Thursday, September 28, 2006

The doubtful benefits of Scoop Jackson

To be fair, Scoop just wanted to say something thoughtful, profound, perhaps even moving about the T.O. suicide/drug reaction debacle. Unfortunately, he gave us this, instead.

If anyone is qualified to comment on T.O.’s frame of mind, it's our man Scoop. In fact, he even wrote an entire column channeling the troubled wideout's private Coney Island of the Mind. So what did Scoop serve up for our delectation? Let's take a peek, shall we.

You always want to give doubt the benefit. The benefit that inside of all three sides to every story, the truth of the matter, even if not found, can be someone's salvation.

Come again, Scoop? You don't mean you always want to give the benefit of the doubt, do you Scoop? On, oh let's say, racial issues? To the athletic director at Notre Dame, perhaps? To the "Revolverlutionary"?

And I assume that's what you mean, the benefit of the doubt. Because the way you mangled that syntax inverted the object of the gift. You see, Scoop - and stop me if I'm using too many big words - it isn't doubt that receives the benefit of, well, whatever the benefit that it’s receiving is in your linguistic playpen. Rather, it's the person (admittedly implied rather than stated) who receives the "benefit" of the "doubt," which is another way of saying you assume the best possible interpretation when there is room for doubt. Capiche?

I know, Scoop, you see clever writers play with language, twisting it round for effect, surprising their readers with unexpected paradoxes. But here's the thing Scoop, the end result still has to mean something. Ideally it should mean something clever, but, at a minimum, it has to mean something. You, on the other hand, are like a boy who sees a chainsaw artist at work and then rushes home to hack the dinner table to bits with his dad's axe. Not the same thing, see?

As to how the truth can be someone's salvation "even if not found," I won't even ask.

When the story broke that Terrell Owens attempted to commit suicide by an overdose of pain medication Tuesday night, the benefit of doubt given to most athletes flew out the window.

Almost there, Scoop! Just need one more definite article.

The "benefit" and "doubt" motif recurs throughout the rest of the article. At this point, though, I don't even care if Scoop understands what it means.

As for the substance of the piece (always an afterthought, given the slog involved in deciphering it), Scoop seems to be of two minds about the situation. And, ever the rebel, Scoop eschews the petty journalistic convention of making his mind up before writing, and gives us the benefit of his doubtful vacillations.

In particular, Scoop can't decide whether T.O. is to be pitied as a victim of a biased media, or blamed as the author of his own victimhood (my new main man JW's take, for what it's worth). At times he appears to blame the media, fans and even the Dallas P.D. for overreacting to the story (though exactly what part of the police's rapid response to a 911 call from a frantic woman and an incoherent man was "overzealous," he leaves unsaid). While at other times he seems to concede that, given the stunts T.O. has pulled in the past, this was his "boy who cries wolf" comeuppance.

These competing intuitions blur beyond recognition when Scoop writes:

As wrong as it was to instantly believe that Owens had attempted suicide, it would be naïve to think that something like this from him wouldn't be far-fetched. And more than the speculation of facts in this story, that's where the true tragedy rests.

If it isn't far-fetched to think a story might be true, why was it wrong to believe it initially? And why is this illogical state of affairs a tragedy (putting aside the ungrammatical nature of that last sentence)?

Either T.O. is an immature punk who has created a situation in which someone might mistake him for being mentally unbalanced, which is far from tragic, or he really has serious mental problems that prompt him to act the way he does. In the latter case, he needs to get help now, before there is a real tragedy. But by dismissing the possibility that T.O. really did attempt suicide ("this falsely-interpreted incident") and by implying that T.O. is mentally secure (exuding "clarity and credibility") while still painting T.O. as the victim of external bias ("the public and the media" don't give him "a chance") and admitting that the fault for this bias might accrue in some part to his "past behavior and antics," Scoop twists himself up into a knot of unresolved contradictions and non sequiturs.

In other words, a typical Scoop column. There may be a subtle point to be made incorporating Scoop's "doubts," but Scoop clearly isn't the man to make it.


Blogger memattp said...

Another great blog, loving it. However today I found my favorite Scoop Jackson article, one he wrote about Michael Redd for Slam. Some highlights: Introducing Redd as a pious man, "The man is refused entry into the lot. He exchanges words with the man guarding the gat. He turns to get back into his whip. He reads the gatekeeper his last rites: "Fuck you, nigger." Jesus walks with him."

Scoop laters talks about Redd not being on the Olympic team, saying "Yes, Garnett and both O'Neals were also mentioned but he, in most minds, was the answer. He woulda saveth us. Michael Redd, son of a Columbus, Ohio preacher man. A son of God." Redd then replies to this with "When I hear that, I'm humbled, but I don't know if I would have been the difference. Defenses would have honed in on me. They're not dumb." Scoop tries to cover this up with "In other words, saving USA basketball wasn't part of his plan." Scoop continues with this ridiculous religion theme throughout the article sprinking in random sections of the Bible that apparently relate to basketball (?), calling Redd's last name the sea that Moses parted, and referring to Ray Allen as Him (as in God) Classic!

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Dantreezy said...

OK, damnit, I want my own ESPN column space:

Jangles Washington: "Nah, I ain't written nuttin for no newspapers. They all racist. But I been slammin down mad ebonics for dis website for a hot minute. (c'mon black shoe polish, stay on this white face!)

I finna rap about how the white power struc(thanks Reggie White!) be keepin my peeps from maxin out they deals and thus jackin dem fo dey bling. Ya heard! (Gee whiz, sure hope this Ben Wallace wig hangs tough!)

Ya'll need another brother to keep it real since my Dog Wiley kicked. (Gotta dump some frappaccino for the dead homey.) I know ya'll ain't lookin for no lawsuit. You feelin me? (That's it, keep em runnin, Danny! Er, I mean Jangles!)

Editor: I think your fresh *chuckle* street talk would be a great asset to our Page 2 site. Can you start tomorrow?

Jangles: FO SHEEZY!

Editor: That's my Boy!

5:36 PM  
Anonymous sw said...


Wow! Even I'm not sure I could read all the way through that article, and I've inoculated myself over the past month with Scoop's ESPN columns. Most of his SLAM articles sound like Scoop without an editor. Which is like a spastic without a minder.

Thanks for the comments.

1:04 AM  
Blogger memattp said...

Just when I thought I couldn't be shocked by Scoop anymore, it happened.

"Larry Bird played ball so well that it made my dick hard."

1:09 AM  
Anonymous jaytk said...

Man, what a great article. Let me see if I have this right... The fact that T.O. didn't try to commit suicide will improve his image? Wha? Maybe he'll hide a pill bottle in his sock for his next touchdown celebration.

You have to love the "overzealous Dallas police department" line, too. In Jackson's mind, everyone is at fault except Owens. But that's just Scoop being Scoop. Clearly, coherence has its anomaly, and it's him.

1:19 PM  

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