Being a sports reporter isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Fans think reporters have the ultimate dream job—"you get to watch sports all day long, man!"—so they have to pretend like they love every single second of it or get called jaded or ungrateful. And to be sure, most sports reporters (I think) do love sports and enjoy their job. But like any job it has its highs and lows. Personally, I don't think I could ever be a regular beat reporter. You're always on the road away from your family, you work incredibly long hours, you sit on dozens of cramped flights a year, it is almost impossible to eat and exercise right, and you're basically treated as an annoying housefly by the people you interact with every single day.
Enter the New York Times. Regular Knicks beat reporter Scott Cacciola has to cover that dumpster fire of a basketball team every single night, and has to put up with James Dolan's insane media policies to boot. But the Times isn't going to let their beat reporter slowly have the life drained out of him every time he sees that Cole Aldrich is a starter in the NBA in 2015. In a short announcement brutally titled "Wanted: Better Basketball for a Beleaguered Reporter," they announced today that they're going to send Cacciola to anywhere but Madison Square Garden for the next month:
The Knicks, in an effort to rebuild through the N.B.A. draft and free agency, appear to have officially given up on this season. They’re an unthinkable 5-32, and on Monday night they traded away J. R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, leaving a roster that might struggle against an N.B.A. Development League team.
So the Sports department’s editors feel it is only merciful to give our Knicks beat writer, Scott Cacciola, a break from such woeful basketball. He deserves to see the game played at a higher level. For the next month or so, we would like to point him to some good, quality basketball, wherever it may be. Any suggestions?
Maybe there is another N.B.A. team that warrants his attention, or perhaps a high school or college squad. For that matter, maybe you know of a strong coed team at your local Y that Scott should write about. Tell us where to send him. Submit your ideas in the comments section.
This is perfect, just perfect. The Knicks had barely any useful NBA players before they traded two of them to the Cavaliers last night for a bunch of flotsam. It is quite possible that they're going to finish the season with the worst record in the NBA, and because they're the Knicks you can be sure that a bunch of useless soul-sucking drama is also forthcoming.
In the media-team power dynamic, the latter holds almost all of the power. They can move press row to the unreachable bowels of the arena, blatantly flaut the NBA's media access rules, deny interviews with coaches and players, and basically do anything they want to make a reporter's job a living hell, and the reporter just has to sit there and take it. After all, they need the team way more than the team needs them, right? Maybe not, at least in this case. I am sure the Times will have somebody else cover the games, but would anybody notice if they simply ran the AP game recaps? After all, the New York Freaking Times can find a million things more interesting, and more relevant to their readers, to write about than some basketball team that has thrown away their season.
Part of the sports social contract is that teams should try and win games: this is why tanking is so offensive. Sure, trading away two of their better players makes a certain amount of long-term sense for the Knicks—it increases their chance of getting a higher draft pick as well as frees up salary cap space—but it also transforms an unintentionally dismal season into an intentionally even more dismal one. The Knicks have broken the sports social contract, and the Times should therefore feel no obligation to cover them the way they always have.
For my money—and I realize how goddamn sappy this suggestion is—I think the Times should send Cacciola on a tour of the best college arenas in the country. Look, as a pure basketball product, college basketball kind of sucks. The shot clock is too long, nobody can dribble, barely anybody can shoot, and most of the good players leave after one year anyways. But attending a college basketball game with a good crowd is still a fantastic experience.
I was in Lawrence, Kansas a week ago to watch the Jayhawks take on Kent State. Kansas is good (but probably not great) this season, and after the first ten minutes they mostly ran away with the game. It was also winter break, so most of the students were home for the holidays. But still the crowd was loud as hell, with 16,000 people packing Allen Fieldhouse on a brutally cold night and singing the alma mater; Rock Chalk, Jayhawk; and any other number of chants and cheers that have been passed down through generations of KU fandom. There is no bad seat in the house, and a marching band is much better in-game entertainment than the corporate-sponsored and flashy light crap you get at an NBA game. The Times should send Cacciola on a tour of Allen Fieldhouse, Rupp Arena, Cameron Indoor, Assembly Hall, and any other iconic college basketball arena that has a game in the next month.
Or anywhere, really. As long as it isn't Madison Square Garden, he can't lose.
Photo via Jonathan Bachman/AP