Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Sidetrack – NBA Finals

Wednesday June 21, 2006

Tim Dahlberg probably doesn’t make a huge salary. Few journalists do, even those who work hard and become the best at their craft. I doubt that even the impressive job title of “national sports columnist for The Associated Press” bumps his salary close to the range of those he covers in the sports world.

What does that matter? Dahlberg’s latest column tries to take down Dallas owner Mark Cuban for his behavior during the NBA finals, but he can’t seem to keep an extraordinary amount of bitterness and jealousy over Cuban’s wealth out of the piece. He obsesses over Cuban’s wallet, and it prevents him from getting very far towards his point.

Go ahead. Read the column. Count the uses of “billionaire”. Marvel over the lengths Dahlberg goes to take a shot at “the big HD televisions that must line every wall in (Cuban’s) Dallas mansion.” Can someone please give this guy a raise so the wealth envy becomes a little less overt in his supposedly AP-worthy analysis of national sports?

The funniest line is the predictable, “Shouldn’t billionaires have deeper things to worry about?” Bill Gates spends a lot of time and money fighting global health issues, and Cuban is wrapped up in his basketball team. Uh, Tim…you’re a sports writer. Your job exists because a lot of people, Cuban included, find sports and entertainment a worthy investment of money and attention. If you want to mock Cuban for considering the performance of his multi-million dollar investment a “weighty issue”, go talk to your editor about covering Gates and AIDS in the developing world.

It’s unfortunate that Dahlberg’s screed is so diluted by this envy, because he gets so close to a decent point with which I could agree. Cuban let himself become the story in the NBA Finals, and it cost his team their edge and a title. This beautiful, talented team was second-best.

I know where Cuban is coming from. He is at his core a fan, his team is playing for the ultimate prize, and fans do what fans do in these situations – they become overemotional, superstitious, and jittery. If I were scrutinized for every outburst, nervous habit, or superstition during Dawg games, I’d make Cuban look like a wine-and-cheeser. I’m generally on Cuban’s side and love that he puts it out there on his blog and really seems to get this medium. It’s just so unfortunate that it blew up as it did in the Finals.

But of course he’s not just a fan, and as the series wore on and Dallas encountered some adversity, it seemed as if the team and even the Dallas fans began to take on the personality of the team’s owner. Any sense of composure Dallas had was shot by the end of Game 5. By that point in the series, everything from the Heat to the refs to Stern to the media were in the heads of the Mavericks – everything except their focus on playing the outstanding basketball that got them to the Finals and their focus on winning the title. The bottom of this descent into self-pity and distraction came after Game 6 in the form of loser Dallas fans who stuck around just to boo Stern as he conducted the awards ceremony.

Cuban is fond of saying, “right is its own defense.” If that’s true, then wrong is its own executioner. Cuban let Stern, the league, and the refs become the enemy over the past week instead of the Heat. If right is its own defense, what does the storyline and outcome of the NBA Finals tell us?

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