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The New Orleans Hornets are currently one of two teams (the Oklahoma Thunder being the other) that start each game with an Arena-wide, pre-game prayer.  This strange occurrence is a hybrid of religious zeal and moneymaking, as the Hornets sell this slot of proselytizing to the highest bidder.   While I’ve been told that anyone can pay for the privilege of delivering this prayer, and, indeed, we’ve heard Jewish Rabbis come forward multiple times, nine times out of ten it’s a Christian prayer. In contrast, I have yet to hear an atheist step on the hardwood and dedicate a few moments to reason and logic, wish the players well, admit that each player’s health is a motley mix of conditioning and pure chance, and wish them the best. Instead, we are subjected to a game day prayer to Jesus (no, they rarely say his name, but they almost always say something similar to “In Your Name We Pray,” it’s not hard to read between the lines) to  ask the big guy in the sky to bestow good health to the players on both sides of the floor. What’s missed in the well wishes is the excessive entanglement with religion in a place where it is simply out of place.

The Hornets, as opposed to, say, LSU, or Benjamin Franklin High, are a private institution, not run by the state or any of its many subdivisions. This means, strictly speaking, many Constitutional provisions that would guarantee freedom, equality, and non-discrimination do not apply to the Hornets; that is, unless the team determines that such values correspond to its corporate mission. Private institutions, otherwise, are, in part, free to espouse whatever values they want. For example, you’ve no doubt seen Chick-Fil-A around town. They have an expressly Christian value-system built into their corporate ethos, and have even been known to fund anti-gay causes. The New Orleans City Council can’t do that, but Chick-Fil-A is free to hate whomever they want.

The rub is that the Fourteenth Amendment allows Congress to prescribe prophylactic remedies, such as Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) laws, and these statutes can touch even private institutions. The basic gist is that employees cannot be discriminated in the workplace because of race, religion, sex, nationality, etc. There is a “religious organization” exception, i.e., if the organization’s purpose and affiliation is overtly religious, such as a church, or if the company’s or charity’s articles of incorporation state a religious purpose. The NBA is not one of these groups. As such, its non-discrimination policy reads:

Equal employment opportunity is a fundamental principle at the NBA. Accordingly, the NBA’s EEO Policy provides that all employment decisions will be based on merit and valid job qualifications and will be made without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, alienage or citizenship status, ancestry, marital status, creed, genetic predisposition or carrier status, sexual orientation, veteran status, familial status, or any or status or characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local law.

I added the emphasis to the above quote.  So how is this relevant to the Hornets? Because the NBA owns the Hornets. Therefore, every single Hornets employee is an NBA employee.  Hornets’ blogger, Joe Gerrity, was recently brave enough to question the Hornets’ pre-game prayer. Although the poll Hornets247 ran concomitantly with that article is gone, approximately 65% of people were in favor of the pre-game prayer, about 25% were against it, and the remainder didn’t care. But that is precisely the point of anti-discrimination statutes: to preclude a majority of people from discriminating against the minority.

For Christians whose beliefs are in-line with the pre-game prayer, it is an innocuous blessing. For those of opposing beliefs, it may be less so. And for those that believe in no higher power, but instead rely upon science, logic, ethics, and reasoning to guide their lives, the entire thing is a travesty. The point is not which side is “right.” The point is, if it is opposed by as many as a quarter of the people who care, it should be done away with, regardless of NBA rules.  Why stir such strong sentiments when they are ultimately irrelevant to the product produced by the NBA?

Regardless, the NBA’s own anti-discrimination policy forbids the pre-game prayer. Similarly, if my private, non-religious employer decided to start the work day with a prayer, there is no doubt that it would violate the tenets of the EEO Act. It is harassment. Plain and simple. If you’re a Christian, it probably is not. If you’re a non-Christian it is. End of story. This is the part that is difficult for the dominant, Christian majority to get: some people are offended by your religion.

Think about this: if we were talking about basketball at a public school, like either of the aforementioned LSU or Benjamin Franklin High, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that an opening prayer would violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion”), which is applied to the states and their subdivisions by the Fourteenth Amendment. There are a number of similarly decided lawsuits related to high school football games that are squarely on point.  This is because governments and their many subdivisions are precluded from favoring any religion over any other religion, or even favoring believing in any religion over believing in none at all.

If a pre-game prayer at a public school is viewed as religious coercion, excessive entanglement with religion, a message sent to a minority that they are outsiders, or an establishment of a “normative” religious belief (all language used by the U.S. Supreme Court), why, just because the Hornets are a private organization, would the team want to do something so blatantly discriminatory, when it doesn’t need to go there at all? Basketball should be inclusive, not decisive; sport is about bringing together people of all sorts to witness elite competition, to see others striving for physical perfection: not an opportunity for ecumenical proselytizing to a captive audience.

Arguably, sport is the antithesis of religion. It involves physical contact, facts, strategies, cause and effect. Religion involves intangibles, faith, and suspension of disbelief. Players cannot afford to trust in god they won’t get hurt; they have to stretch and condition. Players can’t just pray they make their shots; they practice, practice, and then practice more. Nor do coaches read the Bible in search of parables in lieu of drawing up X and O plays.  The prodigal son doesn’t know how to defeat a zone.  

Many players and coaches are religious, and that is fine. That is their personal belief. But in opposition to religion; where people are supposed to merely trust that their traditions, priests, and God have their best interests in mind and are subsumed by acquiescence to belief in a omnipotent benevolence, no questions asked; NBA players and coaches cannot afford to simply do what has always been done: they must evolve,they must innovate.  To be elite in the NBA, players and coaches have to watch game film, strategize, and think through each game plan and opponent: reasoning their way to success, practicing and honing those strategies on a daily basis, and executing them all at the highest level to achieve victory.  Thus, unlike religion, basketball is palpable, responsive, and falsifiable.

So even were the NBA not the Hornets’ owner, it is clear that religion has no place in the NBA. But seeing as the NBA is the Hornets’ owner, and all the team’s employees are Hornets employees, exposing them to religious prayer before every game is a form of religious intolerance; because, as the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear, religious discrimination is not just favoring one religion over any other, but favoring belief in religion over non-belief.  Twenty eight teams in the NBA get it right.  Two do not.  One, the New Orleans Hornets, is owned by an organization professing non-discriminatory principles. Yet, the Hornets’ pre-game prayer violates those principles every home game.

Forty-one times a year, the Hornets and the NBA offend me and many others.  Maybe more this year if the team makes the Playoffs.  It needs to change.

So I kind of lost it this afternoon. Although I should note that the thing that sent me over the edge, a throwaway reference in this post to “all that stuff with Katrina” in the list of reasons why Chris Paul would want to leave New Orleans, has since been removed by the author. And he apologized for it. Which is greatly appreciated, since Katrina a) happened before Chris Paul ever played in the NBA, and b) doesn’t really have anything to do with the failure of George Shinn to build the Hornets into a winner in the last 25 years. But I think I am going to post my Twitter rant anyway, to preserve it for history’s sake. I wasn’t exaggerating about most of the things I said.

Um. You should be aware that this rant contains profanity, much of it of the FYYFF variety (for those who aren’t aware of the reference).

I fucking hate people. RT @LSUhornet17: So now CP wants to leave b/c of Hurricane Katrina 5 years ago. Awesome bit of journalism right there

“All that stuff with Katrina” … I don’t know what article @LSUhornet17 is reading but I am so angry I can’t see straight. Fuck you.

You thought that was me angry before? No. THIS IS ANGRY.

I am on the verge of a rant after which no one will be left alive, in the post-apocalyptic dustballs-blowing bombed-out landscape of DEATH

I guess Katrina prevented the Saints from being champions. I guess Katrina means we don’t deserve to watch sports like the rest of the US

Never mind that Katrina happened before Chris Paul played a single minute of NBA basketball.

To some of us Katrina is more than a throwaway line or a card you toss out to be CUTE and get traffic. Shame shame shame and fuck you.

[ half an hour later] I’ll have you know I was NOT finished. My blackberry died.

I am not OK with people who make a living out of being abstract, edgy, and “conscious” when it suits them….

… yet can throw out a line like “all that Katrina stuff” glibly. It smacks of hipster douchiness to me. Re: Shoals’ Fanhouse post.

And it’s all about the individual now, about ourselves? A team can’t mean something? Just a player’s “Greatness”

If this is what comes of “liberated fandom” someone f-ed up. By all accounts the guys on that 07-08 team LOVED being part of something

The Saints LOVED being a part of something. And there was ESPN every step of the way shitting on them like a massive big-market circle jerk

Whoever sent me the Chad Ford thing just now? He can fuck himself too. “Any franchise that considers trading CP should be contracted…” [It turns out Bill Simmons was involved in this epic douchery too. Imagine my not-surprise.]

Well no fucking shit. So wait. You start a rumor. You perpetuate a rumor. And then you shit on a team for what YOU did/said. CIRCLE. JERK.

But yeah, let’s ask the Saints how “all that Katrina stuff” (In this day & age. In an actual legit post. Jesus Christ) ruined their careers

Me, me, me. Y’all want Chris Paul to be another LeBron? Is that it? A guy who by all accounts LOVES volunteering in this city & being part of the recovery?

Is that what you want? Would that make you happy? Really? Really?

I mean, do what makes you happy. For “art”. Well, art without context is just fucking paint, Shoals.

THAT’S why I hate LeBron. Because his chance to mean something, to transcend, *is* Cleveland. And he’s too blind to see it.

Maybe I’m a little emotional right now. Coming from writing this http://bit.ly/c1mjoM a couple days ago to “All that Katrina stuff.”

But god DAMN, I watch sports because of the chance it has to be more. The chance a player has to be more. And you all are making it cheap.

And I guess that’s all I have to say.

Hissssssssssssssssssssssss. (That wasn’t anything. That was just me hissing wordlessly at the people I am telling to f themselves.)

I wrote Chad Ford a letter saying all the cool NBA people think ESPN is not viable as a station. Everyone who knows ANYTHING knows it. [This is in reference to the transcript linked above in which he said "I've had a lot of NBA guys tell me there's no way a pro team can thrive in New Orleans"]

I would reply to more people, but being a part of the larger stream of humanity other than myself and my money RUINS MY GREATNESS.

So yeah. Do me a favor. If anyone else writes or says anything on TV about how New Orleans isn’t deserving of Chris Paul’s greatness, just… don’t… tell… me.

Last time I checked, Mardi Gras was over yesterday. And yet… and yet… I could not believe my eyes when, at the Hornets/Jazz game last night, I looked up and beheld the Cousin of Chucky, with its slightly less terrifying friends the King and the Jester, lining up for its nightly scooter race. When will the terror end, people? WHEN WILL IT END?

Look at its FACE. You cannot tell me it doesn't mean me harm. I won't believe you.

Look at its FACE. You cannot tell me it doesn't mean me harm. I won't believe you.

It’s not just that, deep within my soul, I am afraid of this diabolical creature. I now suspect the Baby is causing us to lose. I think (I could be slightly off on this, but hold on, because the stats are still going to bear me out whether I’m off one or two games or not) the Baby made its first appearance in the Clippers home game on January 13th..

Prior to that, the Hornets had an impressive 14-3 home record, enough to rival top teams in the conference and especially impressive considering they were an under .500 team. Since then? SINCE THEN? 3-6. Oh, Chris Paul is out? I call B.S. Chris Paul was out in late November/early December when the Hornets were winning all those home games. Oh, the schedule is stronger? I call B.S. again. The Hornets have recently lost to the likes of the Bulls and the Sixers at home. They even at one point had lost four in a row, something that hasn’t happened all season.

I hope that little boy was still in possession of his soul when the baby was finished with him...

I hope that little boy was still in possession of his soul when the baby was finished with him... No, seriously, I'm really worried about him. This pic gets bonus points for how friggin EVIL the Jester looks. I hadn't noticed it before because I was focused on the baby but wow.

Here it is on a scooter

Here it is on a scooter

Thanks to reader Robbie, who emailed me pics, we now have more photographic evidence of the Baby’s existence. Serious props to him. Photographing the Mardi Gras Baby is akin to catching the Sasquatch on film. Actually, I’m surprised it even shows up on camera…

Dusche Bagel of the Week

Dusche Bagel of the Week

It has been suggested to me many a time that I institute a Dusche Bagel of the Week Award. Well, I’m finally doing it. This award shall henceforth be given to the person/team/entity that has pissed me off, through acts of extreme douchery, during a given week.

What is a Dusche Bagel? Some background… earlier this season Rajon Rondo acted like a punk and made some statements about how much better he is than Chris Paul. (These statements have since been statistically debunked. Hell, after the other night, we’re not even sure Rondo is better than Darren Collison.) Some Celtics “superfans” decided to come troll my blog. Most of the garbage I deleted… except this poor unfortunate soul, who unwittingly provided me with entire minutes of laughter and entertainment:

The Original Dusche Bagel

The Original Dusche Bagel

And thus the term Dusche Bagel was born.

The Dusche Bagel of the Week is…. Vince Carter

Vince Carter singlehandedly stole a victory from the Hornets on Monday night, putting up 48 points, the most he has scored in like five years or some garbage. Let me get this straight. Dude is having the worst year of his entire career, missing laughable shots (I mean this quite literally– I was watching a Magic game a couple weeks ago and Vince Carter’s shot selection and gleeful airballings of entire possessions while his teammates grimaced caused me to actually laugh out loud), wearing a stupid NCAA-esque t-shirt under his jersey, and oh yeah, sucking. And then he comes out of nowhere to beat a Hornets team that puts up 70 in the first half, probably playing the best team game it can possibly hope to put together with two starters out, one of them being Chris Paul. He was hitting defended shots, contested shots, stupid shots, shots where he was the only Orlando player to ever touch the ball– the sort of shots that, if he’d been missing, people would’ve been crucifying him over. I bet even Magic fans were like, “What the fuck, Vince Carter.” Like, where have you been the other 40-some games of the year? Where were you in January? Oh, that’s right, going 2-15 in losses to shitty teams. The Vince fans of the internet were all excited, clamoring, frantically typing, “It’s amazing! He’s back! He’s turned the corner!” So, has he? Is he, as everyone raved on a fine recent Tuesday morning, back?

No. He has averaged an underwhelming 14.5 points per game since his big happy outburst. Because Vince Carter is one of those dudes who’s only good when it’s obnoxious to be good. For a look at some of the other douchery in his oeuvre, please click here. Vince Carter, ladies and gentlemen, your dusche bagel of the week.

… after Jeff Bower inexplicably benched David West (15-5) for the entire 4th quarter of a tie game, in which the Hornets leading scorer (CP3) was out having knee surgery and the game’s leading scorer (Thornton, 22 pts) had just fallen hard and gone to the locker room, I might have done something like this first:

Shortly followed by something like this:

Would it have changed the fact that the Hornets blew a game they should’ve won to one of their closest competitors for a playoff spot, because their rookie head coach decided it would be a fun time to teach his longest tenured player and 2-time All Star a lesson? No. But it would have made me feel better.

So, I guess it’s a good thing they don’t let me go to press conferences.

I have to go. I’m, literally, an incoherent ball of rage right now. ^%$@#I*YFGSDFHJSG&$#TRA^TRDS

Wednesday Linkz

By on January 27, 2010

The Hornets May Have Won the Battle But Lost the War– a post on the Dime blog about the Hornets salary moves. With input from me, Hornets 247, and At the Hive. Oh, and Bonus!Ranty Comments by me, I guess. Sorry about that. This is one of my very favorite topics for ranting, as you well know. But props to Dime. Noticed how they went and actually asked Hornets media & blogs. Amazing concept, that.

New Orleans rookie Marcus Thornton seizing the moment– According to the TP, there are rumors (which he denies) that Marcus Thornton told some kids at LSU over the summer he’d be starting by midseason. Ha. I said so too. Guess we’re both right.

Buckets doesn’t make the Rookie Team — kinda lame but not surprising. He’s averaging 9.7 pts-2 rebs on 43% shooting in 19 minutes, way less than the minutes some of those kids are getting to put up their numbers. I wasn’t that impressed with either Flynn or Curry (ugh, watch me say that and he goes off on us tonight, haha). I mean, you can’t really argue with any of the rookies who made it, but I will say it’s too bad Byron Scott hurt Thornton’s chances by not playing him early. I wonder, though, if it’s harder to make a team like this as a pure scorer– even a very efficient one– when you’re not putting up significant numbers in any other categories. All those point guards have numbers in the assists column too. Marcus’ stats per 36 are 18.2 pts-3.7 rebs– some of those other kids already play 36 and aren’t close to that.

But! He’s #5 in the NBA.com Rookie Rankings this week! — Go figure.

This column from Mark Monteith at SI.com fails so hard at containing real facts (especially Okafor versus Chandler) and following a chronological timeline of what actually went down that it made me weep tears of pure sarcasm. Or wait, is that not possible? Try to spot the two places he  contradicts himself. Let’s make it a fun game!

In case you turned off the game, the Hornets bench went on a 28-16 run in the fourth quarter and managed to close the gap to 9 points in the last minute, before finally losing to the Lakers 110-99. There’s about a minute left. The Hornets foul. I thought nothing of it– it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing. It’s under ten, you have timeouts, things can happen. We’ve already seen one game this year (the Dallas overtime win) where it did happen. Clock runs down. Hornets foul again. There’s 4 seconds left and they have the ball. It wasn’t really until then that I notice the crowd is booing. CST does a close-up on the Hornets bench, and it’s Posey (you might have known he’d be behind something like this) and Armstrong hollering at the rookies to go, go, go. Collison throws up a shot that doesn’t make it, game ends.

What’s the fuss? Apparently the Lakers fans have some sort of taco promotion if they score over 100 and hold their opponent to less than 100. It wouldn’t  have annoyed me so much if I hadn’t seen fans of two other teams, the Raptors and the Blazers, complaining on Twitter earlier in the night about the exact same thing: fans who cheer at the wrong times because they want free food. We’ve got one of those food promotions too, for Popeyes, only luckily ours is fairly new and people don’t usually make a huge deal over it. I think it’s tacky.

You wanna mess with the rooks? You gotta go through me.

You wanna mess with the rooks? You gotta go through me.

But then I check Twitter and see several people in my feed making fun of the Hornets bench for trying, and man, that got me fired up. “If they had played that hard the whole game they wouldn’t have been down 20!” “Lakers fans shouldn’t be embarrassed because they cheer louder for tacos than the game– the Hornets should be embarrassed for losing!” “The Hornets are poor sports for not rolling over!” (I made sure to bookmark that one for days when I need a good laugh.) Etc. One of these people was an ESPN writer, which is kind of inexplicable to me.

You people did notice that this wasn’t exactly the lineup that lost the game? The Hornets had three guards out there under 6-4, and were playing 6-9 Darius Songaila at center. I mean, that’s not exactly an NBA lineup. That’s serious small ball, and they were pushing the pace.

Two of those guys were rookies. Three of them were under the age of 23. Four of them have been in the league three years or less. Darren Collison is a rookie. Marcus Thornton is a rookie, who was 0-4 in the first three quarters, and is fighting for a spot in the starting lineup, while trying hard to get out of a three game shooting slump. Bobby Brown, who didn’t meet a three ball 4 seconds into the shot clock he didn’t like all evening, has to prove he shouldn’t be glued to the bench forever when Chris Paul gets back. Julian Wright is playing to get back in the rotation. Darius Songaila was trying because he is a bench vet who always tries. They’re playing for minutes. They’re playing for their careers.

It’s embarrassing the Hornets bench tried to erase a lead?

I’m sorry, have we met? I’m Ticktock6, I’m a Hornets fan. I was sitting in the stands all forty-eight minutes of a 58 point home playoff blowout, for which I did not receive free food. A blowout in which a bunch of veteran bench players managed to turn a thirty point deficit into almost a sixty point hole by completely giving up. That’s embarrassing. The point of this isn’t to get into a game of  “who’s a better fan,” but some people last night on Twitter were trying to tell me the meaning of embarrassing.

You know what? I don’t play basketball. I wasn’t on the floor in LA last night. The bottom line is, I don’t have to live with giving up at the end of a blowout. The five guys on the floor do.

I’m sorry, did I miss something?

A screenshot of ESPN's front page last November

A screenshot of ESPN's front page last November

I thought Chris Paul hated Byron Scott. I thought this had been established. Like, mainstream established. I mean, I saw it on ESPN. They’ve been mentioning something about it every third day since last November. But then I get up and here are all these articles saying he’s terribly upset over Scott’s firing.

WHAT IS GOING ON HERE, PEOPLE?

Previously, on Lifestyles of a Small Market Team With a Top 5 Star Who Everyone Thinks Is Being Wasted In a Small City and Oh My God It’s So Horrible How Dare They Want a Star? Who Do They Think They Are, New York? … Bill Simmons went to a Clippers game in November 2008 and wrote his usual sports humor column. I’ll excerpt the relevant parts:

“The way players walk toward the bench after a timeout. (Goes one of three ways: “I’m interested to hear coach’s thoughts,” “I look forward to sitting down” or “Great, I get to listen to this bonehead again.”) How fast someone jumps up when the coach calls for them as a sub. (If they jump up fast, that means they’re totally in the game; if they jump up slow, that means they were either daydreaming about that night’s sexual conquest or imagining he’s punching the coach in the face.) Whether they listen or don’t listen in the huddle. The body language of the coach himself. And the telltale sign … what happens when a top player gets called over by coach when someone is shooting free throws.This can unfold one of three ways:

A. Player runs over respectfully and seems genuinely interested in the coach’s wisdom. Watch what happens when Popovich calls over Duncan or Parker in a Spurs game. Total respect. They look like someone jogging over to a police officer.

B. Player jogs over, doesn’t seem totally interested, but doesn’t want to seem like a jerk either. This usually sums up 75 percent of the league.

C. Player does a double-take and his head kicks back briefly (like he’s thinking, “Really, I have to talk to this guy again???”). He saunters over disdainfully. When he reaches the coach, he makes eye contact for the first two seconds, then starts subconsciously pulling away (first with his eyes, then with his body leaning back toward the coach), and at about the six-second mark, he just starts walking back toward the court whether the coach is finished talking or not. Everything about the exchange says, “I’ve just had it with this freaking guy.”

I mistakenly believed that Chris Paul and Scott had an “A” relationship but in the second half of Monday’s game, it was revealed that they were a “C.” At least right now. Translation: I am no longer sold on the 2009 Hornets.”

Basically, Simmons thought the Hornets as a team were in trouble– which turned out to be true– way back in the beginning of last season. I am back and forth on this. He went to one game, didn’t talk to any of the players, and just looked at body language. As a bench-watcher myself, I get that. I sit close enough to the Hornets bench (I’m not saying I sit low down, but I do sit on that end of the arena) that I can see who interacts with who, but unlike Bill Simmons, I see them for 41+ games a year. What he neglected to mention in his column, for instance, is that the game in question was at Staples Center back when the Clippers were abysmal and the Hornets were expected to contend in the Western Conference. The Hornets ended up winning that game, but they were down by around ten points for a big chunk of it, and understandably pissed about it. Simmons skipped over that part. That Byron Scott, by the end, had maybe lost David West and some of the Hornets is true. But it seems he never lost Chris Paul.

For his part, when this Simmons thing took off like wildfire through the articles and blogs, Chris Paul even came right out and told the media it wasn’t true. “I would think me and coach might have one of the best relationships out of the entire NBA. I guess people got to have something to talk about. Maybe he should come to a game. Let’s talk. If I had a problem with coach, I’d say it. I guess he comes to one game, and he can figure it out.” But of course, no mainstream media outlets ran with that story. It stayed buried halfway back in the sports pages of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Let’s be crystal clear here. My issue is not that Bill Simmons wrote an opinion column. My issue is that every mainstream media outlet and their mother, brother, and sister ran with it. “Sources say Chris Paul and Byron Scott are not seeing eye to eye.” “Reports are that Byron Scott has lost Chris Paul.” “Amid reports of conflict between Byron Scott and his star player…” Etc. It was in the Daily Dime. It was in the NBA Rumors section of every site. It was thrown in as a little parenthetical aside in articles about the Hornets losing games. My problem with it then is still my problem with it today: Bill Simmons is a guy who writes a humorous internet column. What he is not … is a source.

It’s also the selectivity of the headlines and news items that pisses me off. Simmons’ column was about the Hornets team chemistry as a whole, and it asked the question of whether they were tuning out their coach. I didn’t think it was true at the time– that was very early in the season, and the team would make a few more good runs before the season ended in rescinded trade drama, injuries, and a devastating playoff loss. Plus for every instance of the Hornets not looking like they liked each other, I had 41+ instances, personally witnessed, that told me they did. But most of the reports that pushed along Simmons’ observation and misrepresented it as fact, like a bizarre game of media telephone, weren’t worried about the rest of the Hornets team chemistry. Instead they saw the words “CHRIS PAUL” and “BYRON SCOTT’ and salivated, like wolves lunging for scraps of meat.

And here’s, really, why I’m such a big supporter of fan blogs, social media, and beat writers. In this age of the internet, when firsthand information about every team, observed by people who actually watch the games, is right here in my blogroll and my twitter feed, why should I trust these national aggregators of “news” and “rumors”, citing their “sources”, to tell me what I should believe? I haven’t included ESPN, with the exception of True Hoop, as a daily read since spring of 2008. To me, they’re a dinosaur. Don’t even get me started on the Associated Press, which will quote a blog or a Twitter account and not even put a link to it. Me, I want a trail of hypertext leading back to my source. Scratch that, I don’t just want it– I demand it.

And so today you will see the same mainstream media giants, whose team preview for the 2009-10 Hornets probably included a snippet about “if the Hornets can overcome the rumblings of friction between Chris Paul and Byron Scott,”  pound out columns. How could the Hornets do this to Chris Paul, fire the coach who was his best friend and father figure without telling him? How can a franchise be so small-time and clueless? Not a single one of them will mention how wrong they were about any of this.

Dolla dolla bills, y’all.

Logical argument is apparently a lost art in today’s culture.  Chris Paul, in Vegas to watch the Hornets’ Summer League team, was asked about Tyson Chandler, and how that trade might indicate that even someone like him could be traded.  His response: “In this league, anything can happen,” Paul told Pro Basketball News. “I can be dealt. It’s possible. It’s possible.”  Courtesy of the Times Picayune.  Notice the gap in the quote?  Who knows what was said in there.  Nonetheless, the resulting headlines in the national media were:

  1. Paul says trade ‘possible.’  - Pro Basketball News
  2. TRADES: CP3 thinks he could be traded.  - ESPN Insider
  3. Chris Paul thinks he could be traded.  – Dimemag.com

Some headlines might be better, if one scours the net?  Right?  Okay.  Let’s take a look around.  The Times Picayune read: “New Orleans Hornets 001chrispaulpresident Hugh Weber says there’s no way Chris Paul will be traded.”  Of course that headline was belied by the additional inclusion of: “the [Hornets] are desperate to dump salaries to avoid having to pay the tax penalty next summer. Due to its financial limitations, New Orleans is the only team in the Southwest Division that has yet to acquire a player through free agency or by a trade to improve its roster this offseason,” and then included the above CP quote, attributing it to Pro Basketball News.  This was followed by the quotes from the Hornets organization that led to its headline, and then absolutely no comment on either.  Way to analyze all the facts before you.

Sports Illustrated got close too.  Their headline?  “Hornets Will Not Trade Chris Paul.”  Good right?  Well, not if immediately followed by this: “Chris Paul told a reporter there’s chance he soon could be traded,” the article then quotes the purported financial/trade situation of the team from the TP (see the above), and then simply added that the Hornets say they won’t trade him, without bothering to include the quotes from any of the Hornets people.  And again, no analysis of the information.

Chris Paul, himself, nauseated by the explosion of articles about his “imminent trade,” used Twitter to tell the world: “Jus for the record too…I’M NOT GOIN ANYWHERE!!! No clue what Chris Thomasson was talkin about, but I didn’t say any of what he was sayin.“  So there it is, the truth.  No matter what was said in a hypothet, this was and is the truth.  CP knows it.  The Hornets basketball organization knows it.  And any serious basketball fan or  journalists, should damn well know it.  Why would the Hornets trade CP?  He’s a once in a generation talent.

Instead of letting it go at that, Pro Basketball News decided to follow up with “Paul Feeling the Pressure.”  Where, Thomasson argued the whole conversation was taped, and that this was what Paul really said.  Allegedly his editors listened to the tape and backed him up.  Okay, but what was the context?  What were the words before, after, and in between?  The reason Paul doesn’t remember it, in my opinion, is because he was talking in general, how the NBA is, how no one’s safe (remember to even qualify for a no-trade clause,  the player must have at least eight years of service time and four with the same team, and must then bargain for one in their contract; to my  knowledge, only Kobe has one).  As Hornets team President, Hugh Weber, said: “I think [Chris] was talking about the nature of the business and the fact that the question was asked the way it was.”  Funny how Thomasson didn’t address that point.  Just become some crafty reporter backs a star player into an awkward answer doesn’t mean his integrity is in place.  To the contrary, manipulating an honest person into giving a random quote that you intend on using as an inflammatory headline proves just the opposite.

Case in point: in supporing Thomasson, notorious Chris Paul-hater, Brett Pollakoff, posted the following article on NBA Fanhouse: “Chris Paul Caught Lying on Twitter?”, in which beyond supporting his fellow “journalist,” Pollakoff called CP a jerk for pretending not to have said what he said, and naive for not understanding the media business.  Right.  Why would Chris think that his opinion on a throwaway hypothet would be a headline?  How naive.  Or maybe it’s indicative of a larger problem; funny how the media always paints it as a player being too foolish to keep his mouth shut rather than the artificial frame of discouse constructed by a willing media agent who cares more about his name in the byline and his next paycheck than even the smallest smigden of self-respect, or dare I say it, the Truth.

So how did we go from having a completely hypothetical, sure, anyone can be traded, argument to “he soon could be traded”?  Simple.  The almighty dollar.  Today’s it’s all about the scoop.  First in time, first in line.  To get paid, that is.  Alternatively, create a crazy enough headline and just maybe enough people will jump to your site to bump your ad revenue.  What, CP is getting traded (to who)?  What, CP is a jerk (what he’d do)?  Either way, it’s about money.  Should Freedom of the Press even apply to these people?

mediaThere was a time when “journalists” researched their sources.  They got corroboration.  Apparently, today, it doesn’t matter.  So they have a tape and tore the quote out of context, guess that makes it okay.  Besides, no one trusts the internet anyway.  So what’s one more stretched truth?  Moreover, who really wants truth in an age when bickering people thrown into awkward situations with suggested responses is “entertainment?”  Reality television is the new gladiatorial games, and like then, the masses now eat it up.  It had occurred to me that sports was the purest form of entertainment left, an honorable exercise where persons are forced to play by the same set of rules and compete, their individual and/or aggregate excellence determining the winner totally removed from any political, personal, religious, or other frame of bias.  Only the media keeps ruining it.

The Truth Is Out There.  Only no one’s looking for it.  Although, apparently, no one misses it.  Maybe we should all be to blame.  We all bury our heads in the sand and accept headlines as truth when all they are is a collection of words carefully crafted by someone with an agenda.  As for me?  I’ll keep thinking for myself.  Chris Paul is going nowhere.  He’s our savior; not just for the Hornets, but for all of New Orleans.  His importance is uncomparable to any other in sports right now.  As we’ve said here over and over, his performance on the floor isn’t just MVP like, it’s historic.  As ticktock6 shared with you all, we just went to the Basketball Hall of Fame.  No Chris Paul there yet.  But someday he will be.  And while I hope it’s in a Hornets jersey, I can’t say that for sure.  Anything’s possible.

So maybe tomorrow’s blogosphere will have headlines of “Even Hornets’ bloggers unsure Chris Paul to remain in New Orleans.”  But as for me, I believe he’ll be here for a long time .  It’s what Chris said, it’s what the GM said, it’s what the team president said.  And it’s what I say.  Make up your own mind.

Addendum 07/20/09 by Ticktock6:

It took me forever to locate this post, which I remember reading back in June, because I originally thought a Celtics blog had done it. Turns out it was a Mavs blog, but it’s a fantastic account and critique of how one basketball “news” outlet put out a Rajon Rondo trade story, lifting out-of-context quotes made in 2007 out of an article and implying that they were recent. The story was then picked up by SI, ESPN, and other major news outlets and reported as fact. This was done without double checking the first story or attempting to put context to the original quotes which they then passed on to the public. And so a whole story about how all the Celtics hate Rondo was manufactured out of nothing and perpetuated all over the internet. Rondo’s agent was pissed, and rightly so. I wanted to post this link as another example of what we’re talking about and to emphasize that we’re not against this because it’s Chris Paul– we’re against bullshit like this in general.

There are two unalienable truths in the world of Hornets Hype: 1) James Posey is amazing, and 2) Tracy McGrady sucks. Rare indeed is the gossip item in which we get the two in practically the same paragraph.

Spotted at TAO Nightclub, James Posey of the New Orleans Hornets. The NBA pro was with twelve guys and girls celebrating a friend’s birthday. Tequila was a favorite at the table and the basketball player even bought a bottle of champagne for a group of girls on the dance floor.

Also seen at TAO with friends was Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady. The shooting guard was extremely friendly to all and stuck to water throughout the night.

Original post here.

I guess not everyone is epic enough to have champagne and bacon for breakfast… And no, the fact that he was allegedly nice did not succeed in distracting us from our hate. By nature this blog cannot bring itself to trust someone who goes clubbing in Vegas without drinking…