Last night I saw Steve James’s latest, The Interrupters. Predictably, it’s hard, well-done, and raises as many questions as it answers, which is the point with his films. In one scene, a 17 year-old recently released from prison goes back to the scene of an armed robbery to apologize to his victims. No one comes away feeling good about the meeting; it’s hardly what you might call “redemption”, or a feel-good scene. But it brings some closure, and allows everyone involved to concentrate on fixing the present, instead of remaining stalled in the past. It’s a time-honored technique, as is the one-on-one moderating that Chicago’s CeaseFire uses to head off confrontations before they escalate into violence. But when most of the city’s murders are, as the film notes, interpersonal and not gang-related (structural) in nature, this approach makes sense. No matter how obvious it may seem. Well, obvious once you get moderators out in the neighborhoods whose own checkered pasts gives them the authority, and access, to intervene.
It is totally inappropriate of me to stick Rick Reilly in a post about teen violence and making the world a better place. But if The Interrupters showed that on-site penance is powerful even if we see it coming, we might have to make an exception for journalism. Early last week, I guess, Reilly wrote about how the Heat are proving everyone, including him, wrong. He reiterated all the times he, and others, had bagged on Miami, before eating some crow, reveling in it, and comparing this “I told you so” to other times it’s happened. Somehow, though, it seems inadequate. It’s one thing to commit a crime and then go back, two years later; that’s two singular occasions, equal and parallel, separated by time and toll. Reilly’s mea culpa is more like those after-the-fact corrections in print media, or the Republican strategy of lying, then maybe recanting once the news cycle has had a chance to disseminate falsehood.
I am by no means equating the Heat with politics or urban problems. The substance of Reilley’s column (ugh), though, goes well beyond being right or wrong about the outcome of sporting matches, and crosses over into truth and fairness—not so different from someone confronting the consequences of his past behavior. Reilly is looking, in one fell column, to make up for everything he and his right-seeming colleagues have said this season. Months and months and months of it. It shouldn’t be so easy. For this to be genuine, or mean a thing, Reilly needs to log just as many “oops” pieces. Of course, he’s hoping that things will turns around after one game of the series, so he can go back to his old ways. Otherwise, if the Heat have made him “eat crow” or “told him so”, is it any more than a technicality for him to acknowledge so? Was Reilly wrong and full of shit all along, or is he just inescapably out of step with the news-cycle for the time being?
“You Only Need To Watch The Last Five Minutes”
Do these people still exist? If so, what do they make of the Heat and Mavericks this past week? I suppose you could have just tuned in to see them dismantle a late lead. The better teams won and all that; the youngsters collapsed, there was an air of inevitability about it, and everything that came before was rendered irrelevant. Except what if you care about process, context, or narrative, or more plainly, tension and release? In a way, an ending like tonight’s is even more dramatic. The Bulls had this game … until they didn’t, and the Heat swooped in to clinch the series. Same with the Mavericks on Monday. It was fun, scary, and overpowering. A nail-biter is one kind of story. This is another.
Addendum: Okay, they still exist. Thanks, Kevin Pelton.