Another FJM Attempt: Bill Conlin’s Mess


I don’t know if you’ve heard of Bill Conlin.

If you haven’t, well, I’ll tell you about him. Bill Conlin is a writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. The DN is one of two daily newspapers in Philadelphia which may or may not exist in paper form in 5 years. Conlin has been writing for the paper since before I was born. A plaque sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame in his honor. And according to Wikipedia, he has appeared on The Sports Reporters over 300 times. He was a beat writer for the Phillies, and seemingly has enough stories to tell about the Phillies of those time until the end of the century. He even graduated from my school, Temple University

In other words, at one time, he was a pretty big deal in the sports journalism business.

Nowadays, however, as I mentioned before, he seems like a rambling old man that’s settled for mailing his pieces in. As a blogger and not a journalist, I obviously do not have the credentials of a Bill Conlin. But when judging Bill Conlin’s recent writing, all I can say is I call it like I see it – it’s trash. And his most recent piece, another one of his standard “King of the World” rants, reeks.

Oh, and he hates bloggers too.

"WHEN I’M King of the World . . ."

I apologize in advance.

"The Sixers, whoever owns them, will offer discounted tickets to Big 5 games next season. In lieu of an NBA season that has an excellent chance to never be."

"I’m lousy at math. If not for the invention of the pocket calculator, I’d still be counting on my fingers. Due to health reasons, one autumn I was home-schooled by my grandmother when I should have been in first grade. She had poor math skills and taught me to read instead. So, when I started second grade the next year, I was a year behind in arithmetic. But I had learned to read using just one text: “Robin Hood.” I can’t remember the author. But it was a children’s book written at the Grade 7 to 10 level. So the good Sisters of Charity got a project, a new kid who read at the eighth-grade level but was challenged by kindergarten numbers."

"I managed to pick up enough math over the years to lose at blackjack, poker and stocks, enough to know that when Lenny Dykstra started paying bills out of son Cutter’s Milwaukee bonus money, he was probably way beyond broke."

I actually don’t have too much of a problem with this part – he’s not factually wrong, as he will be later on in the article. But this is what you get from Conlin – the “back in the day” schtick that reminds me of the 70-year old grandpa telling stories about how he had to walk 10 miles to school every morning while having to walk uphill both ways. We get it. Also, humblebrag.

"On one hand, the NFL is the giant goose of professional sports, laying golden eggs on command. But the roosters want a bigger share of the roost, better working conditions, more chickenfeed. The NFL wants to keep a traditional jackboot on the necks of the serfs, to limit further inroads by a historically weak players union."

That’s, well, wrong in every way imaginable.

The NFL was pushing for the major changes, wanting retain more revenue to ensure even greater products and trying to expand the schedule despite the protests of the players and even many fans. 16 games is probably too much for the health of the league, especially when concussions are at the forefront of the league’s and public’s attention. The players will take the same working conditions, the league wants to change them.

"My math skills are also sharp enough to know that more than half the NBA teams are losing money, some faster than it can be printed, thanks to unsustainable payrolls, salary-cap strangulation and the league’s declining popularity. Too many teams have become faceless and starless."

This is so, so wrong.

First, we don’t really know if the claims are true on the NBA’s part. Have you seen the books of the teams? No, no one has, except the players union. The players’ union disputes the NBA’s numbers, which have sparked several analyses of the books of the teams that have leaked. These show that the teams’ losses, as a whole, are paper losses, and the key is better revenue sharing.

The salary-cap strangulation is solely on the hands of teams and owners. Do you expect players to refuse huge deals that teams offer? The owners, who control what money goes out, and GMs are responsible. Someone thought that, once upon a time, Rashard Lewis should be the second highest paid player in the league. Someone thought that Baron Davis would stay in shape when given a 5-year, $65 million contract. These people are responsible, and the system is NOT the over-riding problem. The idiocy of front offices is the major issue. And the same idiots are getting hired and re-hired over again.

And finally, declining popularity. Bill, you’re not dumb. I know that. But saying the NBA is declining in popularity is wrong. It would be right to say that the Sixers’ ratings and attendance are down, but as a Philadelphia sports writer, you should know that the Sixers have always been the least popular team in the city. Lacking a superstar, a great record, or ownership that seemed truly invested in the team, attendance declined. But hey, remember when the Phillies didn’t draw? MLB must’ve been really unpopular. Oh wait, that’s right, it was soaring in popularity. It was all the (roid) rage.

Continuing on the original point, though, since the last CBA the league has steadily increased in popularity, with increasing playoff and finals television ratings throughout. Many teams sell out regularly. The league cap, expected to decrease for this year but millions based on revenue, actually increased. So there.

In other words, get your facts straight.

"The Sixers were a joy to watch when they had Doc and Moses and Mo and Bobby, players who even with the passage of time need no last-name reminders. A fan who shot quality photos from his courtside seat during that era sent me hundreds of classics. Viewing those photos of Chocolate Thunder, Darryl Dawkins, head high to the rim with mere mortals clinging to his tree-limb arms, about to throw down a mighty slam, gives me chills. Doc floating on one of those baseline drives where he seemed to drift through traffic like a snowflake . . . Bobby Jones finishing after a steal and court-length breakaway . . . Moses Malone shedding bodies with the ball held high over his head after an explosive rebound.Right now, the NBA is a handful of teams dominated by ego-tripping superstars who play within their own stylized universes.LeBron . . .Kobe . . .Carmelo . . .The usual suspects."

Question: When has the NBA NOT been a star-driven league?

Answer: Never

And once again, the old-timer trip. We get it. You’re old and remember those things. They have nothing to do with today. Especially since the NBA is not declining in popularity.

And the Sixers were quite fun to watch this past year, aside from a few ill-advised jumpers from Iguodala each game. But it’s not like Doc played the same way.

"Everybody else is the Washington Generals, punching bags for the inevitable showdown between the Heat and the Lakers or Mavericks. So, if you’re not addicted to the gritty, well-coached but basically middle-rung Sixers, you poke through the embers of the interminable NBA season and seek out players whose styles would have worked back when the league was exciting and interesting: Teuton Tower Dirk Nowitzke, old-school guard Jameer Nelson, Paul Pierce and a fading Celtics lineup that has been around forever."

That’s funny, because the league has seen more teams compete for titles recently than in its entire history. Dominated by Russell and Jordan and Kareem, the NBA has always been a star-dominated league. Or don’t you realize the Sixers with Doc, Moses, and the crew won exactly one title. Back when the NBA was fun and not star-dominated, star-dominated teams always won. The Celtics and Lakers win the majority of titles because they have all the stars in that time, yet you yearn for that time to return.

And if you actually watched the NBA, you’d turn on Blake Griffin or John Wall, two electrifying rookies who almost fly up and down the floor. Or you’d turn on the Bulls game and see Rose’s mastery of angles with his blazing speed and the best team defense in basketball. Or you’d turn on the Spurs, who changed their entire offense, now on the shoulders Manu Ginobili, to soar back to the top of the Western Conference standings.

You could actually call the regular season the NBA’s most exciting ever. But you don’t really watch it, so what would you know?

"After baseball began to deal with free agency, Charlie Finley had a suggestion on how to keep salaries from escalating each year: Give 1-year contracts only and let everybody be a free agent after the season. “The Yankees could only sign so many,” the A’s owner reasoned.Trouble is, the NBA’s megacontracts stretch almost to infinity. The lockout might stretch almost as far. So enjoy the Big 5 team of your choice."

Well, the NBA has a contract max length of 6 years, which is less than any other professional sports league. There are MANY bad contracts, yes, but what about these?

  • Alfonso Soriano (MLB): 8-years, $136 million. Has been a colossal bust.
  • Barry Zito (MLB): 7-years, $126 million. Ditto
  • Rick DiPietro (NHL): 15-years, $67.5 million. DiPietro has been injured throughout a large part of his contract.
  • Albert Haynesworth (NFL): 7-years, $100 million. Haynesworth ate about half of that money.

Yeah, they are all longer than any NBA deal can be. And, in many ways, they are worse than NBA contracts.

And 1-year deals basically exist in the NFL. In essence, they let GMs and owners and coaches off the hook for bad moves, giving them no accountability. That should not happen.

So kids, here’s your lesson. Old people can sometimes tell really bad stories.