Times Picayune, we need to talk.
As in, we need to have a serious conversation about what is or is not acceptable when you are the hometown paper covering a premier Western Conference team. I get that there are 82 games, and probably every time the Hornets have a huge win the real rabid fans are going, “OH MY GOD that was the biggest game EVER!” Like the previous Suns win? Possibly the biggest game ever. The Spurs win? Undoubtedly the biggest game ever. So I understand that you kind of need to take that kind of attitude with a grain of salt. And being a professional media source, you can’t be freaking out over every big game that happens throughout the course of an 82-game season.
In the past week, the New Orleans Hornets have been seriously slumping, casting some slim shadows of doubt over their overachievingly amazing play thus far in 2008. In January the Hornets were blowing other teams out to the tune of 14-20 points per game. In the last three games, they’ve been blown out. The defense took a break, Chris Paul had one of his worst games ever, and David West struggled after being named to his first All Star Game. It was their longest losing streak of the season. And the last game of their road trip was at Phoenix, the team that recently leapfrogged back ahead of the Hornets for the top spot in the West. It was conceivable, albeit horrifying, that the Hornets could go 0-3 on the trip.
But they didn’t.
Instead the Hornets duked it out with the Suns through two OTs, in a thrilling offensive battle of two top teams and two top point guards, and managed to get the ball to Peja, who made the perfect buzzer-beating shot and got instantly piled on by Chris Paul and all his teammates. And really, all the doubts sort of disappear, don’t they? Because if you can hang tough in that game, you deserve to be where you are. If you’re going to break a 3-game losing streak, is there a better way to do it? And man, this game topped all the highlight shows, and rightly so. It was referred to by several people as the most exciting game of the regular season thus far. (NBA.com: “Hornets Burn Suns in Instant Classic”) Even if you aren’t a Hornets fan, what was not to love about that game?
But did the game end early enough to make the paper? That is the question. And the answer is yes. Oh yes. But as I held the TP sports section distastefully by the corner, similar to the manner in which one might hold a dead rat by the tail, “What,” I said, “is this?” (Click on photo at above left to enlarge if you can’t read what the big story was this morning. Click. I dare you.)
Really only one word comes to mind, and that word is “WTF.” (Which is not technically a word, it’s an acronym, but shut up, I’m rolling.)
Come the fuck on, Times Picayune. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you probably had the fascinating breaking sports news of Tulane and LSU’s freshmen (for NEXT YEAR) already prepared. And look, you saved space on the front page for the Hornets game. Pretty skinny column, though. Almost as if… you expected them to lose. And were only going to grudgingly bestow upon those second-rate losers their allotted one inch of space and no more, dammit. And here I was having fantasies of CP3 jumping on Peja in color under a headline.
But, you say, maybe it was too late and they couldn’t get a picture. Okay, maybe. That’s a valid point. If it were not for the fact that here’s the back (see left). If it was football, you better believe they would have saved the space, late game be damned. How are the Hornets to be expected to grow a fan base without quality coverage by the local media? How can the Hornets be taken seriously by the national media when the local media doesn’t take them seriously?
Maybe the TP lacks experience in covering an 82 game season. It shows. Let me make an analogy. In soccer or hockey, it’s possible that you’ll only have 1-4 scoring plays per game. Therefore each time either team scores, it’s a big deal. In basketball, you’re going to run up and down the court and make (if you’re the Hornets in winning mode) roughly 40-50 scoring plays per game. Do you cover each and every one? Of course not. It doesn’t make sense. So what do you cover?
The plays that swing the momentum.
It’s the same with an 82 game season. Some games are more important than others. If you’re going to cover one of these sports, and cover it in a meaningful way, you’ve got to get your head around the idea of momentum. You’ve got to know that this was as huge a game as it was. You’ve got to recognize them when they come. If you’re going to skimp on coverage of a game, for God’s sake, make it the one where the Hornets bitchslap the Heat or the Grizzlies or the Clippers.
Not a game like this.
I urge Hornets fans to write in, go to nola.com and leave a comment, whatever. The coverage has gotten marginally better, but clearly there’s a long way to go. Demand better coverage.
A marquis matchup and we get Tulane football. In February. Jesus. I’m dying here.
I know the Hornets’ attendance woes are not the Times Picayune’s problem, and it’s unfair either to lay blame at their feet or to suggest that they have a responsibility to hype a product that isn’t theirs. But imagine Peja Stojakovic in color. Imagine large bold letters. Imagine a side article about Chris Paul vs. Steve Nash.
And underneath all this, in a box, imagine: “Next Game: Saturday 7 PM vs. Memphis. Call Ticketmaster for tickets.”
Imagine the world you want to see.