Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HustleJunkie: A Tribute to Fire Joe Morgan

Graydon returns with a tribute to FJM. You can read more of Graydon's work at 48 Minutes Of Hell.

Although fundamentally a democratic medium, blogging has a ruling aristocracy. Sites like Kissing Suzy Kolber, Free Darko, and The Basketball Jones have transcended the “parent’s basement” chatter and begun to fundamentally change the way we think and talk about the sports they cover. Included in this esteemed group is Fire Joe Morgan.

Driven by a love for baseball and a hatred of insipid sportswriting, FJM pioneered the brazen disrespect for God awful commentary that is now so popular online. But as many of you may have heard, FJM is closing up shop. I don’t take the time to criticize print journalists very often, mostly because I can hardly stand to read them anymore, but the passing of FJM deserves a tribute. Imitation is the highest form of BLAH BLAH BLAH.

But there are so many terrible basketball writers out there. Which should I choose? Woody Paige is a complete fool. Peter Vescey, a brazen liar. And the mere thought of Jay Mariotti, who blessedly can no longer be found on the pages of the Sun-Times, makes me so frustrated it’s hard to type. But only one man has that special combination of choppy prose (uhh, it hurts to call it that) and soaring overreaction that time and time again causes me to dream of throwing him out a window: Bill Plaschke.

The lisp-laden musings of the L.A. Times columnist found their way onto the pages of FJM often because, in so many words, Plaschke is a hack who often mails it in. But don’t take my word for it, let’s go to the source:

Mortals, we knew.

Mushy, we had no idea.

Wait, before I go any further I want to point something out. The article I am quoting from, entitled “Lack of toughness remains a problem,” has 40 paragraphs. 33 of those 40 are single sentence paragraphs. If this seems like a shockingly high ratio, you don’t read Plaschke often. Comparatively it’s pretty low. And does he realize he actually used the word “Mushy”? Moving on.

But they lost it at home, to an aging team playing the second of back-to-back games, with a starting center named Kwame Brown.

Yeah, that one.

Sure, most analysts would focus on their championship caliber core, the recent addition of a first ballot hall-of-fame guard or their stacked bench, but it’s a lot easier to portray the first loss of the season as an epic failure rather than a reasonable stumble if you focus on a secondary player your franchise didn’t have the patience to develop.

But the numbers 10 and 10?

Those will be a little harder to digest, seeing as they came from Brown, the former Laker single-digit debacle finishing with an unfathomable double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds. This is not a misprint.

“This is not a misprint” isn’t actually a reference to Brown’s surprisingly solid night, which isn’t so surprising when you consider the fact that he is finally under the tutelage of one of the more sophisticated post players of this era. It’s just a helpful reminder from Plaschke’s editor that, yes, in fact, a newspaper of record actually employs this man.

The Pistons, fueled by new guard Allen Iverson, used dizzying passing to create a dazzling collection of open shots, leading to 51% shooting.

This is not a review of a “Blue Man Group” show. “Dizzying” and “dazzling” have no place in a description of the Pistons offensive style. I’d also like to point out that it took him 12 paragraphs to mention a Pistons player aside from Kwame Brown. To his credit, 11 of the 12 were single sentence paragraphs so it’s not like it took a long time to read them all.

Well, um, er, actually, they are not a great offensive team yet.

This is a completely reasonable point to make. I respect the idea that it is too early in the season to declare the Lakers “great” in any capacity (although expect a convincing win on the part of the Lakers in the near future to elicit the exact opposite statement from Bill). I would just appreciate the remark more if it weren’t prefaced with such obnoxiously inorganic stuttering.

Vladimir Radmanovic was even more amazing, a 6-foot-10 man who somehow managed to completely disappear in 15 minutes, one basket, two rebounds, zero impact.

Is it really accurate to describe a disappearance on the part of Radmanovic as “amazing”? I think the word he meant to use is “predictable.”

Wait a minute. Isn't this the same tired song we heard last June in Boston? The Celtics controlled the Lakers' inside presence and easily won the game?

Actually, Friday's loss was the same kind of knock-kneed performance that cost them the NBA championship a few months ago against the Celtics.

Is anyone really shocked to hear the Lakers had a hard time with a physical frontcourt? And the use of the word “actually” doesn’t make sense. The second sentence is in no way an alteration of the first. He just repeated himself.

They had more energy. They have more fight. A perfect example occurred at the end of the first quarter, when Iverson stole a Bryant pass, ran downcourt, and tossed up a runner that floated into the basket at the buzzer.

Another example was Detroit's last basket of the first half. It came on a Prince tip after three Pistons misses. How does any team get three tips on one possession against the Bynum-Gasol Lakers?

Midway through the third quarter, another example of poor defense occurred when Brown barreled past Bynum for a dunk, then Prince drove past Radmanovic and Bynum for another dunk.

Do you guys remember 9th grade where we learned to construct paragraphs using a topic sentence and then cite supporting examples? Many 9th graders implicitly understood that when supporting your claim it wasn’t actually necessary to use the word “example” over and over.

"Lots of teams have gotten off to good starts and not even made the playoffs," he said.

This won't be one of those teams.

Now that is a bold prediction.

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