As I read this Slate.com piece about John Wooden, it occured to me that I had heard a bad word spoken, or read a bad word written about the man. Tommy Craggs at Slate.com would like to be the first.
It's not like it's a total smear job of Wooden, or anything along those lines. There's no newsworthy revelation like, for example, John Wooden dousing a petting zoo with gasoline and then setting it on fire. Just the observation that John Wooden is not down with the "flashier" elements of today's game: dunks, passes that don't bounce, showmanship, etc., and the implications of that.
To sportswriters, he has always offered a perfect foil for whatever pernicious elements happen to be ruining basketball at the moment. They always look to Wooden, a fixed point from which to plot the sport's fall from some imagined (and, let's be honest, whiter) state of grace. He is their reminder of a time that never really was, a Hummel figurine of the hardwood.
Fair? I don't know, but Bill Walton's going to kick this guy's ass. Honestly, I don't know a lot about Wooden, other than the typical glowing articles or features I've seen about him. If he embraces the whiter aspects of basketball above others, then he's certainly not the only one (David Stern comes to mind). But if you've been watching any of the John Wooden Tournaments currently going on in college basketball, you might welcome the break from the Wooden worship.