Private Eye - New Blood | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Private Eye - New Blood 

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I’ve only been once to the Rocky Mountain Revue, the NBA talent drive that assembles in Salt Lake City each summer. I’m not such a diehard fan of basketball that I can’t miss a game, so I’m not inclined to check out the Revue for the simple sport of it. Nor do I pretend to have the ability to discern actual NBA talent from the wannabes that primarily populate the Rocky Mountain Revue. Most of the guys out there—while appreciatively giving it their all—are playing on dream fumes.

The one occasion I did go was not to watch the games but to be introduced to Julius Erving. Dr. J was scouting for one of the teams in the Revue, and an employee at City Weekly knew someone who knew someone, if not Dr. J himself. I took along my eldest son who had no idea who Erving was. You know, Dr. J? “Uhhhh, no,” he said. I told him if there were no Dr. J, there would be no Michael Jordan. “Why not?” he asked. That made it complicated, and I had to choose between boring my son to tears or keeping my mouth shut. I bored him to tears.

About the time I finished my Basketball 101 lecture, Dr. J walked right past us. Head nods and hand signals ensued before we were introduced and had a short “How’s the weather?” conversation. He signed a picture for my son with a personal inscription. In a few hours, the photograph was joyously and proudly placed with his other bedroom memorabilia. And, just a few hours after that, the autograph was ruined when my wife tried to preserve Erving’s signature by spraying it with hair spray. It took on the appearance of a crime-scene message scrawled in blood.

I haven’t been to the Revue since, and I wouldn’t know what I was looking at anyway. I figure that’s what coaches are for. Whomever they say is good enough is good enough for me. I know that isn’t the case for some fans, though. Local sports columnists and radio- or TV-sports jocks are also often known to criticize the coaches for not knowing how to coach those wannabes into the NBA All-Star Game. I spent the better part of two basketball seasons myself bemoaning the playing time given to former Jazz guard Carlos “Pretty Boy” Arroyo in this very column (I preferred Mo Williams). So I, too, have haphazardly drunk from the second-guessing wellspring—second-guessing is to sports writing what water is to bourbon.

That is, sports writing is better without second-guessing and bourbon is better without water. Second-guessing makes for great radio, though, and the local airwaves are full of it. But I hate it on the sports pages where it becomes repetitious and trite. Look—having written the book, I know lazy writing when I see it (like now). My theory is that when a writer is distracted (in my case, by a bottle of Patrón; in the case of Salt Lake Tribune columnists like Kurt Kragthorpe and Gordon Monson, by the lucre of a radio gig or the dread of yet another 750-word news hole), they become lazy. At nearly the same pace that I decry something said or done by Mayor Ross “Rocky” Anderson, Monson dumps on Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan, usually for not playing rookies. Not very creative. Now that he, too, has a radio program, Kragthorpe seems to be taking the same breadwinning tack of chiding Sloan to give the rookies some playing time. Lazy on copycat steroids.

Given that Monson and Kragthorpe have basically relegated their newspaper jobs to second-tier status (any good stuff gets to the radio or TV first), they are holding second jobs nonetheless. I doubt that either really wants to be replaced or fired for purely financial reasons. I don’t need a second job. Neither does Jerry Sloan, the fellow they think has singlehandedly and stubbornly cost the Utah Jazz multiple championship rings because he’s either hard on rookies or doesn’t understand them.

If the rookies can’t play, they shouldn’t be playing. It isn’t up to Sloan to turn them into stars or even starters. Sloan is charged with winning, not counseling—and any fool knows he’s superior at the former. It just makes for easy column writing to side with David. A few years ago, Monson griped about the playing time given rookies Kurt Snyder and Kris Humphries. Snyder rode the Houston bench through the recent playoffs against Utah, and wherever Humphries (not considered the brightest lightbulb in the Jazz huddle) landed, he made no imprint, either. Sloan’s fault? This year they’re already claiming that young veterans C.J. Miles and Ronnie Brewer, plus rookie Morris Almond, deserve to play more. Sez who?

When Brewer and his fellow rookies had their chance at the end of last season while filling in for injured veterans, the Jazz lost home-court advantage in the playoffs thanks to a debilitating year-end skid. They blew their chance. Naturally, the Sloan critics say he didn’t get them ready. It’s a circular argument. Some of these guys are just lucky as hell to be in the league at all, let alone have a starting job. Sort of like sports writers.

If the Jazz should play rookies, so should The Salt Lake Tribune. I say, get some new blood in there! Let that Siler in, or Wodraska, or Lewis or Renzhofer. Move over, Monson, you predictable whiner. Move over, Kragthorpe, you golfer. Too bad Jerry Sloan isn’t the Tribune editor. He’d have traded Monson and cowered Kragthorpe a long time ago.
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