Friday, February 22, 2008

MISTER INSIPID: The LA Times 'blog' of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

DD subscribes to the Los Angeles Times. It is a great newspaper.

However, it appears to have suffered a collective nervous breakdown. Its new owner is a mega-wealthy crackpot from Chicago by the name of Sam Zell. Zell is reported to utter startling imprecations so much in casual conversation that we wonder whether or not he is a Touretter.

It has been reported that Zell's idea of inspiration is to come to town to shock and awe the staff, berating Times employees with coarse language, uttering unusual bon mots like "it's un-American to not like pussy."

Yes, that's how we can tell people are not Americans. They're all the ones who don't like pussy.

Over the past ten years, the Los Angeles Times has suffered through a string of lay-offs. Despite that, it has been a journalistic success, winning many awards. Nevertheless, it has gained a reputation as a place where editors responsible for bringing Pulitzers to the newspaper are instructed to fire people. When they refuse, they're canned.

When Sam Zell took over the newspaper he did it in a manner which saddled the business with a mountain of debt. The debt is to be serviced through increasing profits. One of the golden eggs the Times is banking on to improve the bottom line in some mystical way is its website.

The Los Angeles Times website is not as good a read as the daily paper edition, which is delivered every morning in the driveway. We wrote about this recently here.

But if one is to believe the public utterances from the top at the newspaper, one is sometimes left with the impression that there is a veiled wish for subscribers to just shuffle off and die so the business could get on with moving everything to the web.

And the Times' idea of great stuff on the web is its blogs -- most recently that of retired basketball celebrity Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One is to bask in the "insights" provided by the NBA's all-time leading scorer.

DD browsed Abdul-Jabbar's blog and found it right in there with the collected works of Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie. What it lacks in the sweeping breadth of appeal of Peale and Carnegie, it makes up for with somewhat more modern language. Call it the inspirational beat, the furnishing of the intelligence-insulting or obvious for those who need advice-from-authority plus a daily pep talk. Alongside the advertisements for whatever great thing about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is going down today.

Some excerpts -- man, this stuff is priceless:

Today is cool day for me. ESPN.com is launching my audio/visual show as a part of my audio book On the Shoulders of Giants.

Complete with photo of Abdul-Jabbar as a smiling young man.

"A lot of kids growing up today aren't told that you can be whatever you want to be," [some hero of Abdul-Jabbar's] once said. "There may be obstacles, but there are no limits." The proof of what he says is right in front of you on the [PC] screen you’re using to read this...

Delivered in praise to one of the patent holders on some stuff that went into an old IBM PC. In photos, Abdul-Jabbar is featured prominently on his blog as a Mac user. Is there a commercial tie-in?

On drug use and cheating in sports: I spoke to former All-Pro lineman Lyle Alzado before he died. He weighed about 160 pounds and had no hair and not many teeth left. He knew that he was dying and asked me to tell any kid who would listen not to follow his path. I shed more than a few tears that evening. Lyle was a good dude who made some poor choices.

Lyle Alzado was such a good dude he's the NFL's picture boy for 'roid rage.

"[Lyle Alzado's] second wife, Cindy, blamed the breakup of their marriage on his mood swings caused by steroids," notes ESPN. "She said she called police at least five times during their marriage because Lyle physically abused her, but Alzado was never arrested."

Hail the famous bore. Happily, the blog is not included in the paper edition.

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