Steve Danley...not quite the next Paul Shirley

Did you know that there over 360,000 NCAA athletes--and almost all of them are going pro in something?

Just like the rest of us, ex-collegians go on to diverse professional careers. Sure, you've got those kids who just aren't ready for the real world--like the law school wanna-bes, many get interested in the legal system. Then there are the practical ones interested in business, or the over-achieving high-flyers who display new interest in medicine. But some pretty boys turn to male modeling; the grungier folks may even become bricklayers. And for the most part, I don't want to stop these guys from following their yen. After all, they're the ones making bloggers' dreams come true.

But of all the jobs open to Rhodes Scholar finalist and graduating Penn power forward Steve Danley, his latest NY Times article makes me hope he'll avoid "professional writer."

The article--a "player's eye" view of current NBA prospects--is a well-conceived idea. It's strongly written. And, best of all, it's actually insightful. I *knew* McRoberts was a head-case that the 'Zards needed to avoid at no. 16; who better to scout him than his fellow player?

Unfortunately, just like Danley's first story for the paper--how being an Ivy League athlete sets him and his teammates apart from the rest--the piece feels a little pretentious. If there's sarcasm, it gets lost in translation. And here's my Doctor Dribbles diagnosis: Danley's articles *sound like* a bad case of Smug, which may be linked to acute Ego-itis.

Sure, his articles are interesting, and many sports fans are dying for articulate athletes who can share an insider's perspective. In many ways, Danley is ably positioned to be a junior Paul Shirley, who himself blogged onto the scene by exposing how average NBA players view their world.

But despite a quick reference to "desire slightly exceeding talent," Danley lacks Shirley's--how can I best put this--humility. Shirley's not ego-less, but he played up his lowly 12th man status when he started; he often would follow a put-down of others (e.g., the Hawks) by making fun of himself. Quite frankly, Danley would benefit from similar self-deprecation, especially in an article where he's strongly critical of players who are much, much better than him.

Oh yes. Among D1 players, Danley was closer to scrub than star. In the Jabbo Kenner summer league, the only points I remember Danley scoring were Tommys for his hustle. And while an above-average big man in the Ivy League, Danley came up real small against top teams, best seen by revisiting three of the four players he's critical of.
  • Danley knocks Brandan Wright ("we considered him the third-best player on [UNC]") but leaves out that Wright's 12 points and 7 rebounds, in basically half the game, helped UNC trounce Penn by nearly 40 points, thanks partly to Danley's no-show (1-5 FGs, 2 Rbs)
  • While McRoberts may be a head case (a point I want to be true, by the way), Danley was the one who looked rattled in Penn's loss to Duke: 1-5 from the field, 7 TOs, and 1 Shelden Williams-inspired concussion. Even if you throw the game out of the window because of Danley's injury and deal with his claim--that McRoberts was being tested to make an open shot--at least the then-freshman (in only his 8th game) canned half of them, helping Duke to the win.
  • Danley also criticizes Darryl Watkins of Syracuse as lacksadaiscal, but Watkins made all three of his shots in Syracuse's win over Penn this year. Danley, meanwhile, shot 1-3, grabbed 3 Rbs., and committed 4 TOs.
Obviously, analysts often have critical eyes that exceed natural abilities; witness the careers of Tom Tolbert and Jay Bilas, or even a Roger Ebert and especially a Doctor Dribbles. And it's hard to know if the Times editors are strictly trimming Danley's asides or giving him a voice he didn't intend.

But Danley's not a 40-year-old veteran of sports journalism or professional basketball; he's a callow, unemployed college boy who's weighing in on his much-stronger peers. And if the punk's going to wax on the weaknesses of others, I'd love to see him first acknowledge his own limitations.

(Update: So turns out that Bill Simmons loved Danley's piece today. This has the potential to cause all kinds of cognitive dissonance up in here.)

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posted by Doctor Dribbles @ 22:14,


At June 27, 2007 at 1:59 PM, Anonymous realitycheck said...

and doctor dribbles is bitter because danley is published in the times and nobody reads his blog

At June 27, 2007 at 2:04 PM, Blogger Doctor Dribbles said...

Shoot...I didn't realize I was that transparent.

At June 27, 2007 at 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, while I'm sure the kid's piece is pretentiously written and that he is a douchebag, your blog entry about it isn't much better.

Roger Ebert's natural abilities are pretty good- he's got a Pulitzer.

And "wax" means "grow." Like how the moon waxes and wanes? So when someone says someone is "waxing poetic" it means "growing poetic." People misuse that word so much.

At June 27, 2007 at 2:55 PM, Blogger Doctor Dribbles said...

But you're still saying...I'm better than an article in the NY Times? Yes!

I stand corrected on the waxing...explains a few things re: my car, my deck, and when I told a grammarian that I'd "wax the floor with him" in a debate. In truth, thanks.

One clarification on my own end. I wasn't questioning the skills of Ebert, nor Tolbert and Jay Bilas too. All those guys are good-to-great as critics, analysts, what have you.

But Ebert as a movie maker? Well...I wouldn't netflix "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" (which he wrote the screenplay for) anytime soon.

All I'm saying is that you, me, other bloggers...if we want to, we can weigh in on anybody and who cares? But different rules apply when you're a member of the fraternity. If you're critiquing your peers like you're Michael Jordan but play like his mom, you'd best be an Ebert- (or even Bilas-level) commentator.

At June 27, 2007 at 3:42 PM, Blogger Grafton said...

As a Syracuse fan and college student, I don't think it takes a graduate of UPenn to realize that Watkins was lackadaisical. Moments of defensive brilliance and offensive aggression were thrown in between 15 minute stretches of invisibility. He might be a pompous ass, but at least he's somewhat right.

At June 27, 2007 at 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's worth debating, but at least it's a clearer argument than any you make in your post.

Here's an idea: Make your points in the blog, rather than waiting to be called on it.

At June 27, 2007 at 4:08 PM, Blogger t said...

Great post-and for what it's know...Tolbert was actually in The Association and could effect a game in the same way that a guy like Najera or perhaps Adrian Griffin do. Not only that, Tolbert doesn't take himself too seriously either and has a great sense of humor. Anyway, sounds like the selection of this scrub is par for the course for the Times.

At June 27, 2007 at 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how you (a blogger posting out of your basement?) gets away with questioning whether Danley is knowledgeable enough to write about these athletes? What kind of credentials do you have to write about anything sports related that trumps his?

It seems like you've been a member of since, well, June 2007.

Maybe I should criticize you for trying to run a knockoff when you're "... not a 40-year-old veteran."

At June 28, 2007 at 12:28 AM, Blogger Doctor Dribbles said...

I prefer to think of it more as an "unfinished guest room."

But you're right--I don't have any credentials at all! (Unless you count my doctorate in roundball studies, which I won in a scratch-off). I'll readily cop to my inadequacy and don't plan to assess the basketball skills of anyone, be it Durant or Danley, except in the most superficial, fan-like way.

Danley played one game against Brandan Wright, one game against McRoberts--both of which were losses, both of which he was totally outplayed. Don't you feel just a little bit funny reading his too-knowing critiques of them? His prediction that they'll be run out of the league in five years? Seriously?

At June 28, 2007 at 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So because Josh McRoberts outplayed Steve Danley, that makes Danley's opinion invalid. I see.

I just don't feel like he has to be a superstar to give an honest evaluation of another player, regardless of what that opinion may be.

At June 28, 2007 at 3:49 PM, Blogger Doctor Dribbles said...

Totally agree with you. Anyone can evaluate a player's pro prospects--Bill Simmons can, Gene Simmons can for all he wants to. But you're likely to trust Bill Simmons' assessment a little more, right?

Pardon this minor exercise...but let's say the NY Times runs two assessments of Josh McRoberts' play and pro prospects. One is written by Spurs GM R.C. Buford; the other is by Atlanta Hawks GM Billy Knight. To pro basketball fans, it's readily apparent which opinion carries more weight. You have context.

But if those assessments are instead written by two graduating seniors--Jackson State's Trey Johnson and Penn's Danley--and all you know going in is that they played college basketball...well, you want context. Perhaps Jackson State's Johnson admits that he was league player of the year, whereas Danley gives up that he scored 3 points vs. Duke. Or maybe Johnson reveals that he's a guard who never played McRoberts live, whereas Danley says he's a big man who defended McRoberts straight up. All of that information informs your opinion of what you're reading, right?

However, I'm guessing most readers of the Times don't know anything about Danley--if anything, his fine writing likely persuades them to take his assessments at face value. And I don't mean to knock him too much--he played D1 basketball and started for three years, which is relatively rare. But he just looked so woefully out of place in the games he references, that how can I not factor that into his assessment? I just can't.

But that doesn't mean his opinion is invalid. Go back to the original post; if Danley, a weaker member of the D1 basketball fraternity, wants to call out deficiencies in players head and shoulders above him, I just want a tacit acknowledgment of his place in the game. That's it. Not putting out writing that makes him sound--even if it wasn't his intention--like he was a master strategist. That McRoberts and Wright were somehow flailing around while Danley was leading Penn to victory (he wasn't).

Note the Paul Shirley post in Slate that one of my blogmates is linking to. Shirley assesses Kobe and Garnett...two of the best players in the game. He's not anywhere in their league--if not even in the League--which we've long known thanks to his self-deprecating style. Given the acknowledgment of his own weaknesses, I trust what he says that much more.

But what do I know? Consider that I'm no Dr. Jack Ramsay, just Doctor Dribbles.

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