For Tablet, I got to do a profile of Al Rosen, the Indians slugger who probably should be a lot more highly-regarded than he is. After 10 or 12 minutes of prime material, Rosen said “But you’re not going to print all of this. We’re just talking now, like two friends.” It offered a remarkable insight into the relationship between athletes and the media, circa 1956. Rosen knew he had given me enough to write the story, and then gone the extra mile to lend it some shading. His clarification was the equivalent of “background”. But the language he used at that moment, and the assumption of mutual respect, even trust, were relics from another era.
Every Second Famous
The draft is bad television we’ve all secretly agreed to enjoy as theater, camp, and a collection of possibly iconic moments that never really get too big or too small. That’s why it’s so hard to turn up an image, or clip, that we haven’t seen a thousand times before—no matter how insignificant or boring it may be. Even the Hawks’ 1987 pick of Dallas Comegys is part of the canon, whether or not you could have told me anything about it off the top of your head. It’s not just that, quite wisely, NBA-TV plays past drafts on loop in the week leading up to this year’s edition. This thing was meme before meme degenerated into what it means today. This state of hyper-familiarity is only heightened by the informal, even mysterious, state of the draft before broadcast tore into it. It used to be a buffet, hunches, and eight million rounds. Actually, there were still lots and lots of extra rounds as late as 1988. What grail is holier, the future Hall of Famers selected casually, sloppily, with an indelicacy that would make your fantasy league blanche? Or those later picks made in the rubble of the telecast? The former need no gleam. They are lean and inevitable in way that even 1984 can’t match. In our minds, the later rounds of the eighties catch the reflection of spectacle, but deformed and forgotten, probably have suits and reaction shots that are the NBA equivalent of outsider art.