So, Scoop CAN write (sort of)
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.