Have you stopped making a mountain out of a mole hill yet?

Posted: June 13, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , ,

As far as non-controversies are concerned, the David Stern/Jim Rome riff tops the list thus far.  To recap: Jim Rome straightforwardly asked Commissioner David Stern, in all sincerity, “was the fix in for the lottery?” referring to the New Orleans Hornets winning the first overall pick.  New Orleans had been owned by the NBA and was sold recently; Stern was also involved in the vetoing of the original trade involving Chris Paul  – a move I defended as he acted in his role as owner of the franchise with other league officials.  (For basketball reasons, vetoing that trade was smart)  Stern retorted in classic, snide, Stern way: “I have two answers for that: I’ll give you the easy one — no — and a statement: Shame on you for asking.”  After some back and forth about the ridiculousness of the question versus Rome’s job to ask what people are wondering, Stern fired off the line that got everyone up in arms: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?  At this point most people did not care to hear the rest of the interview and missed Rome handling the question with “Yeah, I don’t know if that’s fair” and a renewed discussion of public perception, Stern suggesting Rome asked the question for as a “cheap trick”, a practice Stern suggested Rome made a living off of, Rome being offended (gasp!), and an abrupt ending.

Whew.  Deadspin has the audio which you can find on their site by clicking here.

Why is this not nearly a big deal as everyone made it out to be?  Well, because it is gamesmanship between two Type-A media darlings (sarcasm Chika) and a ton of ignorance about the entire situation.  First, the question “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” was not personally directed at Rome, a guy who has no history of domestic violence.  It is a classic/famous/infamous/slick/wise-arse rhetorical logic game to illustrate a compromising position when answering said question.  Yes = I previously beat my wife but I stopped; No = I have not stopped beating my wife, thanks for asking.  The use of this trick (and general illustrations of loaded questions) can be frequently found among lawyers and products of law school training.  What do you know…Stern graduated from Columbia Law School so the phrasing was probably easy for him to employ.  Rome, to his credit, seemed to be aware of the turn of speech and didn’t take offense.  Many others – certainly his listeners- did not know and started comparing Stern’s question to that asked of Dez Byrant about his mother by the Miami Dolphins GM Jim Ireland: Is your mother a prostitute?

I want to be clear that I do think Jim Rome is not wrong for asking the question; his viewers and most people (not me) believe the draft was fixed so asking upfront would seem to help clarify the issue (though we all know that it did not matter what the Commish says because people believe what they want.  If he just said no, would people say: “Oh, glad we cleared that up”?  Doubt it.)  While Rome asked a reasonable question, the assertion behind the question (the fact that it needed to be asked) is offensive and irritating if the draft is not fixed.  No one asks that question if they believe the league to be genuine in its efforts.  That is Stern’s point: it questions his integrity and that would piss me off too.  Sure he could’ve taken the high ground and kept saying “no” and moved on as suggested by Yahoo! Sport’s Dan Devine (who blasted the Commish for his petty shot) but sometimes you get sick of answering questions that call you into question.  To Stern’s point, later in the interview he acknowledged that people would constantly think the draft was fixed regardless of if New Orleans won the pick:

“I commented last night in my presser that there was one guy who I won’t dignify by naming who says, ‘I have no reason to know anything, and I don’t know anything, but I tell you, I believe it’s fixed.’ OK, that’s good. Why is that? ‘Well, because this team won.’ And if that team won, it would’ve been fixed also, and if that team won, it would’ve been fixed also. And if every team was invited to have a representative there, and there were four members of the media there, and if Ernst and Young certified it, would you still think it? ‘Yes.’”

And no one whining about conspiracies today can reasonably respond: “I would not have suggested it was fixed if [insert other team here] won the draft.”  This is classic hate the guy in power business (plus unresolved shadiness in the Patrick Ewing draft but I digress).  Bobcats win it?  A gift to Michael Jordan to jump start the ship.  Wizards?  Great to place two great Kentucky players together – maybe lure Coach Cal. Cavaliers?  Lebron James back in the finals – let’s build them up to compete for the East.  (Remember, that was the theory last year for the Cavs).  Nets?  Team is going to Brooklyn, let’s make sure they open up with a huge splash.  It’s always a conspiracy to conspiracy theorists and it gets old and is tiring.

So yeah a whole lot of nothing and hot air and misunderstandings.  Not like we should be talking about this or that I spent 900 words on it.  Oops, non-story.

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