I missed the beginning of the conversation, but Mike and Mike this morning had a lengthy conversation today about the terrible state that our society is in. I tuned in when Greenie was recounting Stephon Marbury's response to Harvey Araton of the New York Times about whether Marbury should be starting his own talk show during the middle of the basketball season. Marbury responded: "I don't have an answer; I don't answer to nobody." This response is, of course, the seventh sign of the apocalypse, so Mike and Mike picked over its entrails at some length (forgive the mixed metaphor).
Some of their conversation follows.
Greenie: "these guys have been stars on some level, from the time they were little kids.
Golic: "been told how great they are and put up on a pedestal."
Greenie: "They've been told 'you can do whatever you want and there will be no consequences and when you add to that money...beyond anything anyone could ever spend...unlimited riches beyond most people's wildest imaginations from the time they are twenty years old (or younger)...it's certainly easy to see how someone could go from there to 'I don't have to answer to you..."
The two then have a brief discussion about whether this is more prevalent in the NBA than the NFL. Initially, Greenie says no, but Golic disagrees.
Golic: "Listen, I'm not going to say there aren't prima donnas in the other sports...but it's mostly in the NBA and you just gave the reasons for it...they're put up on a pedestal and told how great they are at an early age...they're drafted out of high school...so, do they have to turn out that way, absolutely not, but it's good ground for it. In football, they're older, they've been to college and there three years older and you hope they're a little more mature...in baseball, for the most part, 99% they're going through the minor leagues, riding the bus for a while. The ground for that to happen in the NBA is most fertile because of the way it's set up."
After a break, Greenie described the conversation he and Golic were having as "important and worthwhile" and prompted by a New York Times article from Tuesday, which Greenie paraphrased as posing the following question:
"How did we get to a point in sports where a player like Reggie Bush, upon scoring a touchdownin a football game, before even reaching the end zone is pointing at the opposition in mockery...for no reason at all, beyond 'look at me.'"
Greenie and Golic then discussed Marbury's comment, nothing that he wasn't even being defiant and that they weren't really even criticizing him.
Greenie: "It's a completely accurate representation of the way that we have raised Stephon Marbury and others to think. When you make someone a star when they're ten years old, and you give them all the money in the world, and all the adulation and all the fame and allow them to bend, if not break, every rule along the way, because we can benefit from their talent, then don't blame them for becoming a little egomaniacal."
Greenie and Golic then return to the uniqueness of the NBA in this regard. Greenie offers the following analysis of football contracts, compared to NBA ones:
"you are not financially secure, and filthy rich, until you have made it. You have to accomplish something in pro football and even then, once you do, your contract is not guaranteed so you have to earn it year to year...and it's not just how you play, they are behaviorally monitored."
Greenie and Golic then discuss the contract situation in the NBA, though Greenie grudgingly admits that the rookie wage scale has brought a "modicum" of sanity to the NBA.
Finally (for our purposes), Greenie says "don't shoot the messenger, don't blame Stephon Marbury" for a situation we've all created.
Golic: "I'm not going that far.IThere's human nature, there's being just a good person and having just a little common sense and understanding someone's paying you and you have a boss sometimes...I'm not giving Marbury a pass and saying it's society's fault and it's the NBA's fault."
"If you believe we've raised a generation that's me oriented, it's about me, just notice me, I'm not concerned with what anyone else thinks, then certainly that is a larger issue than an individual."
Whew. Where to begin?
Let's start with whether Stephon Marbury is a good person. Golic says no. Why? Well, mainly, it appears, because Marbury doesn't think he needs to tell a reporter why he's doing a mid-season talk show. Like many sports commentators, Golic proceeds from the premise that employers. such as sports owners, are paying employees, including athletes, out of the goodness of their own hearts and, as a consequence, that these ingrate athletes should all genuflect before those wealthy enough to own franchises and other big businesses. Because, lord knows, Marbury's boss, the esteemed James Dolan worked awfully hard to be the son of Charles Dolan and has done nothing but sacrifice for the well-being of his players and the city of New York since taking control of Madison Square Garden. Actually, Golic's comments are less coherent than I am giving him credit for, because Marbury doesn't draw a pay check from Harvey Araton, or the New York Times, or anyone else in the media.
Golic has articulated one standard for judging whether someone is good - does he talk respectfully to the media. Another standard might be to judge somebody by, oh, I don't know, the things they do for people who are actually in need (forgive me for not putting high-paid sports reporters on the top of my list of groups most worthy of our sympathy and charity).
Here, is what the highly respected Sports Business News, in its round-up of the NBA in 2006, has to say:
Stephon Marbury isn’t a marquee NBA player in the rarefied air Bryant and Wade belong to, but what Marbury contributed to the game in 2006 may the true lasting legacy one NBA player left the sports industry.
He has been named to The Sporting News list of “Good Guys in Sports” three times. He was one of the highest donors to the NBA Player Associations Katrina Relief effort, donating $1 million dollars to the effort. He currently has 7 barbers on hire in Coney Island giving free haircuts to neighborhood children. But it’s his Starbury Ones basketball shoes that represent what one day might become Marbury’s lasting legacy to basketball, to tens of thousands of children and their families – affordable shoes and basketball apparel for the community.
Earlier this month Footwear News, an industry magazine, recognized the impact Marbury’s product launch had on the industry by awarding Marbury its “Launch of the Year”. Footwear News’, who also publishes Women’s Wear Daily, award is thought to be the “Oscars of the shoe industry”. Marbury and his partners retailers Steve & Barry's last week also announced they are donating a free pair of Starbury One high performance basketball sneakers to every varsity high school boys basketball player in New York City. The donation of 3,000 pairs of Starbury Ones is part of a new agreement that makes the Starbury brand a partner of the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL). The PSAL directs all athletic competition among the 193 public high schools in the five boroughs.
Marbury launched his product ‘revolution’ on August 17, and followed that with a 21- city tour promoting the shoes and the accompanying clothing line. The product launch and the subsequent tour was timed to send a message to parents from lower income families as they were conducting their back-to-school shopping, you can afford to have your kids look and feel like an NBA basketball player. The shoes retail for $15 a pair. To date more than 3 million Starbury Ones basketball shoes have been sold.
Stephon Marbury said at the time of the release: "Kids shouldn't have to feel the pressure to spend so much to feel good about the way they look. I'm blessed to be in a position to do something about it, to help change the world. I couldn't find a better partner to create the Starbury Collection with than Steve & Barry's. For 20 years, their entire business has been about selling great quality clothes for much less than people expect they should cost."
Steve & Barry's co-CEO Barry Prevor added: “This is a very exciting moment for Steve & Barry's. When Steve and I founded our company in 1985, it was with a mission to bring people the most unbelievable values on clothes they've ever seen. That's exactly what Steph's vision for the Starbury Collection is all about, so this has been a fantastic partnership from the first day we met. Like Steph, we want to revolutionize how people shop, and this new line will help us continue to make that happen.”
Marbury commented, "It was very important to me that the Starbury Collection have a strong social component for kids and parents, especially in urban areas. Steve & Barry's and I decided to conduct the design contest so kids could give real input into how the Starbury line is created and as a means to give back to youth and the community."
Man, what an asshole!
There's plenty else that's wrong here. Baseball players drafted straight out of high school, if they're high picks, also sign multi-million dollar signing bonuses. High NFL draft choices make many times more money than do high NBA draft choices. The No. 1 pick in the 2004 NFL draft was Eli Manning. By the time he'd thrown his first NFL pass, he'd signed a $54 million dollar contract, including a $20 million signing bonus. By contrast, LeBron's first three years, 2004 to 2006, earned him a little less than $13 million total. (LeBron, of course, made a lot more in endorsements, but I think it's fair to say he's been worth it). I think we can quickly dispense with the question of who's earned their money, and who hasn't. Greenie used the phrase "modicum of sanity" to describe the NBA rookie pay scale. He either has no idea what he's talking about, or he's just being dishonest, if the goal is to characterize fairly how, salary-wise, the NFL and NBA stack up for players newly entering the league, especially among the top players.
Then there's the notion, expressed most forcefully by Greenie, that this generation of athletes has been spoiled and pampered from an early age, which leads in a straight line to their catastrophic refusal to explain themselves to reporters. Is Greenie suggesting, therefore, that he wishes he could have had Stephon Marbury's childhood? A child hood in which Marbury was one of seven kids growing up in an urban hell, as depicted in Darcy Frey's The Last Shot? Greenie himself grew up in New York City, the son of a lawyer. Did he really not hear himself suggest this morning that Stephon Marbury had had everything handed to him since he was eleven years old by contrast with, we are to assume, guys like Greenie, who had to scratch and claw his way through a brutal middle class child hood?
A few months ago, in writing about the T.O. O.D. episode, I picked on the staggering self-absorption and lack of perspective that afflicts many in the sports commentariat. OK, so that wasn't the only time. But, this morning's "important and worthwhile discussion" as Greenie put it, deserves its own place among the great moments in self-absorption and lack of perspective.
Update: I forgot to add this:
The NBA Player's Association pledged $2.5 million to Hurricane Katrina relief in the Fall of 2005. According the NBAPA's press release:
New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury personally pledged $500,000 to $1,000,000 at the press conference. An emotional Marbury fought back tears as he talked about the plight of Katrina's victims. "I see those kids crying, and I think about my kids," he said. Marbury also downplayed the significance of his contribution, saying, "It’s not about money. We have to take our cares to another level, just the way we treat people."