Super Conflicted

The uncomfortable boosterism in media.

The uncomfortable boosterism in media.

Two summers ago, I was on my feet at Safeco Field only because it was the only way to see. As Felix Hernandez was putting the finishing touches on a perfect game on Aug. 15, 2012, the woman next to me began to weep. Her boyfriend turned to me and said, in a concerned tone, “It’s OK to look happy about this.”

But I struggled with that sentiment, as I did last night, after returning home from watching the Super Bowl with my parents. “Congratulations!” said a friend, who watched the game with my wife. I felt odd about not brightening up, but not as odd as I would have felt fist-bumping my friend over my hometown Seahawks’ 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XVLIII.
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Citation Journalism and the Blurring Lines in Reporting

A report that was disappointing in more ways than one.

A report that was disappointing in more ways than one.

Last Saturday, I saw a front-page tease on The Seattle Times that stirred my heart: The newspaper was reporting that one of my childhood idols, Spencer Haywood, had been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

But by the time I went to read the story on the newspaper’s website later that day, things had changed.

“Spencer Haywood not selected for basketball Hall of Fame,” was the only headline I could find.

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Seattle Should Fret About the Lakers

Mike D'Antoni Phil Jackson

The Lakers went with Mike D’Antoni over a third tour with Phil Jackson.

This column originally appeared at

As blasphemous as this may sound in these formerly NBA parts, I must admit that I’m worried about the Los Angeles Lakers. I know, I know. Beat El-Lay, and all that. But, conceivably the NBA will be back in Seattle, and we all want to be part of a thriving venture, the better the odds that we have the SuperSonics for at least another 40 uninterrupted years. And for that to happen, it’s essential to wish at least a little positive karma upon the City of Angels.

No matter how much it fancies itself a globally relevant enterprise, the NBA long has been a league that has thrived when its bicoastal American anchors also have. On the Left Coast, L.A. by far is the most meaningful pushpin on the basketball map.

I started covering the NBA when it was pulling itself out of the ashes, previously branded a “drug league” or “too black,” and badly trailing the NFL and Major League Baseball in sports relevancy. It may have re-branded itself as more accessible and fan-friendly, but the NBA’s reanimation came mainly on coattails of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, two polar opposites in style, personality and geography. So the Lakers are my frame of NBA bling reference — Magic to Worthy, Riley in Armani, the Sky Hook, Coop-a-Loops, the Laker Girls, Showtime.
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M’s are SkyWalking in Flirtation with Hamilton

Alone, free agent Josh Hamilton may be too big a risk for the M’s.

This column originally appeared at

David Thompson was 29, had started in the NBA All-Star Game the season before, and should have been at the height of his SkyWalking powers when he took a literal fall from grace in 1984. During a melee with a nightclub employee, he rolled down the stairs at New York City’s famed Studio 54 and right out of professional basketball, his knee a wreck.

Many have argued that Thompson once was basketball’s greatest player, better than his contemporary, Julius Erving, and a precursor to high-flying NBA royalty such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Truth is, by the time the Seattle SuperSonics acquired him in 1982, Thompson was on the decline because of struggles with alcohol and cocaine. He’d sworn them both off, but such was their hold that he and five teammates, after playing a game in Philadelphia, took a cab from New Jersey to chase the high life in Manhattan.

That season was the first of many I spent covering the Sonics for The Seattle Times, so I remember it vividly. Which is why, in another lifetime and another sport, I hope Jack Zduriencik has a Plan B—not just in case the Seattle general manager doesn’t sign Josh Hamilton as a free agent for the baseball Mariners, but in case he does.
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Gone, but Hardly Muted

It’s just occurred to me that I listened to Bob Blackburn during the 25 most formative years of my life. I first listened to him for 15 years on the radio, delivering an almost nightly Sonic serenade, mostly in the dark, on my scratchy transistor radio. I then was a captured audience during my first 10 years as a sportwriter, during which Bob was a travel and dinner companion, and tennis partner on the long and long-winded NBA road.

Bob Blackburn, 1924-2010

Man, the guy could talk. It’s difficult to fathom The Voice silenced. Not even death, which came to Bob Blackburn today, Jan. 7, 2010, could muzzle him. I mean, as I contemplate and grieve his passing, Bob’s voice, clear as a bell, comes flooding back, describing Bob “The Golden” Rule’s 47 rookie points so vividly I almost think I actually was there. Or like I was in Washington, D.C., when Gus Williams threw the ball way up in the air and Les Habegger did the “Habegger Hop” after the Sonics won the 1979 NBA championship. Bob was the reason I ran out to my porch that day to listen to what seemed like the entire city of Seattle honking its horns in celebration.
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