I honestly thought that the national media’s actions concerning their collective obsession with John Calipari couldn’t go much more off the reservation. While every college basketball reporter continues to seek out the silver bullet that will derail the Calipari train, I was under the assumption that all such attempts would at least follow the basic tenets of reporting and rely, at least somewhat, on some correlation to facts. Yes, Pete Thamel’s reports have more factual holes than Casey Anthony’s alibi, but they at least attempt to deal in the realm of actual events, rather than total raw speculation. I believed that in the future we could at least rely on reporters to deal with findings, instead of throwing something against the wall and seeing what would stick.
I was wrong. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has taken a step off the deep end of the Calipari obsession pool once again, this time under the cover of a “story” about Freshman UK player Anthony Davis. I won’t link the story (hits just encourage them), but if it is important to you to find it, feel free. The title of the column on his blog is as follows:
FAIR OR NOT, KENTUCKY FRESHMAN DAVIS MUST FACE “SCANDAL.”
The title itself illustrates the passive-aggressive nature of Parrish’s article to come. He wants to distance himself from any real accusation (and thus responsibility) and instead seeks cover by arguing he is only dealing with an issue outside of him, “whether fair or not.” What follows is a regurgitation of the most ridiculous allegation yet given towards John Calipari, the throwaway line by a Chicago Sun-Times HIGH SCHOOL REPORTER that there were rumors Anthony Davis was given $200,000 to come to Kentucky. The reporter cited no facts, no accompanying evidence and instead threw a “rumor” against the wall with absolutely no corresponding support. The Calipari haters of course jumped on it at the time, citing the rumor while taking cowardly cover in the supposed journalistic reputation of the Chicago Sun-Times organization. Many in the national media criticized the story, but some embraced it and it became a talking point. It was a big deal for a few days and then, basically went away.
Now we are nearly eight months later and Parrish decides to start the story all over again. He writes:
What makes him most interesting though — besides the growth spurt in the summer of 2009 that transformed him from a 6-3 guard into a 6-10 forward — is that Davis is the only Calipari recruit to ever be publicly tied by a mainstream media outlet to a recruiting scandal before enrolling. That might surprise some given Calipari’s reputation among most college basketball fans. But the truth is that the NCAA never has charged Calipari or any of his programs with a major recruiting violation, and no major website or newspaper had ever alleged serious cheating until the Chicago Sun-Times staff writer Michael O’Brien reported last August that Davis’ father had negotiated a deal worth $200,000 to send his son to Kentucky.
With whom did Davis’ father negotiate this alleged deal?
O’Brien never went that far.
His report, even if true, was thin.
Unbelievably, Parrish writes this as if it is in good faith. He calls the O’Brien rumor a “report”, even though O’Brien never showcased any evidence and to his (minimal) credit, never suggested that it was the truth. Parrish then goes farther to suggest that this report “even if true, was thin.” Even if true, it was thin? Only if by thin you mean nonexistent. The Chicago Sun-Times article wasn’t even a report…it was the recitation of a rumor. My guess is that O’Brien himself wouldn’t even call the article a report, but Parrish has elevated it to a “thin” report and has left open the possibility it was true. He leaves the reader believing that a major newspaper reported Calipari paid a player, when it did no such a thing. Could that be any more irresponsible?
I continue to be utterly flabbergasted by the lengths some reporters will go to bring down their Calipari white whale. I am not sure if they have forgotten their journalistic standards, or if they simply bend them due to their desire to make news and get clicks on their website. But no matter the reason, they seem to forget whatever level of responsibility they previously had in their attempts to take shots at Calipari/Kentucky. Gary Parrish finished his article by writing:
He’s going to be phenomenal on the court, no question. But whether his stickback dunks and blocked shots in college are forever overshadowed by allegations of impropriety remains undetermined, proof being how many of the questions Davis faced in Ohio last week were about exactly that, fair or not.
Parrish implies that questions about this rumor will dog Anthony Davis during his entire time at Kentucky. No one on earth likely reads more about Kentucky basketball than I do. In the past 4-6 months, I honestly can’t recall one article being written about the Davis rumor or it being brought up at any point. Now, with little to write, and time on his hands, Parrish throws the grenade back on the table and asks if it will “overshadow” his UK career.
The sad thing is that Parrish knows it will not. Instead, he wrote the story as a passive-aggressive way to get the Davis rumor back into the public conversation and give him an article that could stir up controversy. In the process, he has elevated an ill-advised published rumor into a “report” and suggested to those that don’t know the story in-depth that Calipari has been accused by a major news organization of paying a player. Journalism may not be dead, but if you just read Gary Parrish tonight, you might believe it.
I wonder if allegations that Gary’s hair gel has penetrated his skull and is affecting his intellect and sense of journalistic ethics are true…FAIR OR NOT, his writing career is in danger of being overshadowed and he will have to face them.