Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Politico" does it again

Politico is a rather new print and online newspaper in Washington, but their influence in American politics has been felt rather quickly, and that hasn't been a good thing. Lately, Media Matters for America has flagged a few of their writers for misinformation and smears on Democrats.

This morning, around 11am, writer Ben Smith posted on the front page of as fact that John Edwards was going to suspend his presidential campaign, AND may drop out completely due to the reoccurence of his wife's breast cancer. He later updated his story to say that the Edwards campaign denied those statements, then issued a complete apology on his blog to his readers early this afternoon (AFTER Edwards and Elizabeth spoke to the press in the 12pm hour).

He admitted that his story was based on one anonymous source, one that he claims has been a reliable source of his for years and said was a "friend" of the Edwards campaign (and NOT a part of it). More importantly though, Smith basically broke a long-standing rule of journalism, which is to verify your key information in a report with at least TWO independent sources, especially if they're anonymous.

In the 24-hour news cycle we live in, journalists feel the competitive pressure often times to get their story out there first, but there's no excuse for not meeting some basic requirements of journalism. Who knows how Ben Smith's bosses will treat him after this incident, but it is just one more chapter of misinformation by this newspaper, at the expense of the same political party, he Dems, and hopefully enough major media outlets will see through that soon and point out their biased or untrustworthy writers in the future. Candy Crowley and CNN sort of did today when she said Politico is known for having "crackerjack" reporters. That's a decent start.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Boston Celtics: Trials and Tribulations

Before I begin, let me just point out that it was a week ago tonight that Celtic great Cedric "Cornbread" Maxwell got burned by first, the local media, then an out-of-control mainstream media (surprise, surprise) for what Glenn Ordway and others called a Tom Heinsohn "impression" of a referee.

Nevermind that last Monday night, the Celtics started their current 4-game win streak by beating an undermanned Houston Rockets team. What the media in this town did and elsewhere after Maxwell's remark was plain pathetic, simply said. First, they claimed his insult of a fellow black, female referee was a joke, then those who thought he was serious compared him to the anti-gay and former NBA star Tim Hardaway, or like AOL sports, described him as a towel-waving reserve/bench player from the '80s - a description that is not only wrong, but often describes former Celtics player and coach M.L. Carr.

But what is most insulting is what some of my favorite WEEI broadcasters are saying: that Maxwell was doing an "act" that he always does, this time it was making fun of how Tom Heinsohn criticizes referees. Other than the groans and "agghs" at the end of his rant, at NO POINT is Maxwell's remark that the female official Violet Palmer should "Go back to the kitchen...and make some eggs" an ACCURATE impression of the great Tom Heinsohn.

If Glenn Ordway is right, that Cedric was just "mimicking" Heinsohn, one is to imply that Heinsohn made sexist comments about female referees in the past 20+ years he's been broadcasting NBA games. I've never heard of one instance of such a case, and if you did, please fill me in, 'cuz his reputation would have been scarred for life in this town no doubt.

Not even Danny Ainge found what Maxwell said to be funny or appropriate and rightly believed Max needed to apologize for what he said. But Max did a lawyerly apology last Wednesday and basically said "if" what I said offended anyone, "then I apologize." He then went on to praise Ms. Palmer and say how she's come a long way to be in the NBA, blah blah blah.

The point is, I've been listening to Maxwell since his days with Howard David and I know his quirky (quacky) act, but Max (and Sean Grande, who basically started the rant by grunting Palmer's name) screwed up. And I believe they both knew it right away because if you listened to the audio clip of the rant (from WEEI or the Internet), you would rightly assume that the praising that Max and Grande did of Palmer RIGHT AFTER Max made his sexist rant was nothing but a CYA compliment meant to avoid the criticism he ultimately had to deal with.

Oh, and that winning streak the C's are on? That's not a good thing, according to some fans and pundits (Mike Felger, and the WEEI morning show crew among them). They would say the Celtics are so injured and so bad now that they should just give up, fake injuires and lose enough games to guarantee them a chance to get the #1 or #2 draft pick (either Oden or Durant). I disagree, at least for now. But if circumstances change drastically (such as any MORE key injuries or reinjuries, think Pierce or Big Al), then I may reconsider, but let's look at how the Celtics got to their present situation and how it informs my apparent minority view of what the team should do.

It's worth mentioning that before the season began, the C's tried to land a high-profile free agent and make a big-time trade, but Ainge failed to come up with one and instead made a puzzling trade that sent injury-plagued Raef LaFrentz to Portland for a popular but sometimes troubled young stud, Sebastian Telfair, who's played about one good month of ball this year so far. And speaking of injury-plagued, I just learned that Wally has been injuried 4 of the last 5 years. I know Ainge had to get rid of Blount and Davis (based on personality disorders, not lack of talent) but didn't he know he might be the Ken Griffey Jr. of the Celtics? Couldn't he have done better than Olowakandi and Wally? I barely liked the trade when it happened, I admit, but I didn't know the injury history that Ainge must have known - he gets paid to know, I don't, and I would've shopped Blount and Davis elsewhere or kept them if there were no takers (and benched either or both if they were such a distraction).

But Ainge really needs to stop shopping for damaged goods - hardly any Theo Ratliff this year and very little of Michael Olowakandi since he's been here. I understand that Ainge isn't the only reason that more than 70% (maybe higher) of the team has had mild-to-major injury problems this year; even Brian Scalabrini had to miss a few games. That's just bad luck. But the Celtics are sort of used to that by now, aren't they? And believe me, it hurts as a loyal fan to see all this talent and not even 20 wins to show for it.

Doc Rivers has coached his ass off this year and watched Big Al become a reliable scorer and rebounder, the likes Celtics fans haven't seen since Robert Parish left town. He's really taken second-year star-in-the-making Gerald Green under his wing and watched him fly to the net with one exciting dunk after another, win the NBA's annual slam-dunk contest, and get more confident in his shooting skills, scoring so much that Tom Heinsohn often yells "Get Gerald the ball!" And the Celtics have listened, as his PTS/Gm has soared to near 10 over the last couple of months. He's seen Delonte West fight through shooting struggles and injuries to become a leader by example (and hit some clutch, game-winning shots to boot). And Ryan Gomes, NOT Paul Pierce, has the team's only triple-double so far this year. Just in his second year as well, his talent proves that you can find solid NBA players in the second round of the draft.

What it comes down to is this: now that Pierce is about 90% of himself again and the team is starting to gel as a unit and win, they need to keep it up, become a spoiler and show the league and their fans what they could have been - a legitimate playoff team. (If they were healthy, the Celtics, who WERE in first place earlier this season, may have had a great chance of battling Toronto for the division title and thus home court in the first round of the playoffs.) They should be able to finish with around 23-25 wins, and in doing so, keep improving their young players in order to pull off a big trade for a reliable, top-notch veteran PG or big man like Pau Gasol.

Look, I know adding Greg Oden to the Celtics would be great for the franchise, no question. But he's only a freshman in college this year and there's no guarantee that he will become a great NBA player anytime soon. Established players like Pau Gasol, on the other hand give you instant offense and rebounding, and along with Jefferson, the one-two punch in the middle that Pierce and company need to win every night and be a perennial playoff contender (in the weaker of the two conferences). If the C's have to give up Perkins or Gomes, Wally and a draft pick as part of such a deal, so-be-it. He and players of his ilk are worth it and I'm sure Danny Ainge has his eyes set on a trade for someone like him. It's just a matter of who he's willing to give up to get the Gasol's of the league.

That type of deal should be the goal, as well as signing a big-time free agent now that the C's are out of salary cap hell. You must realize that being a cellar team is no way to attract big-time free agents. So please, knowing our luck with Tim Duncan, let's do the big trade and not HOPE the ping-pong balls bounce our way for Oden (who is right now, two years younger than Jefferson!).

The time is now for Ainge and Rivers to turn this franchise around, before it's too late, and before Pierce wants out of Boston or becomes a shell of himself as he enters his 30s.