Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Racist baseball ... racist SI ... racist America ... Yawn

There are many criticisms one can level at Sports Illustrated's baseball "Dream Team" - the best 11 players of all time. Guess which one Scoop chose?

I'm not going to object to his superficial and endlessly debatable point - that Satchel Paige and Roberto Clemente both belong in a list of baseball's 11 greatest players - but I will draw your attention to some typically awkward and silly Scoopisms, and respond to a few of ol' Scoop's more misguided comments.

Some things are so unhidden they go beyond being missed -- they get totally overlooked.

And the difference, Scoop?

And like most situations that resemble this, those in the "we didn't know" will tell you that in this moment it really doesn't matter because, in time, the untold truth will come out.

I entered this phrase into Babelfish and translated it into French and then back to English. The result was:

And as the majority of the situations which resemble this, those in "us did not know that" that in this moment you will say when it really does not import because, in time, the incalculable truth will leave.

Not a huge fall-off in comprehensibility. I think I've discovered Scoop's secret! Type a straightforward paragraph, plug it into Babelfish, translate it into a foreign tongue, then back to English and, hey presto, you have a Scoop column!

Let's give this theory a test spin, shall we? Here is a randomly selected paragraph from the latest Gene Wojciechowski column:

"I'm still trying to figure out how a 5-7, 160-pound high school senior who dreaded classes, grew up in what he calls "one of the better bad neighborhoods" of tough west side Chicago, and was ignored by almost every recruiter once they saw his grade transcripts, conceivably could surpass Sanders' all-time single-season rushing record of 2,628 yards."

And here is the same paragraphs after passing through a Greek translation (with minimal clean up):

"I still try to calculate how a 5-7, elder of high school 160-pounder that feared the categories, grew in what he calls "one from the better bad neighborhoods of" hard western secondary Chicago, and was ignored by almost each recruiter who hardly ever saw his copies of degree, could probably exceed Sanders' all dashing single-season 2.628 yards."

Throw some "un-s" in their, a 'Pac reference, and a slick nickname or two, and that's about it.

But once I got past the names, past the digitally constructed illustration, un-caught up in the mystery of the greatness of this fictional squad, I saw the reality in the history that was missed.

Or purposely forgotten. It wasn't until I stopped looking at the picture and began to look into it that I noticed how unbeautiful the picture -- and what the picture was saying -- really was.

Un-caught up? Unbeautiful? On the heels of un-overrated? Time for a new gimmick, Scoop. This one's just unfunny.

But Ruth is not the only player whose representation in baseball is larger than the game itself. There are two others, and it's interesting -- funny in an oversensitive, cryptic, culturally paranoid type of way -- how both were not chosen for the picture. Or the corresponding roster.

"Funny in an oversensitve, cryptic, culturally paranoid type of way." Have you suggested adding that to your bio at, Scoop? You can stick it right after the "award-winning journalist" part.

I'm talking about Satchel Paige and Roberto Clemente.

How did two of the game's greatest players at their positions (or any position) and ambassadors of baseball -- and their influence on the influx of minority contributions to the game -- get so conveniently overlooked? How does this happen to those two particular players who are larger than life, bigger than the game, but doesn't happen to the only other one?

I don't know how, Scoop. I'm not a baseball historian or stats guy, which I suppose the SI writers were (and you aren't). Maybe Paige and Clemente should have been in, but who do you take out, Scoop? Because this part of your column focuses on the dugout picture of SI's starting 11, I assume you'd substitute Paige (RHP) for Clemens (RHP) and Clemente (RF) for ... Babe Ruth? Hank Aaron? Seriously? If SI had left Aaron of the team, the Chicago PD would be telling Scoop to "put the gun down" through a megaphone by now.

Interestingly, SI did something similar to the current ranking back in Fall 1992. Back then the list looked like this:

LF: Ty Cobb
2B: Jackie Robinson
RF: Babe Ruth
1B: Lou Gehrig
CF: Willie Mays
3B: Mike Schmidt
SS: Cal Ripken Jr.
C: Mickey Cochrane
RHP: Christy Matthewson
LHP: Warren Spahn
RP: Dennis Eckersley
MGR: Casey Stengel

Googling that SI story, I came across a sports bulletin board where fans debated the old list, and who belonged in or out. In the entire discussion, only one fan mentions Paige and nobody mentions Clemente. Not once. I don't know who these fans were, but most of them seem engaged with the statistics and the debate, and there is even a discussion of which Negro League players deserve to be on the list, in which no-one picks up on the earlier mention of Paige.

How can these experts not take into full consideration what these two meant to the sport, in and outside of the sport, to America, when they were creating a team that embodies baseball's complete history of the greatest ever?

Maybe because they were basing their decisions on skills and accomplishments, and not trying to put together a warm fuzzy college recruiting brochure.

Paige and Clemente represent more than what their stats show, even though their stats hold strong against all. Having them in the illustration would represent all the Negro League players and all the Latin players who for so many years were held out of the game, and now dominate the game but continue to go unrecognized. Satchel's image on that team would not be about him -- it'd be about Gibson and Cool Papa Bell and Roy Campanella and Larry Doby and Biz Mackey and Oscar Charleston and Peanut Johnson; Roberto's image would stand for Ortiz and Pujols and Pedro and Johan and Vlad and everyone in between, including all those who will eventually make it into baseball's Hall of Fame because No. 21 was a pioneer who changed the game forever.

This paragraph could be re-written as "There are lots of black and latino ballplayers, so couldn't SI have included a token Negro Leaguer and a token Latino?" I don't even know where to start. Of course, it's all about race for Scoop, so tokenism doesn't seem to bother him. (Yes, an objective case can be made for including Paige and Clemente, and Scoop makes it elsewhere, but here he expressly argues for their inclusion based solely on their respective races: that's tokenism.) But Scoop is so obsessed with race that he even ignores ethnicity and nationality. Why would Clemente, a Puerto Rican, represent "Ortiz and Pujols and Pedro and Johan and Vlad": four Dominicans and a Venezualan? The inter-latin rivalry and animosity on most baseball rosters is much worse than the black-white dynamic.

I can see how Paige could represent other overlooked Negro Leaguers shut out of the majors for most of their careers, but how does Clemente represent today's latin players? He may have paved the way, but he doesn't represent any current "struggle." Not of the "race" that makes up the majority of professional baseball contracts. Heck, a Venezualan or Dominican is more likely to play professional baseball in America than an American. But in Scoop's world, diversity trumps all, so none of this matters. I'm just surprised he left off Eddie Gaedel - to represent all the excluded little people still dreaming of making it to the show, you know.

Can you imagine if Paige had pitched his entire career in the majors?

Imagine with a degree of certainty that would make it a useful exercise? Nope. I can imagine him winning 600 games and being the undisputed best pitcher of all time. I can also imagine him being a great 300 game winner but no better than Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson. So can you, Scoop, if you're honest.

It's interesting that this issue of Sports Illustrated came out the same week the great Buck O'Neil passed away. Guess it's only right. Just as O'Neil died without the Hall of Fame recognizing him and his contribution to baseball by inducting him into Cooperstown, it's only fitting that Paige got the same injustice by not being represented in the visual representation of the game's history.

You know, Scoop, I don't think most ballplayers and managers consider making the cover of SI the equivalent of election to the hall of fame. But I haven't asked them, and you're the expert ...

A beef is not what you should feel when you look at that picture. You should feel a slight sense of illness and disgust at how the game of baseball and those that tell its story still refuse to make the story complete, even inside of an image so beautiful.

Well, I "feel a slight sense of illness and disgust," and I haven't even seen the picture yet. Thanks, Scoop.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

So, Scoop CAN write (sort of)

Two unrelated but similar Scoop stories came my way yesterday so, if you don't mind, I will address them both in one post.

First, a kind reader left a comment directing me to a HoopsTV video of Scoop offering his thoughts on basketball, black culture, and his hometown Chicago. Second, Scoop posted a column on the WWL responding to Jason Whitlock's stinging attack in The Big Lead, which I covered here and here.

The common thread is that both items have further endeared Scoop the man to me. In the video, Scoop really seems to be a decent cat (to use his own argot). Friendly, loyal, and principled when it comes to his family, his neighborhood, and his work ethic. As for the column - and here we discover one of the most important developments in Scoopwatch's short history - Scoop reveals that he can write properly when he tries. His response to Whitlock's going off half cocked is written (for the most part) in straightforward, proper English.

So what's up, Scoop? Despite a few classic Scoop sentences. Short sentences. Really short. Sentences. ("I had idols. People in the game I respected. Looked up to. ") And ignoring a couple of awkward sentences and his iffy uses of the verb "to further," Scoop writes reasonably well (by Scoop standards, mind you). Of course, this shouldn't be cause for praise; his job, after all, is to write. Praising him for writing competently is like praising Tiger Woods for hitting a 285-yard drive down the middle of the fairway: it's the minimum qualification for his job and one expects much more.

It's an admirably civil response to a pointed attack. I'll leave the substance largely untouched, however, except to note that Scoop seems a bit confused on the subject of legitimate criticism. Scoopwatch was pleased to read that "I will tolerate someone who has a problem with the way I write and my style. I will tolerate someone who disagrees with my opinion. I'll even go so far as to tolerate someone trying to publicly (or privately) discredit me as a writer. Those things I will stand." Phew! "[T]rying to publicly ... discredit [him] as a writer"? That's us in a nutshell Scoop - glad you approve! But then we were puzzled by Scoop's suggestion that a critic should avoid "disrespect" for Scoop's writing "because he doesn't like or understand or 'get' the words I type. Words that I will never apologize for. Words that define who I am."

Pace Scoop, I think Whitlock generally "understands" the words you type. And to the extent he doesn't, it's probably because (like many of your readers) he isn't accustomed to bizarre and indecipherable Scoopisms. ("I saw a man become un-overrated." Does this mean he is now underrated? Properly rated? Unrated?).

I've said it before, but one of Scoop's biggest problems as a writer is his preference for sound over sense - an obsession with playful form at the expense of clear meaning. Truly gifted writers can invert linguistic norms without compromising clarity; some can even enhance the acuity of their insights with clever word play. But the rest of us - the 99.9% who struggle just to get a simple point across - should steer clear of neologisms in formal prose. That splendid brainbox Dr. Johnson once offered the following sound advice to writers: "Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out." With Scoop, I'd start by advising just to read over your compositions. Because I charitably assume you just dash them off within minutes of your deadlines.

Here at Scoopwatch, I think we "get" your words, Scoop. We just don't think they add up to a worthy column. If you want to write (and you appear genuine in your desire to), please stick to SLAM, Scratch, The Economist, and other publications without obvious standards.

Turning briefly to the HoopsTV video, Scoop, while charming, ably demonstrates why nobody should take his sports analysis seriously (I know, not that anyone does). His pick for best NBA team of all time? 1983 76ers. Really. Sure the Sixers dominated the post-season, and Moses Malone practically intimidated opponents into submission before tip off, but it's a brave (and probably crazy) man who ranks them above all of the following teams (courtesy Maxim magazine online - probably the only time that grim publication will be linked to on this site).

The 1964–65 Boston Celtics
Regular-season: 62–18, .775; playoffs: 8–4

The 1966–67 Philadelphia 76ers
Regular season: 68–13, .840; playoffs: 11–4
[That's right, Scoop, the '83 Sixers might not even be the best Sixers team in history.]

The 1969–70 New York Knicks
Regular season: 60–22, .732; playoffs: 12–7

The 1971–72 Los Angeles Lakers
Regular season: 69–13, .841; playoffs: 12–3

The 1985–86 Boston Celtics
Regular season: 67–15, .817; playoffs: 15–3

The 1986–87 Los Angeles Lakers
Regular season: 65–17, .793; playoffs: 15–3

The 1995–96 Chicago Bulls
Regular season: 72–10, .878; playoffs: 15–3

Scoop's pick for best player of all time? Dr. J. No offense Scoop, but "best" and "favorite" aren't synonyms. Best college program (he says "team or university," but his commentary and lack of a specified year strongly implies "program")? North Carolina. Scoop, ever heard of a little school on the West Coast called UCLA? Won a few championships back in the day. Best guard? Oscar Robertson. Interesting pick; debatable, but not ridiculous . . . unless you've just given us your all-time starting five and not included Robertson in any of the three guard positions (in case you're interested, Magic, MJ, and Dr. J. were his picks). It's moves like that that drive your readership nuts, Scoop. When it doesn't just drive them away.

Finally, I'm starting to regret the Whitlock rant. Sure he said what we were all thinking - and probably what most sportswriters were thinking - and it was good for a cheap laugh at Scoop's expense. But here's the rub: the public, personal criticism of Scoop by the departing - and now persona non grata - Whitlock probably guaranteed Scoop keeps his .com job for at least six more months. It would look terrible for ESPN if, after anathematizing Whitlock for his scathing criticism of Scoop, they turned around and dropped Scoop's column. It would be an admission that Whitlock, while wrong for calling Scoop out, was right on the merits. And that's a vindication that ESPN just can't afford. So raise a glass of bubbly, Scoop. Whitlock just gave you the kind of job security that only naked pics of the boss's daughter can buy.

Well, that's more than I'd intended to write today. Scoop, you're killing me with your columns. Ten days without a peep and then three in a week. Don't be afraid to take it easy for a while, Scoop. You can use the time to watch some old UCLA games on ESPN Classic.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Brushing back Scoop

Sports satire site The Brushback has a history of gently mocking Scoop's mild obsession with the racial angle of every sports story. While we here at Scoopwatch believe that Scoop's racial myopia is actually among the least of his offenses (see, e.g., grammar (lack thereof) and insight (absence thereof)), Brushback is to be commended for its mature approach to the Scoop question (unlike certain sites, which are content to snipe unhelpfully from the sidelines): Hires White Supremacist To Counter Scoop Jackson

Scoop Jackson Informed Of Your Racist Comments

"Jesus walks with him."

The raison d'etre of Scoopwatch is to draw attention to the atrocious writing and analysis of one Robert "Scoop" Jackson in the hope that either (1) he will ditch his Scoopbo act and start putting some effort into his columns, or (2) ESPN will drop him. Of course, I realize that Scoopwatch is but a lowly single-issue narcissite in a roiling sea of cyber-chatter and, as such, it lacks the power to achieve its goals. Which is where the secondary purpose comes in: puerile, self-indulgent venting. But sometimes even I am left speechless by Scoop's more ... how to put it politely ... insane drivel.

Like this piece, to which a commenter kindly drew my attention. It's from SLAM, not ESPN, so it is arguably ultra vires for Scoopwatch, but it is too good (awful?) to ignore.

Caveat lector: As I said, it is from SLAM. Anyone reading SLAM knows what they're getting, and get's what they deserve.

I will withhold comment for fear of violating all rules of civility, except to say that "He woulda saveth us" is a first-ballot Scoopism.

Ok, one more comment (I'm bursting, here): "Michael Redd sees past all the superficiality, fights the temptations of superstar-ism . . ." This only a short page after Redd is described thus: "A black left gator steps out, followed by a long black sable. Around the man’s neck, a cross. 58 Van Cleef & Arpel diamonds, set in David Yurman platinum. Those are 6.22 carats. Total weight? Only God knows." About those temptations of superstar-ism, Scoop . . .

Oh, and I can't resist drawing particular attention to this dog's breakfast of pseudo-poetry, pop-religiosity, and banality:

This has nothing to do with basketball. Not really. It has nothing to do with religion. It really has nothing to do with God. What it—Michael Redd’s life captured in this room—has to do with is faith. Blind faith. Unconditional faith. Internal faith. For leaders come not just in different forms but in times of need. As much as Michael Redd may have been sent here to save the Milwaukee Bucks franchise and possibly save the 2008 US Olympic Team and even NBA basketball internationally, he has also been sent here to save the men who can’t get into players-only parking lots.

You know what, Scoop? I think you've topped yourself. That paragraph may actually be blasphemous.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

"the cause is lost inside the emotions." (Well, something is certainly lost.)

The first word of the latest Scoop column may be "Miami!" but it's all about the Crilla. Apparently the denizens of the Windy City are extrapolating a perfect season from the Bears 4 - 0 start while visions of Superbowls dance in their heads.

Sensibly, Scoop takes a more skeptical line in what is, all in all, not an embarrassing offering by his standards (which are, admittedly, lower than a Golota haymaker.) But what would Scoopwatch be without some cavils?

And yet, people are roaming the streets of the Chi not shy. Not even close to humble. Grown men who drive CTA buses and campaign for governors, grown women who work for CPS and agree with Oprah that Barack Obama should run for president, U of C kids at Jimmy's, UIC kids at Sweet Maple's, anyone at Starbucks and Target -- all acting like there aren't 12 more games to play. Acting like last year never happened.

I suppose Scoop thinks that he is painting a colorful portrait of his hometown, invoking telling local details to convey the breadth of Bears hysteria. The CTA, CPS, Oprah, Obama, U of C, UIC: Chicago icons all. I don't know the Second City too well, but I'll assume without looking them up that Jimmy's and Sweet Maple's are similarly well-known landmarks. But Starbucks? Target? Where do they come from, Scoop? Why end on two flat notes?

So the city can continue to overreact like Kim Etheredge. Or suicide is what it's setting itself up for. As of right now, right here, standing on the west side of Lake Michigan, it seems as if the cause is lost inside the emotions. We caught up.

I've said it before, and I know I'll say it again, but . . . Scoop, that's not English. "Or suicide is what it's setting itself up for"? Are you being paid by the word, Scoop? What would have been wrong with "It's setting itself up for suicide"? "We caught up"? Pretty sure there should be a verb in there. ". . . the cause is lost inside the emotions"? Do you even know what you are trying to say here, Scoop?

"We gone." Again with the verbs, Scoop. You know, the "action words."

"And this sums up how everyone in the city is basically feeling. Collectively."

If a junior high student turned in this tripe I'd expect him to fail. "[H]ow everyone in the city is ... feeling. Collectively." Here's a hint Scoop, part of that quote is either (a) redundant, or (b) redundant. And what, exactly, do you think "basically" adds to the sentence? Hmm? Basically nothing?

Why do Scoop's columns all sound like they were dictated extemporaneously by a character in a sneaker ad? Writing isn't just talking in print, Scoop. Please tell me someone mentioned that during your masters program.