Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 at 12:51 am  |  39 responses

Half-Court Press

Has the media asked a real question yet? No? OK, just let me know.

by Ben Collins

We thought we’d seen all of the David Stern faces by now.

The serious face. The hey-everybody-I’m-having-a-good-time-at-this-blowout-NBA-Finals-game-I-swear! face. The quit-berating-me-with-these-questions-Jim-Gray-and-start-asking-me-about-the -WNBA-All-Star-Game-like-you’d-arranged face. The I-just-gave-the-MVP-to-this-guy? face. The face — the one on the Dan Patrick Show that we never got to see, only hear — presumably on a head the size of a Macy’s Day Parade float and visibly better and more knowledgeable than everyone in the whole wide world! Put these things on collectible plates, they’ll sell out of the back of Tim Donaghy’s getaway car like hotcakes!

Yesterday we finally got the chance to see a face that we had always wanted to see.

David Stern withdrawn. He was passive. He was ultra-reticent.

For the first time since Sternbot was rolled out of the factory, we’ve caught him backing up. Finally! He’ll admit a mistake. He’ll admit to some semblance of humanness for the first time in about ten years. He’ll relinquish his omniscience. We are all one and he is merely a cog in the wheel like the rest of us. That’s all we’ve ever wanted anyway, was just some proof that he was a fan like us and he didn’t have a hand in any of this, and now we’re going to get it.

Now somebody take the screwdriver out of the toolbox, dive it in and turn. He’ll unfurl in front of all of us, admitting mistake after mistake; league secret after league secret. A barrage of questions from left and right. Reporters reporting, asking tough questions, and finally all the truth seeps out because they see David Stern prone, vulnerable.

MJ was banned for 18 months for betting, he’ll say. Ron Artest is secretly Bobby Brown in the Witness Protection Program. That new ball? Made of kitties.

Now all we need is someone to just ask the right question. Just one person. Just one…

“Commissioner Stern, bring me through the range of emotions you felt when you first heard the news.”

Oh Jesus. You’ve gotta be kidding me.

The biggest scandal in the history of basketball — the biggest scandal in sports since Pete Rose was banished 30 years ago, or maybe even bigger — and you give me this.

“How does it feel? What are your feelings? Would you like some Tylenol? Maybe a backrub? You look stressed.”

How about asking a real question pertaining to the importance of this investigation?

Maybe a follow-up question to these two statements: Stern admitted that the system “should have been better,” but also that he will stand by his referees because he believes this was a rogue ref in an “isolated incident?”

Hey, look, this question writes itself!

“Mr. Stern, if the system should’ve been better, but you will also stand by your referees, what action, exactly, are you taking to prevent other ‘rogue referees’ from surfacing in the future?”

Pretty simple, right? It’s like a formula, kinda, but you have to decipher things by yourself. I know, so much work!

Alas, that question was not asked. But this question was.

“Considering all the security things you laid out for us, are you surprised or shocked something like this could slip through the cracks?”

Unsurprisingly, David Stern’s reaction was not: “No! Shocked!? I was delighted! I woke up June 20th with a voicemail from the FBI. I thought, ‘hey, this should be a fun, positive development for the NBA!’”

Instead we got a long, belabored response about nothing in particular.

And we can deal with the comparison drawn to German soccer leagues. We can even fathom you talking about NBA family picnics. But referencing the setup of the press conference that you’re currently holding to answer a question?

This is side-stepping. The very definition of it. And someone should have caught it.

By the end of the interview session, David Stern was almost upbeat and cheery. It sounded like he was on a break from the investigation; chatting it up with old chums, having a good time up there. Had I not known that he was going to a picnic afterwards, I would’ve assumed that the press conference was the highlight of his day.

The problem is, I should not have known that he was going to a picnic afterwards. I should have been seeing David Stern’s resigned-to-his-fate face for the first time. I should have seen David Stern unhinged.

But we never did. And we may never have another chance now. Because no one in the media even bothered to bring their screwdriver, nevermind use it.

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  • REDB21

    first???? hey maybe he’ll get asked the real questions at the picnic?

  • http://www.myspace.com/whyberickjames Ghost of Johnnie Cochran


  • Chukaz

    I think I could be the one to ask questions. Boy, I would make Sternbot’s life a living hell. Yeah, the Sternbot don’t wanna mess with this motherf*cker.

  • http://www.myspace.com/whyberickjames Ghost of Johnnie Cochran

    dos, that is

  • http://www.myspace.com/whyberickjames Ghost of Johnnie Cochran

    damn, chukaz sup?

  • http://www.myspace.com/whyberickjames Ghost of Johnnie Cochran

    ben, you better be careful talkin down on the sternbot. ya might get ya door kicked in

  • Chukaz

    The Sternbot should retire. Nobody likes him anyway and he will not be missed. Remember, love the game not the @$$hole trying to destroy it.

  • http://www.myspace.com/whyberickjames Ghost of Johnnie Cochran

    there were bats and giant stingrays swooping on the car

  • http://www.myspace.com/whyberickjames Ghost of Johnnie Cochran

    i bet the sternbot is gonna try to reinstate the old/new sexdoll ball

  • http://www.myspace.com/whyberickjames Ghost of Johnnie Cochran

    as your attorney, i advise you to rent a car with no top

  • Tariq

    Hey Ben,

    Bring me through the range of emotions you felt as you saw the press conference unfolding. Do you need an organic blueberry muffin? I myself need a “happy ending” to relieve my frustration!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    I would bounce the sh*t out of a ball made of kitties.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Barbara Walters is gonna be the new host of the Budweiser Hot Seat. Babs is gonna make motherf*ckers CRY.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Organic blueberry muffins taste good.

  • Rasheedionics

    Ben, don’t forget that Stern is a lawyer who’s been there, done that. There’s no question in this world that could rattle him. This was just a PR move which was very predictable. I didn’t expect more than what I got.

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Ben, do you think sports media are scared of Stern? A lot of those reporters at the press conference looked reticent to ask questions for (I am assuming) fear of the wrath of Stern. He has berated questioners before. I don’t remember what the question was exactly, but Stern’s response was “I just got asked if I beat my wife”. Now that could have been taken to mean “I can’t believe you’d ask a question that you know is not true” or it could have meant “I can’t believe you’d ask a question that is too personal and cuts too deep for me to answer”. Either way, the press seemed to tippy toe around Stern. Is he that intimidating?

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    “Stern’s response was “I just got asked if I beat my wife”. ” Actually, he said “I think I just got asked when I stopped beating my wife,” and that means “no matter how I answer this I sound like I’m guilty of something.”

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    Thanks for the clarification, Russ. It was a weird exchange even so.

  • Rasheedionics

    I like how one reporter started out his question by saying, “If I’m reading you correctly….”. To which Stern reply, “You don’t have to read me, you can just ask me”. Yes, they definitely skuuurrrred of him!

  • Rasheedionics

    One lady reported was so shook, she even forgot to introduce herself before asking a question. Stern stopped her in the middle of the question to ask her name. She never recover after that. Something tells me she won’t be the same for a while.

  • http://aspov.blogspot.com Cheryl

    No, she didn’t want him to know she was from the NY Post! :-)

  • http://www.google.com BETCATS

    Unsurprisingly, David Stern’s reaction was not: “No! Shocked!? I was delighted! I woke up June 20th with a voicemail from the FBI. I thought, ‘hey, this should be a fun, positive development for the NBA!’”
    That is funny

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Cheryl — Russ and Lang have sat across from him in his office, so they can speak to the question better than I can. But, having sat in on some of his “state of the league” press conferences at All-Star and The Finals, I can say that he’s not intimidating in a Bobby Knight way (another guy whose press conferences I’ve been to, and who does a pretty good job convincing you he might get up and beat your ass if he doesn’t like your question). It’s more an intellectual intimidation — you know he’s a lawyer and you know he’s really smart, and he often has this smirk (I think we’ve all seen it, though not yesterday) that implies he’s smarter than you, which he may in fact be. So there may be some of that. Also, a lot of sportswriters are stupid.

  • http://breadcity.wordpress.com Jake

    Really great post! Sports journalists need to get called out on getting asked bad questions more often.

  • Rasheedionics

    Why ask questions, when they can just read people.


    good article ben, even if you are a Dodgers fan (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

  • Allenp

    Ryan is right, a lot of sportwriters are stupid. Really, really stupid and often quite lazy. Yet so many of them still love to still in judgement of athletes. It’s funny.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    The Ben who wrote this post is a Red Sox fan. The Ben now commenting is the Dodger fan. Sorry for the confusion. Also: the Ben who wrote this post should’ve gone to the Stern conference, but as Lang wrote yesterday, we were not given much in the way of advance notice.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    The best is when sportswriters berate an athlete for being out of shape, seeing that most of them risk massive coronaries every time they get up for another free chili-cheese dog.

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    And I’m a Mets fan, just to throw that out there.


    Ben is there a way to zap my old comments and not bann me?

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin _personal

    Allenp, I can’t agree with you more. In fact, some of those guys are so lazy that they post comments “,”, “?” or “!”.

  • http://nothinpersonal8.blogspot.com/ nothin _personal

    and Russ, have you seen What Rasmussen did today? He is amazing. there is rumor though that he tested positive for testosterone a few etape’s back. And Vinokourov was not only been thrown out for the same reason, but his entire team got the kick too! You gotta love cycling!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones


  • Amanda

    In a later segment on SportsCenter, Ms. Nichols ended her piece with the bit about how she asked Stern about his ‘range of emotions.’ She was actually proud of it! Good God woman, get some chutzpah and be a reporter, dammit.

  • http://www.forillalive.com Skillet Forilla

    Damn, is Rachel Nichols ever catching some flack. It is funny how such a stock sideline reporting question draws such ire when asked in other contexts. I mean, you hear those inane questions asked of athletes all the time. Just brings the fluff to the forefront, I guess. Part of me feels bad about the amount of crap she is catching bc she was probably drilled into asking questions like this, but damn. There is a time and a place for such things.

  • http://backcourtink.blogspot.com bootlace

    Well, why wasnt SLAM there? Surely the best selling basketball magazine could have gotten in there if they really tried. Criticizing everyone else when you had a chance to do something about it doesnt seem too correct.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    ‘Cause we’re lazy, bootlace, and because it’s much more fun (and easier) to hate from the sidelines. This is what makes us great.

  • http://backcourtink.blogspot.com bootlace

    Haha, dunno if you were sarcastic there, but it is true.