The greatest ever in the history of ever! (The search for educated honesty)
SAN JUAN (William Rosario's Somewhere in the Americas) - I'll start this column by paraphrasing American novelist Bret Easton Ellis who recently has touched upon what he calls a "very disturbing year in film criticism". I know you're thinking "what does film criticism has to do with basketball?", and you are right to ask, but hear me out.
Easton Ellis bases this statement on a trend that he says has been taking over film criticism in the US: "I have seen some pretty mediocre films get rave reviews. There have been numerous very respected writers call this past year 'the best in the history of cinema'. It has caught me by surprise, but it has also made me think about the need that exists for these critics to almost lead the charge for the medium in this great era for television and what that means for the TV vs. Movie argument. They want to keep the medium alive so that in the end they can keep their jobs alive."
Well, I think that thought and analysis can translate to basketball in our continent and specifically to journalists in this Twitter age.
I have the daily opportunity to look over a twitter feed full of basketball journalists and writers, and there's no real room for criticism in the analysis of the game, teams or players.
Let me tell you something: there is some horrible basketball being played in this continent; some horrific and irresponsible coaching going on. There's way too much ego and stat line adulation. And there's a lack of attention to detail. All of this is happening in the various competitions in the Americas, from the worst national league to the NBA.
Why is it that I never read about it? I certainly have the talk with lots of journalists who are pretty candid on the quality of the game they see in their national leagues and so forth. But when it comes to putting it out there…
"...well, uh, but wasn't X or Y great tonight?"
"...but we won the game"
"...they left everything out there"
And I go back to Easton Ellis in understanding the positivism and the fact that they don't want to sabotage their own cause. My issue with this is, how can the game grow?
I'm not a believer of liking everything. Or linking everything that comes out of my mouth to liking it.
Not every coach I talk about is Gregg Popovich. I love to talk about bad coaches. Why? Well because they are the problem, and not to resort to cliches, but to find the solution one needs to recognize the problem. And coaching is a problem in this continent.
Not every player I talk about is LeBron James or Manu Ginobili. I love to talk about bad, ignorant players that don't work hard and feel they deserve everything. There should not be any adulation for a 20-point per game player that does not believe in the team concept, in pushing themselves and that doesn't know anything about the historical context of the court he plays in daily.
Those two should not be in the shadows, and more importantly should not be put on a pedestal. I see too much of this going on.
In Argentina, I was reticent about being overexcited with one of the country's future stars in Facundo Campazzo, because I learned, back when I saw him for the first time, that he wasn't necessarily a hard worker. It rubbed me the wrong way. The kid had all the talent in the world and good for him, but he wasn't ready to be given all the accolades he was receiving at the time.
Then came 2012 and he met Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, Carlos Delfino, Pablo Prigioni… the golden generation gang. There have been reports Manu took him to task about his physique and not being in good shape. And Campazzo took it to heart, worked his behind off and is on the course to maximize his potential. Now he is deserving of the praise. He is ready. Ginobili pointed his faults out, somebody had to do it, and the kid grew.
But what happens if nobody is there to point them out?
In my country, Puerto Rico, there was the case of Peter John Ramos, a 7ft 3in center who, at age 19 debuted in the national team under the hype that he was the substitute, the next generation of Jose 'Piculin' Ortiz.
Ramos was a media construct. Ever since he started playing junior high school basketball in the island, he was tapped as the next big important player for the country. It was article after article, where they built him up and celebrated his every development, even making him believe he was to be a lottery pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. He wasn't and didn't even make the first round cut (Ramos was so pissed he was captured by the TV cameras throwing his tie to the ground).
Nobody told this guy he wasn't a disciplined enough player to grow into a star and he came into bad habits. And the press kept propping him up as a prospect, and then an experiment, until recently when he disappeared into the twilight zone. In fact Paco Olmos, Puerto Rico's national team coach, has just announced that Ramos is not part of his Spain 2014 plan.
I truly think he could have had a different road. But everybody had to play their part and not fall into the trap of making him into something he was not prepared to be.
The media, I believe, was key in this.
So I understand the attitude, but I'm weary of the results. I don't think aggrandizing mediocrity is the way. I think honesty and education is. If we filter everything through those two components, I’ll bet everybody would grow.
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