Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Don’t Rain on Our Parade

with 3 comments

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / June 17, 2009
(Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / June 17, 2009)

We’ve got to honor and respect the place of sports in society.

Following the Lakers’ world championship victory in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, there were reasons for L.A. fans to celebrate. A Lakers victory brought a well-deserved sense of pride to the players, and many messages to their fans. This Lakers team demonstrated some of the time-honored lessons of sports. They showed the beauty of athletic performance, the will to overcome adversity, the value of teamwork and individual leadership, and the determination to redeem oneself.

The arena of sports provides us with focused and measurable accomplishment. The invented constraints of time and regulations give the boundaries, while the immeasurable human forces of competition, determination and frustration give sports its spirit. At least since Greek times and the original Olympics, these things have been valued by Civilization. Kurt Streeter’s eloquent report from Eugene, Oregon on the Prefontaine Classic reminded us (“This is track as it should be”, Los Angeles Times, Monday, June 8, 2009).

But there have been two things to mar the Lakers’ victory, and we should be careful to nip them in the bud. First, of course, was the needless and mindless violence that erupted around Staples Center on Sunday night. Police chief Bratton rightfully called those involved “knuckleheads”.

Times editors must bear the responsibility for the other knucklehead, T. J. Simers (“Idolatry of Lakers is ludicrous”, Los Angeles Times, Monday June 15, page U2).  When the Times continues to employ a sportswriter whose main concern is criticizing professional athletes’ personas (witness his on-going feuds with many a Dodger or Laker player, coach or owner), it does a disservice to the readership. “Winning it all makes them no more appealing, Kobe still over the top absurd in his mood swings, Pau still carrying on like someone swiped his rattle, Phil so above it all it’s surprising he doesn’t demand to be carried off the court like Cleopatra…” writes Simers.

What’s amazing to this sports fan is just how cooperative the athletes can be with television and print journalists. How strong and supremely patient do you have to be, in order to answer all those questions—from the immediate on-court interview at half-time, to the endless questions during the after-game press conference? Not to mention the pre-recorded features, the public appearances, and the competitive pressure of the game itself. And then to have some wisecracking hack write, “a victory doesn’t make unlikable athletes likable.”

The Lakers, with the salary cap, have to decide about bringing back Odom and Ariza. But for the Times, operating at a loss already, there should be no hesitation: Get rid of T. J. Simers. Bring on a brilliant writer, like Dan Neil, to review the sleek performance of the human athlete. Or assign the compassionate and eloquent Steve Lopez to the story of Derek Fisher’s challenges as a parent.

But don’t let us suffer through another column by T. J. Simers.

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Written by Frank Lloyd

June 17, 2009 at 7:34 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Reading through this blog made for stimulating Sunday morning reading. Thank you.

    Lakers: Phil Jackson, when describing Derek Fisher, observed it was all about character. How Fisher’s life changed in a minute with his daughter’s cancer is a lesson in itself. However, his life story from outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, to the University, to the Lakers, Suns, Jazz, and back to the Lakers woven with his parents, wife, children, and church is a remarkable story, an American story. Fisher’s story and the Laker story on the role of leadership and character, maturation from youth to men, overcoming adversities magnified by relentless publicity are stories which should be reserved for the best American writers perhaps outside of the LA Times writing staff into a book reaching adolescents to adults, male and female.

    Meanwhile, we need to demand the LA Times editors step up with their assignments from the sports desk. Angelenos deserve better.

    Joan Takayama-Ogawa

    June 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm

  2. Frank,

    You have nailed it. As you know I used to be a HUGE Laker fan. Remember watching the game together at Typhoon? In recent years I have been sickened by the journalism. I have let it spoil the game for me.
    Norman and I were talking about how has the luster been tarnished, and we came up with journalism. But wait, there is more! Not just the poor sports writing from the L.A. Times but the seemingly unquenchable appetite fans have for ‘backstories’ that really have nothing to do with the game. That is just tedious.

    I find the violence in direct reaction to a celebration deeply troubling. I find the TV coverage of ‘getting ready for the violence’ (i.e. getting ready to the reaction to the parade)deeply troubling.

    I miss Chick Hearn…

    Keep doing what you do,
    Michele

    Michele

    June 30, 2009 at 1:26 am

  3. Michele,
    Well, thank you for the comments. We have been fortunate in Los Angeles to have such voices as Chick Hearn and Vin Scully, who always gave us the human side of the story and were full of insight and information. I can still recall, as well, the columns by Jim Murray. But now we have a new group of sports journalists, and an emphasis on business and entertainment in their writing. It’s time to refresh the collective memory of what sports can be.
    I do remember going to see the NBA finals Typhoon, so let’s go there again. You and Norman could come by to see our show first.
    Frank

    franklloydgallery

    June 30, 2009 at 2:03 am


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