Tim Varner and I had a number of discussions about how 48 Minutes of Hell should address the news of Tony Parker and Eva Longoria’s divorce. He asked me to write this post, based on those conversations, to explain our approach to reporting on the moral shortcomings of athletes, whether Spurs players or otherwise.
When news first broke that the marriage of Tony Parker and Eva Longoria was ending, I was insistent that the staff of 48 Minutes of Hell not address the matter. I felt that, here at 48 Minutes of Hell, we talk about basketball, and unless Parkerâ€™s personal life bled onto the court or into the locker room in some way, it didnâ€™t concern us.
However, since word of their divorce first became public, the situation has become more complicated. Parker has been accused of cheating on his wife with the wife of former teammate Brent Barry, a man who is beloved by many members of the Spurs roster and remains an active member of the San Antonio community.
Simply put, itâ€™s possible that Parkerâ€™s divorce could affect the Spursâ€™ performance on the court.
To be clear, I donâ€™t believe this matter will require much discussion in the future, because I donâ€™t believe it will affect how the team plays. I stand by the idea that, if it doesnâ€™t affect how the team plays, itâ€™s not worth discussing.
I believe that, between Popovich and Duncan, the leadership of the Spurs is too strong to allow something like this to derail what has been an excellent start to a season with championship potential. But itâ€™s unrealistic to say definitively that a sober, thoughtful conversation about Spurs basketball â€“ the kind of conversation we are always hoping to have â€“ wonâ€™t include consideration of Parkerâ€™s divorce.
A sober, thoughtful conversation does not mean we interpret every aspect of Parkerâ€™s play in light of recent events. Does the fact that he shot 9/14 from the field and led the team in scoring Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls mean heâ€™s shrugged off his marital difficulties and stayed focused on the game? Had he shot 2/14, would it mean he had allowed his off-the-court troubles to infect his game?
No, neither of those are conclusions we can make. But itâ€™s worth it to acknowledge that itâ€™s a conversation we are open to having if thereâ€™s a reason. Right now, we donâ€™t see one. There is not enough evidence, on way or another, to interpret anything that happens on the floor as either in response to or in despite of Parkerâ€™s personal difficulties.
When there is evidence, weâ€™ll address it.
It’s important to be exacting in what we consider evidence. “News” about celebrities’ personal lives is often bandied about without much concern for its veracity or impact. Just because it’s difficult to pin down the facts in a given situation is not an excuse for a fast and loose, tabloid-style approach. We feel that this is an opportunity to distinguish ourselves as a publication that takes facts seriously.
We also feel this is an opportunity to articulate what we believe is an inappropriate but far too common response to situations like Parker’s.
Everyone agrees that adultery is immoral, all the more so when it occurs with the wife of a co-worker. Thatâ€™s not a discussion worth having, because there is nothing to discuss. I have no doubt that plenty of journalists, wrongly convinced of their own moral superiority, will take this opportunity to engage in some sort of public shaming.
We have no interest in taking part in anything along those lines. Itâ€™s important to remember just how little we know about the men and women involved here. Iâ€™ve watched Tony Parker play hundreds of basketball games. Iâ€™ve even spoken with him a few times, although never one-on-one. But that doesnâ€™t mean I have any unique insights into his marriage or, honestly, anything he does other than play basketball.
I observe Tony Parker closely while he is at work. Iâ€™m qualified to comment on how he does his job. Beyond that, my already tenuous expertise erodes to a point of non-existence.
That does not mean you or I are unable to make judgments regarding Tony Parker. Personally, I just think itâ€™s best if those judgments concern the context in which we know him: As an employee of the San Antonio Spurs.
If Parker in some way violated the rules and regulations that oversee his workplace â€“ say, for instance, he brought a firearm to work, or he texted pictures of his genitalia to a female employee of the team â€“ Iâ€™d feel appropriate commenting further.
Those hypothetical indiscretions would be committed in his capacity as an employee of the team, the capacity in which I report on him. Beyond that, I am not especially concerned with Parker and, more importantly, donâ€™t feel qualified to stand in judgment over him.
My hope is that most journalists will have the humility to realize that they arenâ€™t qualified to do so either.