Archive for March, 2013

Today in Embarassing Sports Journalism

Jeremy Schaap at ESPN comes out with a piece of factually wrong Spurs homerism that not even Skip Bayless could top. 

I like the Spurs, but this is bad even by sportswriting standards. LeBron James did not bolt “at the first chance to play in a major market”; he intentionally passed up such a chance when he signed a contract extension with Cleveland in 2006. And that aside, it’s far from clear whether market size was even a major consideration in James’s infamous decision to play in Miami; the biggest factor seems to have been James’s desire to play on the same team with two friends.

The other really bad part of the segment is all the nonsense about the public’s view of the “proper” way to build a team, which for Schaap appears to mean only via drafting young players and developing them. First of all, the premise is ridiculous. It implies that the public’s view is basically economically reactionary, punishing players who try and extract their actual value from ownership. That may well be mostly true – but if Schaap were doing his job, he’d at least be questioning it rather than weaving it into his adoring narrative. And I’m pretty sure the public doesn’t care all that much about teams assembled in free agency and the trade deadline – their concern is far and away with big stars jumping teams. 

But apart from these concerns of premise, the piece is just factually wrong. Virtually the entire Spurs bench, plus Danny Green, was obtained in free agency or via trades. Tim Duncan is about the only player the Spurs picked in the draft out of college. Kawhi Leonard was picked by the Pacers and immediately traded to the Spurs. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili played pro ball in Europe before signing with San Antonio (albeit through the draft) – is the idea here that there’s some exception for signing players who are invisible to Americans? After watching this stuff, I suddenly understand why Schaap’s allegedly hardball Manti Te’o interview was such a flop.


Grifters Gonna Grift: Oakland’s American Indian Public Charter Schools

Last week, the Oakland school district revoked the charter of the company running its best-performing middle and high schools, American Indian. Ben Chavis, the company’s founder, had been self-dealing to the tune of a few million dollars. Some background on the schools are here and here and here and here.

I don’t have much in the way of facts to add except that this story is illustrative of how even the most clearly misbehaving education “reformers” can pull the wool over the eyes of many well-meaning people in the field. A family member who trains local teachers brought the story to my attention, framing it as “it’s a shame Ben Chavis did some crooked things because his schools had great performance”….when even the slightest bit of research would have probably changed his point of view to “Ben Chavis was a con artist who added little actual educational value but was an expert at gaming the system. He cherry-picked a bunch of motivated and already-high-performing Chinese-American kids and then claimed their subsequent success as his own and as victories for a crackpot disciplinarian philosophy.”