Personal Matters

by

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 Parker’s personal life bled onto the court or into the locker room in some way, it didn’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, it’s possible that Parker’s divorce could affect the Spurs’ performance on the court.

To be clear, I don’t believe this matter will require much discussion in the future, because I don’t believe it will affect how the team plays. I stand by the idea that, if it doesn’t affect how the team plays, it’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 it’s unrealistic to say definitively that a sober, thoughtful conversation about Spurs basketball – the kind of conversation we are always hoping to have – won’t include consideration of Parker’s divorce.

A sober, thoughtful conversation does not mean we interpret every aspect of Parker’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 he’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 it’s worth it to acknowledge that it’s a conversation we are open to having if there’s a reason. Right now, we don’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 Parker’s personal difficulties.

When there is evidence, we’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. That’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. It’s important to remember just how little we know about the men and women involved here. I’ve watched Tony Parker play hundreds of basketball games. I’ve even spoken with him a few times, although never one-on-one. But that doesn’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. I’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 it’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 – say, for instance, he brought a firearm to work, or he texted pictures of his genitalia to a female employee of the team – I’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, don’t feel qualified to stand in judgment over him.

My hope is that most journalists will have the humility to realize that they aren’t qualified to do so either.

  • jmjohnson24

    Thanks for the great post. I totally agree. A lot of people get divorced. Let’s focus on bball and what a great start the Spurs are off to.

  • Dingo

    Great post. ‘Nough said.

  • Tyler 2

    Thanks guys. It was appalling to read the ESPN recap of the game on Wednesday night, because 10 of the 15 short paragraphs on the game were about Parker’s divorce, and how it was bleeding onto his happiness on the court. It made me sick to know that a beat writer was assuming that he could infer such deep personal issues from whether Tony Parker smiled or not. It was an affront to ESPN writing style, and it played them squarely into the tabloid center of things, which angered me to no end.

    To that end, focusing on basketball is obviously the goal, and I think you guys have an done a very good job honing in on the Spurs’ mentality without discussing outside forces that may/may not have to do with our great start. As a member of the TrueHoop network at ESPN, I thank you for bringing some reasoned opinion and base fact back to the NBA portion of the site.

  • cruzan gold

    When the Spurs came back to win their last game against Chicago, I was pleased that 48′s coverage made no mention of the divorce. I found it irritating how other outlets melded coverage of the game with E-Hollywood style reporting of the couple’s personal drama. Interestingly, as hard news and entertainment gossip become increasingly intertwined in standard journalism, it takes a sports blog to show some freaking integrity. Here here, guys.

  • jamie

    Good post. I agree.

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  • Gimp’s Dad

    Well written.

  • Mike

    Excellent post Graydon!!

  • Bret

    Well said!

  • VP of Common Sense

    Well said.

    You guys embody the professionalism of the team.

    Cheers,
    VP

  • Cam

    This is why this is the best blog on the net.

  • Tyler

    If I wanted gossip on the lives of celebrity athletes, I’d go to the major tabloids.

    This blog is about Spurs basketball. That’s why I come here and I’m glad to see it stays that way. Keep up the good work.

  • rkfan1012

    Great post.

    I love the fact that the 48 min guys have the integrity to comment on this issue the way they did.
    I check 48MoH first for all my up to date Spurs news and notes. I’m glad that they weren’t part of the media that has tried to mix sports and hollywood. I’m all for talking about how great the Spurs’ season has been so far and other Spurs related things.

    Keep up the great work guys.

  • John Carr

    That had to be said (written), and I’m glad it was. We are all fans of Spurs basketball, and of Tony Parker as a Spurs basketball player. Let’s keep it on the court. Great post, very classy – now let’s go get the Jazz.

  • junierizzle

    Great article. I can’t believe the ESPN dude brought it up on the air. He had no point. He just brought it up. After he brought it up there was dead air. Mark Jackson and Van Gundy just stood there in silence.

    I understand people are into gossip but leave it to the gossips.

  • Nick (Italy)

    Equilibrated and classy.

  • B.D.

    There’s no harm in speculating about the effects this might have on the team. But I’d rather leave that speculation until after the facts are out. Did Parker really cheat with Erin Barry? Was it just text messages, or was it something more? Were the Barrys already separated?

  • este

    When the rumors were flying fast, there were reports that Parker was involved with the wife of a “current” teammate. It appears pretty safe that it is not a wife of a current player and therefore a non issue.

  • agutierrez

    I was afraid after watching the first half of the Chicago game that the news was effecting team play. As Aaron Stampler said over at PtR, had the Spurs gone on to have a second half like the first, THAT would have been the entire coverage from sports and tabloid media. No doubt they would have brought in sports psychologists to psychoanalyze every Spurs player, play and facial gesture. But that the Spurs came out for the second half “en chinga” and won the game rather handily, put the lid on those plans. Hopefully, that’s the end of it and it’s on to beat the crap out of the Jazz. Excellent post.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Well, Tony, you big dummy, you screwed up. Now make things right as well as you can. You’re going to be under a microscope for a bit, so just keep your head down and play ball.

    SA is a tiny market, this will all blow over very soon.

  • Jacob

    I absolutely agree with this approach. This is one of the reasons that I’m a fan of the 48; they exhibit the same class and professionalism that the Spurs do. Well done.

  • DieHardSpur

    Just another reason why i come to this blog…

    No b/s, just cold hard facts and straight shooting.

    +5

  • http://www.dawnoftheweak.com/ Wes

    Such a great post, this is the very reason why I love this site and why I stopped watching ESPN. Perfect.

  • SpurDAWG50

    Wait. Lay-ups and jumps shots from behind screens aren’t directly linked to one’s marital bliss? I had no idea! Obviously I’m kidding.

    I agree 100% with your post. I wish other outlets took that approach!

  • McShane

    “+5″

    yes.

  • Sriram

    Agree 100% Great post…very refreshing to know that professionals do exist in journalism.

  • Francesco

    I concur with everyone else: excellent post and reasoning, and in line with how with our front office usually operates.

    I do however disagree with the following statement –
    “Everyone agrees that adultery is immoral” -
    Adultery is only considered immoral by the majority of the westernized world today.
    It isn’t considered immoral in quite a few places around the world.
    It wasn’t considered immoral in the westernized world until not long ago.
    As history and everything in it it’s cyclic, very likely again in the near future it will not be considered immoral.

    We do not personally know Tony or Eva, nor how they think, how they were brought up, how they relate to marriage and sex.

    That anyone outside themselves will feel allowed to comment on their relationship is a fact, but a sad one non the less.

  • KOC

    Kudos guys. I’ll echo that ESPN has become the biggest drama spewing network on earth. Glad I have Fox Southwest and get my Spurs filter through Bill Land and Sean Elliot!

  • The Horse

    @agutierrez
    1. “Had the spurs gone on to have a second half like the first,” they still wouldn’t have gotten any coverage from the media. Nothing has been said of the 9-1 start on ESPN, but at least we still get our daily Heat Index.
    2. “En chinga” needs to be used more often during game analysis and commentary.

  • Jim Henderson

    I and nobody else has any idea what ALL the material facts are surrounding TP’s divorce case. What we do know is that to whatever extent an affair or divorce is a moral failing, it is a VERY common feature of the modern Americans’ experience. And to be blunt, as a sports fan I don’t really want to hear about the personal gossip surrounding the athletes and games that I follow. We all have our own personal issues that deserve attention on a regular basis. We simply do not have the time, nor hopefully the desire, to follow and judge the personal travails of “stars” in the media. I’m here commenting on this blog because I enjoy the game of basketball, and the principles that the Spurs organization live by to field an “old-school” style and very competitive team. At this point, as I would with any other couple dealing with a split from a committed and intimate personal relationship, I simply wish the best for both Tony & Eva as they work through this personal transition.

    As far as how Tony’s divorce might affect the Spurs? We do know that basketball has been a huge part of Tony’s life. It’s been central to his identity long before he met Ms. Longoria. We also know that Tony is the utmost professional, and takes his job very seriously. Personally, I doubt it effects his game very much. He’s essentially got 48 minutes every other day to give 100% focus to his craft, and about 1400 minutes on average every day to cope with his personal grief. I think he’ll do just fine.

  • SpurredOn

    Incredibly well written and on point. The only people able to comment with any authority on a personal relationship, be that family, spouse, or colleague, are the people in that relationship.

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  • Brian in Seattle

    A wonderfully thoughtful, as well as thought-provoking post. One has to wonder if there can be “too much” media coverage of a single topic. We certainly see it in politics with the emergence of the 24/7 news stations, and ESPN makes me think the same about sports.

    Eventually, you run out of the important, interesting topics to write/talk about, thus the media begins covering the nonsensical topics, making season predictions before Summer League even begins, making headlines with a player’s personal life, so much that they forget what the important, truly interesting topics are.

    Something I remember hearing in one of my Mass Communications classes a few semesters ago, the media keeps the establishment (government, etc.) in check, while blogs are emerging as a way to keep the established media in check.

    Keep up the great work, guys.

  • ITGuy

    @The Horse, @agutierrez

    Pop should use “En chinga” with his Spanish speaking players.

    “Hey Tiago, en chinga with the rebounds!”

    I agree with the post 100%
    Thanks.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • rob

    This is why I log on to this site. The professionalism and respect the staff of the 48 exude is leaps ahead of other Spurs bloggs.

    Thank you for your candor, respect, professionalism and provoking articles.

    If this had been handled differently, I probalby would have lost some respect for this forum.

    As Pop said when publicly addressing this…he so much as had sympathy for both Tony and Eva and addressed the question of if he thought this would effect the team negatively that if any of the players were to be effected negatively regarding their play…he probaly would have the wrong personnel on this team.

    Case closed. End of story. Their (Tony and Eva) private lives are just that.

    Thank you 48.

  • Dr. Love

    Buck Harvey speculated that Eva’s PR needs were driving the release of info, and he’s probably right. You haven’t heard much from Tony, Brent, or Erin.

    Although Erin might not be able to say much because of the frog in her throat….

  • http://airalamo.com AirAlamo

    Well said Graydon.

  • Andrew

    Very much still the best of the Truehoop blogs. We shouldn’t let said indiscretions take away from our Spurs’ blazing start.

    Utah, let’s get some revenge! TD with a monster game!

  • JP

    Nice, most sports journalists are dumb and can’t resist the opportunity to take some sort of convoluted moral high road to pump themselves up, it’s obvious and pathetic to me. So thank you.

  • Jimbo (Oz)

    As many others have said above – great article, and I think posting this was much better than saying nothing, so congrats.

  • andy

    Francesco
    November 19th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    i actually agree with you. as much as i don’t condone adultery and the pain it causes people share my values, it very much is a cultural thing as to whether it’s immoral or not. i have a feeling tony and eva were not of those cultures, however, so i hope this resolves for them in a civil and private manner.

    otherwise, as others have said, nice piece.

    you stay classy 48.

  • AmyfromLA

    Thank you very much for writing this piece! I have been avoiding news about it and fear it would come up in the blogs I follow. I want to hear about Spurs b-ball not about the athlete’s personal life. Thank you and the others on this blog for the professionalism!

    Now to BBall…Great win tonight!!! Timmy was fantastic! Does anyone else besides me hold their breaths when Manu hits the floor? =)

  • John

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m a huge Spurs fan. I’m thrilled about their start, and love that Tony has had a great start that should have him back in the All-Star discussion this season.

    That having been said…

    We loved praising great role models like David Robinson and Avery Johnson when they were with the Spurs, even if their morality had nothing to do with basketball. Tony also lapped up the limelight that came with dating a Hollywood star; how many of you guys got bothered when they would show clips of Eva cheering in the middle of a game–even though that had nothing to do with basketball? Athletes don’t get to turn the spotlight off just because it starts to look bad on them.

    Furthermore, just throwing it out there: Spurs fans don’t seem to be nearly so touchy about bringing up team members’ personal lives when it reflects well on them. Just one example off the top of my head was the post last month about how Pop invited DeJuan Blair and George Hill with him on a trip to his hometown. The clear idea was that this off-the-court time might build up some warm-and-fuzzies between the coach and players that could indirectly translate into better performance on-the-court. In reality, who Pop invites to his hometown really probably has very little to do with basketball.

    Well, the truth of the matter is that the Spurs have gone to extraordinary lengths to craft a milk-and-cookies, wholesome image–and cheating on your wife twice and going through a very public divorce simply doesn’t fit with that image. Furthermore, Brent Barry was very well-liked by his teammates, several of which are still on the roster; it’s really not completely unreasonable to think that finding out that Tony may have been messing around with Brent’s wife could generate anti-warm-and-fuzzies, for lack of a better word.

    WILL this divorce business definitely hurt Tony’s play? I don’t know, and I certainly hope not. As a fan, I feel sorry that one of my favorite player’s personal life is being dragged out for everyone to see. But like it or not, this IS news, at least in the short term, and frankly ESPN would have been completely negligent to pretend it isn’t or ignore it.

    Hopefully it winds up being a complete basketball non-issue and we can move past it quickly.

  • AmyfromLA

    @John. I agree that it will inevitably be mentioned and props to ESPN for only mentioning it ONCE during the Bulls game. I just mean that I don’t need to hear/read it every time I watch the Spurs or read about them. I’d much rather hear about their hot start or how they keep pounding the rock in hopes to reach the promise land come June. I don’t mind hearing a piece here and there about their personal life (e.g. the Pop story), but I don’t need it to be the same story with major speculation in all media outlets all the time.

    That Pop event was a rare occasion and that was the only time we heard about it, so it’s not quite the same. In my opinion, I think it becomes touchy when it keeps getting dragged out and simply has nothing to do with basketball as others have pointed out. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I sure wouldn’t want to keep hearing stories about that Pop trip every time I visited the site. (Sorry to drag this out. Last comment about it, I promise.)

    I agree with you that let’s hope this will be a complete basketball non-issue and we continue to see our Spurs beat quality teams.

    I hope Splitter gets to play tomorrow so Timmy can rest. GO SPURS GO!!!!! =)

  • Jim Henderson

    John
    November 20th, 2010 at 12:49 am

    John, I’m not really sure what the point of your post is. That the Parker’s divorce is news? That ESPN was right to report on it? That the Spurs are hypocritical because the wholesome image they project has been tarnished by Tony’s “alleged” escapades, and so they want to treat it as a non-news event and sweep it under the proverbial carpet as quickly as possible? That building team chemistry with the occasional wholesome outing among some of the players/coaches outside of basketball has little to do with basketball, and if anything is primarily a positive PR move, and therefore is deserving of some coverage?

    The fact is the Parker’s divorce, and the rumors about his infidelity, provide fodder for tabloid style journalism. It is not “news”, it is a personal/private legal matter accompanied with gossip-related overtones that’s written and covered for “entertainment” purposes because salacious “stories” simply sell, which helps to make the parent corporation (Disney, in the case of ESPN) that much more profitable. And this style of entertainment is about as far removed from athletic competition as one can get. Sports is about athletic talent and competition, making profits for the owners of franchises, and a host of other ancillary enterprises as a result of athletic performance. “Image” is unfortunately more and more a part of the equation, but a one-time divorce, and unsubstantiated allegations of infidelity is not news; it’s celebrity gossip that carries with it a clear violation of personal privacy.

    These are the facts:

    – The divorce rate is over 50% in this country.

    – Some studies report that over half of married men in America have an affair at some point in their lives. The rate for women is perhaps slightly lower, but is increasing.

    – Divorce & infidelity are personal events that are triggered by a failure of communication & trust in intimate, committed relationships. It calls for reflection & personal growth, not for a media facilitated feeding frenzy of accusations & innuendo.

    – No credible evidence has been revealed that indicates Tony Parker had an intimate affair with anybody, including with Brent Barry’s wife.

    Sports reporters should have no interest in covering the Parker divorce and alleged infidelity. There’s plenty of tabloid style websites and publications that are happy to do that job, unfortunately. Divorce and infidelity, whether we like it or not, are common features of American society. It is only newsworthy for the purposes of gossip entertainment covered by celebrity rags, or perhaps sometimes in the case of highly prominent “public” officials, and even then it is often over-covered for no redeeming purpose (e.g., President Clinton).

    I for one hope that sports journalism let’s this non-story die quickly, and not because it might be seen as an affront to the Spurs, but because it unnecessarily distracts from the best possible coverage of a competitive sport that we all love, one that takes place on a hardwood floor for 48 minutes of hell.

  • Francesco

    I think John actually brough up an interesting fact.

    Do I care that the Admiral is a devout christian?
    What does it matter to me if George Hill thinks he has a good looking willy?
    As a basketball fan and less than puritan individual, I couldn’t care less, but I understand that in a small and somewhat provincial community like SA those things do matter, and our FO has always been very attentive to project a certain image.

    Now the Spurs will have to be careful how they manage this situation, in order to both mantain their “wholesome” image and not create a precedent that future players may use as an excuse to justify their conduct.

  • Francesco

    In fact, since we’re all Spurs fans here and most of us are proud of the Spurs culture, this thing does deserve to be talked about a lot.

    Not about Tony and Eva, but about how this incident may affect our carefully constructed and nurtured culture.

    Although in the end, like someone else here have said, as long as Pop, Tim and Manu patrol the locker room I don’t see, in the short term, any problems basketball wise.

  • mla2131

    Well done.

  • http://getbuckets.fantake.com Jamal

    Good post.

    As much as possible, I try to ignore the off-field actions of entertainers and athletes and just appreciate their performance.

    To quote Kanye: “Momma I’m famous, [people] hate me that don’t know me.” No matter how many times we watch them play or see them in interviews, we don’t know them.

    If it was just a random, there’s no reason for us to be even talking about it. But if that’s a teammate’s wife, that’s way over the line. If I was a Spur who was cool with Brent Barry, I’d have a hard time being cool with Tony. Very serious violation of trust.

  • badger

    I have no need to know which NBA players are happily married, unhappily married, loyal, cheating, single, gay, whatever…. I am a Spurs fan. Although I care about Tony, I care about the Spurs. From what I can tell, he is enough of a professional that he will not let his off court life cause his on court life to suffer. If anything, I suspect basketball will be a welcome “distraction” from life. GO SPURS GO!!!!