I'm not a huge NBA fan, but this story about Scottie Pippen drew my attention yesterday.
It seems Pippen made a comment that LeBron James might eventually be the greatest player in NBA history--greater even than Michael Jordan.
That's not the interesting part of the story. If Pippen believes LeBron is that good, he's certainly entitled to it. What's more interesting is what he tweeted to fans who disagreed with his assessment:
For all of you that don't know I played the game you keep watching and cheering.
Here we go again--another former athlete who thinks that just because they played the game, their ability to evaluate talent is far superior to the ability of anyone else. Further, they think everyone else should just shut up.
Pippen could have easily been a former NFL player saying the same thing. Ryan Leaf famously remarked that only players could really understand.
The antichrist to this view is, of course, Matt Millen. A Pro Bowler and NFL champion four times over, Millen was, at best, a below average talent evaluator. One NFL executive even remarked that Millen had made more draft mistakes than anyone else had in two centuries.
The list goes on and on, from former quarterback Trent Dilfer saying Jimmy Clausen was a better quarterback than Sam Bradford to former cornerback Eric Allen saying that he would have drafted Matt Leinart ahead of both Vince Young and Jay Cutler.
It seems that being able to throw a 20-yard deep out doesn't make you a world-class talent evaluator, not that it should surprise anyone. One is a physical skill; the other is mental.
Throwing down the I-played-the-game card is an easy out for the athlete turned analyst. At the first hint of criticism, you can circle the wagons and surround yourself with a cocoon that only few can enter.
So bring back Emmitt Smith. Peter King's got nothing on him.
You don't believe me?
What the hell do you know? You never played the game.
TJ Johnson can be reached through telegraph, ESP, Spanish interpretor, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you want to see him mock "the man." He assumes you are following It’s All Over Fat Man on Facebook and Twitter, but if you are not, that’s nihilistic, man.