheim was asked about the rumor after the game and had this to say: “If you talk about that, if you even ask me a question about that, you’re worse than the guy who put it out there.” 

If I were a Hall of Fame coach with nearly 50 years invested in the business, I would say the exact same thing. Boeheim’s a coach. He should say that. But for a non-coach to say the rumor itself is evidence of The Declining Standards of Journalism and that it marks a “sad day” for the business struck this reader as a bit disproportionate.

And we are all the synthesis
I don’t suppose if I grabbed a random sample of journalism from today I’d find a lot there that I want etched in stone for future genuflection. But I will say this in defense of every professional writer who’s typing words on February 4, 2011. We haven’t started any wars with Spain. If contemporaneous fretting (such as the piece I’m writing right now) is any guide, journalism standards have been declining since 1833, when Benjamin Day founded the New York Sun. And yet somehow the republic has survived. Maybe, even as standards continue their inexorable decline (I can come up with way better examples than a fleeting Syracuse point-shaving rumor), there’s a dialectic at work wherein for every writer offering a thesis that says Pitt‘s offense is worrisome there’s an antithesis in the form of a writer who says, no, Pitt’s offense is outstanding.   

Certainly there are instances where we should echo Boeheim in saying, “If nobody talks about it, it’s nothing.” On the macro level “beyond the pale” is pretty well defined. Micro? Custody battles, for one, even if they involve expanded-basic celebrities. But rumors about undergrads allegedly not doing their best in a game where a ball is put through a hoop? Yeah, I think we can be open and completely non-Daniel Snyder-y about that one.

We take a hands-on approach to teaching the law. We prosecute you.
This week the Syracuse University College of Law dropped its threat to expel a student who had contributed to a satirical Onion-like substance. If there’s a malady common to Daniel Snyder, the NCAA, an occasional non-coach, and the Syracuse University College of Law it’s having a really itchy trigger finger on the “sacrosanct” gun.

I plead nolo contendere

Why are slow-paced games almost uniformly referred to as “boring” or “tedious” or some similar adjective? To the best of my knowledge none of these “slow” games feature players repeatedly pulling a Jimmy Chitwood and standing near midcourt with the ball on their hip, waiting for the clock to run down. Possessions in these games always include passing, screening, and cutting, activities which are just as much the essence of basketball as shooting (and that’s just the offense on a given possession).

This tendency to find fault with low-scoring or slow-paced games has led me to the conclusion that so-called basketball “fans” are really just fans of jumping.


Thanks, Jack! My declaration in support of stylistic pluralism dates from the mid-aughts, I think, but no one knows that because at the time I was read by four people. Now that my readership has doubled, allow me to re-declare: There are boring games and there are exciting games and pace bears imperfectly on both.

John decries Spanish depredations and exposes traction trusts on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. You can contact John by clicking here. College Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 is now available on Amazon. 

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