More Reasons to Read Paul Flannery

Jeff Clark of Celtics Blog has posted a great Q&A with Paul Flannery. There is an implication in the first question that being a Celtics fan and being a league-wide NBA fan are mutually exclusive, which makes little sense to me, though I understand the point. Having lived on the west coast for ten years, it’s much easier to appreciate the entire NBA (especially the Western Conference) than it was when I lived in Boston. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the Q&A. The topic of individual Celtics as musical artists comes up. I wrote about this a while back. For me, Rondo is half-Prince, half-Andrew Bird. Pierce is Eddie Vedder. Garnett is all of Radiohead. The NBA and music: endless parallels.

Back to Paul Flannery…. he writes good! Read him on Sundays at SB Nation.

Flannery understands that engaging writing is about narrative rather than quantification or proving expertise. His response to Clark’s question on Rondo and the media was especially on point. Clark was baiting/inviting him to talk about why people dismiss Rondo as simply a “jerk,” rather than think complexly about the interaction between athletes and the media. We need more Journalism professors who double as NBA writers. Empathy and complexity are what give a narrative depth. Empathy and complexity are not part of sports talk radio. While advanced metrics often focus on complexity, they often ignore real-world context, or “the human element.” Your numbers will not defeat my beating heart, is the ideological/aesthetic debate that threatens to engulf modern fandom.

Here is Flannery’s response:

Such a loaded question! My thing is that I try not to take it personally when guys blow me off or don’t give me good quotes. If that’s who they are, then that’s part of their story. Rondo doesn’t play the media game because he thinks it’s fake. KG doesn’t because he’s an intensely private person. That’s part of their personalities. Put it this way: I’d rather get the Rondo deathstare to a question than some canned cliche response.

Beat writers put up with stuff because they have to. They don’t have the luxury of saying, “Screw this guy. I’m not talking to him.” Because the moment they do, they might miss something important. Whether fans care or not is up to them, but being a jerk tends to be pretty low on their list of concerns as long as they’re winning. In terms of team dynamics, the more talent a player has and the more they produce, the more they are allowed to do whatever they want. That’s true in all sports and life, really. Honestly, I think talent should be indulged and given a wide berth.

Look at Bill Russell. Red let Russell be Russell and that was the key to those teams because when they put the ball in play, Russell did everything he could to try and win the game. That’s really all you can ask of an athlete. The fact that Russell is a transcendent personality and one of the most important athletes who ever lived makes his story all the more compelling. KG and Rondo aren’t Russell. Who is? But I’d rather cover them than a bunch of “good guys” who say the right things all the time and don’t make waves.

They’re both neurotic as hell and weird, but that makes them interesting to write about. There’s reasons for everything they do. I just try to figure out what those reasons are and make sense of them as basketball players because we really don’t know what they’re like when they’re home with their families.

To read the whole thing, click here:


To check out Clark’s Q&A with Celtics radio legend Sean Grande, click here:

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