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.

19 Comments:

Blogger Carlos said...

i wonder how much willpower it took scoop to write this article. He probably deleted sentences countless times to conciously avoid scoopisms. He comes off hypocritical at best though as he proclaims that he will never change his style of writing because it defines who he is but then in writing this article he clearly changes it.

" So let me say this, right here and right now: Who I am, what I write and how I write it is not something I'll ever have to explain or apologize for to anyone! I speak and write the truth as I see it in a language and style that people I care about and respect understand."

"All 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."


In short, scoop's stance is self defeating in the sense that he diverts from his "unique" writing style. If I am a journalist i want the majority of my readers to understand what i am writing regardless of walk of life, race, and culture not just in "a language and style that people i care about and respect understand." In reality, scoop should respect people for decoding his messes.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Scoopwatch said...

Carlos,

Just right. If Scoop wrote more conventionally because this was a serious article about reputation, respect, and civility, does that mean he doesn't think sports is a serious topic worthy of adult discussion? Is that why he writes so lazily and, er, badly about it?

Or, to take another tack, did he adjust his natural style to write this column, or are his other columns written in a self-consciously assumed voice? Either way raises serious questions.

Thanks for the comment,

SW

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

many experts agree that the 83 sixers were greatest team of all time...so at the very least its not "crazy" to think that...maybe you need to brushback your use of hyperbole with that one...

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

It's hilarious that Scoop claims that blacks cannot become sportswriters simply because there aren't that many black sportswriters. God forbid he come to the conclusion that it's ok to have a white role model if you are black. That's like saying all white kids playing basketball wanna be like Steve Kerr. Last time I checked, we were all pretending we were Michael Jordan.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ben...

there have actually been studies studies that show that one of the reaosn there are so few white athletles in the NBA is because they don't think they have a chance...and the good white athletes focus their attention to other sports like baseball...

so thats all scoop was sayin...and many people back that principle up when applied to other professions...so why is it so wrong that he apply it to sportswriting?

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Scoopwatch said...

anonymous,

Fair enough, it's not "crazy" to think the '83 Sixers were the greatest NBA team of all-time, but I think it's, at best, an outlier minority position and I'd be surprised if "many experts" (who didn't grow up as fans of the team) believe it.

Top ten teams of all time? Sure. Top five? Maybe. But best of all time? That's a huge stretch. I'd compare it to calling Ty Cobb or Ted Williams the best ballplayer of all time. Not "crazy," but patently wrong.

SW

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol, so now white's focus on baseball more than basketball? You have no proof of that statement. Last time I checked, there are plenty of whites playing college hoops and in the NBA. PLENTY! You really don't have a point. Fact is, the majority whites kid in America legitmately considered Michael Jordan, a black man, a role model and looked up to him. Maybe instead of telling black kids they can't become sportswriters, he should tell them to look up to other sportswriters as well. Not just the black ones. Fact is, Scoop is a bigot and an ignorant one at that.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Carlos said...

In reference to whoever took the stance that whites have an inferiority complex when it comes to getting a chance to play in the NBA, well thats pure BS mi amigo. I don't even know where to start but for you to claim "that one of the reaosn there are so few white athletles in the NBA is because they don't think they have a chance...and the good white athletes focus their attention to other sports like baseball..." is absurd. The reason for the lack of white players has basically nothing to do with a inferiority complex and a lot more to do with the fact that black basketball players for the most part are just better. Its not a coincidence that the team featuring the most white players is the Utah Jazz. I guess you've never heard the phrase token white guy either. Why do you think Doleac got cheered on so hard by NY knick fans when he was there. Its not cause he is a star player, its cause he is white and hustles. By the way whites focusing on baseball has a lot more to do with father son relationships, where and how they were raised, local heros, and family tradition than a fear of not making it into the NBA

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SW...

How can a completely subjective conclusion be patently wrong??...isn't that something you would be killing scoop for doing?

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carlos,

you can admire or look up to whomever you want...that doesn't mean that you would think you can be like them....I think aspiring young african american writers should draw inspiration from great white writers...but that doesn't mean that they can look to those writers as exampled of people who made it out of the same cirsumstances they live in...or climbed the same obstacles they would have to...

there is a difference between being rasict and recognizing the racial divide in this country...its part of american history..

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and white kids can look up to MJ all they want....that doesn't mean they though they could be him...

Carlos..you said "By the way whites focusing on baseball has a lot more to do with father son relationships, where and how they were raised, local heros, and family tradition than a fear of not making it into the NBA"...sounds like you just made scoop's point....

black kids don't have many people in their communities to look up to that been sportswriters before...so that is why Scoop made the statement that he did...

its not being racist...its being honest

12:46 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

Alright first off, I need to say that this anonymous posting is a bit confusing since I’m not sure if its the same person as the first who posted under anonymous. Moving on now. No pun intended but I think your post is too black and white. For example, you wrote:

“I think aspiring young african american writers should draw inspiration from great white writers...but that doesn't mean that they can look to those writers as exampled of people who made it out of the same cirsumstances they live in...or climbed the same obstacles they would have to”

See, this kind of stiff thinking is what will keep us from learning from one another. A black man can relate to a white mans struggle just as a person who lost a loved one in the holocaust can relate to someone who lost a loved one in Rwanda. What I am trying to say is that people of different colors, backgrounds, and religion often do SHARE similar obstacles to get where they are. You clearly are making assumptions about the circumstances people grow up under based on being black or white or yellow or blue. Are blacks more likely to draw inspiration from a black journalist? Yes. Just as I as a Mexican am more likely to root for Eduardo Najera, an average role player or appreciate the art of Diego Rivera. I’m a bit confused with some of your stances. You wrote:

“and white kids can look up to MJ all they want… that doesn't mean they though they could be him...”

What does this is even mean? Theres tons of kids of all colors and ethnicities across the world that wish they could be like Mike. And none of them could be like him. What is your point and what does this have to do with what I wrote before? Let me break it down for you anonymous while you can develop your basketball skills a lot of the factors that play a determining role in whether you have a chance to make the nba are innate: height, quickness, jumping ability, muscle, size of hands and so on. There are several big men, mostly foreign born, that only started playing basketball a few years before going to the NBA-look at Mbenga(sp) from dallas, Sene(the rook), and Diop. On the other hand, writing is a skill virtually every person can develop. Constraints on one’s opportunity to expand their writing skills include a denial of human rights(education), handicaps, and mental issues. With that said, some writers are better than others. Some writers have to practice their craft ten times as hard to get the the same kind of output another may get overnight. That’s just how its is. I definitely did not make Scoop’s point. You wrote:

“black kids don't have many people in their communities to look up to that been sportswriters before...so that is why Scoop made the statement that he did...”
It may be true that they’re as many black sports writers, but for Scoop to make a stupid statement like you have a better chance of making the NBA than being a sports journalist is inexcusable . As a sports writer he should encourage children to pursue writing(not necessarily sports journalism). If Scoop has a passion for sports writing he shouldn’t discourage children(some who may be good writers for their age) by saying some pig headed shit like you have a better chance of shooting hoops for the Orlando Magic. He might try providing a workshop where he provides writing tips and perhaps inspires a child. I mean just because there are more Mexican soccer players in the MLS than there are Mexican sports writers does not freakin mean I have a better chance of waking up tomorrow and being on Red Bull NY than writing about how shitty the team is in the NY Times. Peace and keep up the good work SW.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"“and white kids can look up to MJ all they want… that doesn't mean they though they could be him...”"

You obviously missed the point. No one said you have to be as good as Jordan. By your logic, I guess only 1 or 2 kids in America should use MJ as a role model because they legitimately have a shot at being like him. Stop being an idiot. If you surveyed all the white guys in the NBA and all the white kids playing college ball on who their primary influence as a basketball player is, Michael Jordan is going to be the most referenced. The point was, that many people who made it to the NBA, did you hear that? THE NBA!!! Or even the NCAA were influenced by MJ. It doesn't matter if they aren't as good as he was, all that matters is that they made it.

On a side note, if I were black and saw Scoop Jackson writing his columns, I would definitely have confidence that I could make it as a sports writer cuz he is a fucking HORRIBLE writer. Thanks bye.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

i give up on you anonymous you are stuck on this whole mj as a role model shit...that is besides the point and if you re-examined the posts you'd see that i wasn't the one that even brought up MJ it was another poster....Regardless of whether Scoop can write well or not he still shouldn't make ignorant comments that will just discourage children from persuing writing. You stooped low by calling me an idiot. I don't need to go that route since your stances speak for themselves

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Scoopwatch said...

"How can a completely subjective conclusion be patently wrong??...isn't that something you would be killing scoop for doing?"

Because I don't think it is "completely subjective." It may have a subjective element, but ulitmately a "best ever" ranking has to appeal to objective criteria in order to convince others. I could "subjectively" believe that the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays are the best team in baseball history, but I would be objectively wrong, and there would be no use my objecting that it is a "completely subjective conclusion."

The more objective factors one can point to to support one's choice, the less "subjective" one's conclusion is - up to a point. All things being relatively equal objectively (record, roster, strength of schedule, etc.), however, subjectivity can then be the determining factor.

And with the '83 Sixers, one can point to several objective factors to support the conclusion (well, at least one factor: their 12-1 playoff record), but not enough to overcome all the other teams I listed. A plausible argument is not the same as a winning argument. There just isn't a convincing argument that the '83 Sixers are the best of all time. Period. It's not enough to say it's a subjective conclusion - because the weight of the objective evidence (most obviously, the strength of their schedule) doesn't support it. Which is why, pace your earlier assertion, I've never heard a "many experts" really argue the point.

I appreciate the comments and the challenges, but I'm not sure I have the heart to debate this throwaway point much more. Besides, you already got me to concede that it wasn't a "crazy" statement - just wrong!

SW

4:56 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

This is what Mr. Anonymous wrote:

"and white kids can look up to MJ all they want....that doesn't mean they though they could be him...You obviously missed the point. No one said you have to be as good as Jordan. By your logic, I guess only 1 or 2 kids in America should use MJ as a role model because they legitimately have a shot at being like him."

Your first sentence makes Scoop's sentences look beyond coherent. How do you expect me to dissect your literary diarreah. I still dont know what it means. I can only speculate. I'll try my best. Yes white kids just as any other kid-whether black, latino, or chinese can look up to MJ. Having someone as a role model has nothing to do with having a legitimate chance of becoming that person. I don't know how you came away with that from what i wrote. Your first dribble, "and white kids can look up to MJ all they want....that doesn't mean they though they could be him..." well its nonsense. You can take out the word white and fill the blank with any race or ethnicity and it would still remain rather substanceless. Like i've said before you clearly steered away from the heart of the matter somehow got stuck on this whole MJ as a role model thing i do not understand and in the process managed to call me an idiot. Congrats

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carlos,

I didn't write that post calling you an idiot...and the passageyou refrenced wasn't by me....I think it was someone else responding to my post. The last one I wrote was the 12:46 pm post.

Thank you

Jely

10:54 AM  
Blogger Head Chick In Charge said...

I stopped reading Scoop after his first article. I cant stand his writing style. But when I read the article about Whitlock, I was truly confused. What happened? Did he catch up on all his language arts homework or something?

2:28 AM  

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