I am a big believer in accountability for actions...especially those of journalists who expect it in others. We all make mistakes in our writing, but often media members make loud, incorrect proclamations, that when proven false, are quickly ignored and forgotten. But not here. Take for instance, Gary Parrish, who famously last summer raised the integrity issue on Anthony Davis.
You may remember that a Chicago Sun-Times
high school writer at one point threw out a rumor about Davis's recruitment that was quickly discredited by anyone with even a modicum of journalistic integrity. The story lingered for a couple of days, and quickly dissipated. Then, during the summer of 2011, Gary Parrish
wrote a obnoxious column with the Passive-aggressive title "Fair or Not, Kentucky Freshman Davis Must Face 'Scandal.'" It included this passage:
What makes him most interesting though – besides the growth spurt in the summer of 2009 that transformed him from a 6-3 guard into a 6-10 forward – is that Davis is the only Calipari recruit to ever be publicly tied by a mainstream media outlet to a recruiting scandal before enrolling. That might surprise some given Calipari’s reputation among most college basketball fans. But the truth is that the NCAA never has charged Calipari or any of his programs with a major recruiting violation, and no major website or newspaper had ever alleged serious cheating until the Chicago Sun-Times staff writer Michael O’Brien reported last August that Davis’ father had negotiated a deal worth $200,000 to send his son to Kentucky.
With whom did Davis’ father negotiate this alleged deal?
O’Brien never went that far.
His report, even if true, was thin.
The article was a clear attempt by Parrish to throw more smoke on the Davis story fire
and to indict Calipari and Anthony once again in public. The article infuriated me and while at the Nike Peach Jam in Georgia, I wrote a heated response
, that ended with this passage:
I continue to be utterly flabbergasted by the lengths some reporters will go to bring down their Calipari white whale. I am not sure if they have forgotten their journalistic standards, or if they simply bend them due to their desire to make news and get clicks on their website. But no matter the reason, they seem to forget whatever level of responsibility they previously had in their attempts to take shots at Calipari/Kentucky. Gary Parrish finished his article by writing:
"He’s going to be phenomenal on the court, no question. But whether his stickback dunks and blocked shots in college are forever overshadowed by allegations of impropriety remains undetermined, proof being how many of the questions Davis faced in Ohio last week were about exactly that, fair or not."
Parrish implies that questions about this rumor will dog Anthony Davis during his entire time at Kentucky. No one on earth likely reads more about Kentucky basketball than I do. In the past 4-6 months, I honestly can’t recall one article being written about the Davis rumor or it being brought up at any point. Now, with little to write, and time on his hands, Parrish throws the grenade back on the table and asks if it will “overshadow” his UK career.
The sad thing is that Parrish knows it will not. Instead, he wrote the story as a passive-aggressive way to get the Davis rumor back into the public conversation and give him an article that could stir up controversy. In the process, he has elevated an ill-advised published rumor into a “report” and suggested to those that don’t know the story in-depth that Calipari has been accused by a major news organization of paying a player. Journalism may not be dead, but if you just read Gary Parrish tonight, you might believe it.
I wonder if allegations that Gary’s hair gel has penetrated his skull and is affecting his intellect and sense of journalistic ethics are true…FAIR OR NOT, his writing career is in danger of being overshadowed and he will have to face them.
It was a direct response at a writer that I believed had crossed the line, and in the process it burned a bridge for me. After having just finished my short time at CBS, the article essentially assured that I would no longer have a positive relationship with Parrish.
While Gary and I were never close, after this article, whatever level of friendship had been in place, ended. When I asked him the next day at the Peach Jam to do an interview on the subject, he cursed me and we had a heated conversation in a room full of college basketball coaches (the look on Calipari and Jim Boeheim's faces as it went on is still priceless and our KSTV camera guy Bradley McKee laughs about it at least once a month). While the conversation ended with an agreeable resolution, have never really had any meaningful interaction since. Gary insisted at the time that he had no negative agenda and that he was just saying what was inevitable...that Davis would be "hounded" by these questions all year. I thought that was ridiculous and believed he did it to continue his (and others) "guilt by accumulation" writing style on John Calipari. At the time, we waited to see who would be proven correct.
And now here we are. Nine months later, the results are in. Gary Parrish was wrong and no part of Anthony Davis's play this season was "overshadowed" by the silly Chicago rumor.
He has been celebrated as one of the best college basketball players in a decade and has been universally praised by nearly everyone who covers the sport. Even though Kentucky was in the spotlight all season long and had significantly more media attention and scrutiny than any team in the country, I saw virtually no references to the rumor at any point during the year. To my knowledge even Parrish, who defended his summer story by saying that he knew the media and this would be a perpetual issue all season long, did not again write about the issue. Nearly every reporter who covered the Unibrow focused on his amazing game and charming personality. The original Chicago Sun-Times
rumor was proved to be not only "thin", but utterly lacking in any facts whatsoever and Parrish's predictive follow-up was shown to be what I predicted...a shameless attempt by a writer to generate hits/stir controversy in the dead months of summer recruiting season. The facts won out, and Parrish was wrong and exposed.
I bring this up now for two reasons. One, I promised Parrish that I would revisit his article after the season when he told me that he would "be proven right once and for all." That didn't happen. But beyond proving the Faux-Hawk wrong again, the article is also worth revisiting for its predictive ability for the future. At some point this summer, some self-righteous sports journalist/media figure will make another loud, provocative, unfounded statement about John Calipari, UK or its players
They will likely have no factual basis for their statements, but rather it will simply be an attempt to throw an accusation against the wall and see what sticks. Whoever does it will do so while consumed with the absolute certainty that only those with the dangerous mixture of mediocre intellect and unyielding self-belief truly possess. When they do, think of Gary Parrish, and note the certainty with which he made his Anthony Davis prediction last summer. At the time, it was an excuse for his latest attempt at taking a shot at college baskeball's version of the Great White Whale, John Calipari. We thought it was bogus then and it has been proven bogus now. Chances are high the next one will meet the same fate.