One of the pitfalls of journalism is what we might call "Ivory Tower Syndrome": we opine from afar, we issue a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down to determine the gladiators fate, and then, our judgment complete, we complain because the press-box hotdogs are undercooked.
"Those who can't do, teach,'' is how the saying goes. But in an attempt to be self-effacing, I've always added, "Those who can't do or teach, write about those who can do and teach.''
But more than ever, that ivory tower is now, thanks in large part to social media and the instant info gratification of the internet, a sniper's perch. We sit nestled high above our targets, we scour the internet for potential headline-grabbing material - sex, race, conflict, power and money magnetize our crosshairs here - and then we trigger-finger our keyboards and we fire at will.
Which takes us to the pandemonium regarding "Basketball 101 For Women,'' a staple of the Dallas Mavericks autumns for the past dozen years or so. And yet just now, someone has decided that "Basketball 101 For Women'' is "patronizing'' and "pandering'' and "offensive'' and "sexist.''
Owner Mark Cuban's response to the judgments? "Agree,'' he tweeted when asked if the name should be changed. “But when we tried to change the name, our customers complained.”
But even Cuban's response is unwarranted, because he's responding based on accusations that are assumed, unfair and wrong.
Coop's been an annual speaker at "101.'' His voice matters. I've attended four "101'' events. And while I'm an advocate of "political correctness'' because, well, it's correct, "Basketball For Women'' doesn't quality as needing protection. It is the equivalent of "Boys Night Out,'' and it's never occurred to me that my wife or my mom or my sister should "stand up and protect me'' from such a "sexist'' label.
It's fun to be snarky in observing such things, and assorted national websites are doing just that. The actual value, though, is in living such things. That way, you increase the odds of getting it right. You don't assert that the event has something to do with "high heels,'' or with "women losing weight'' or with "women being dumb.''
I do not disregard Ms. Knapp's view just as I cannot speak for the thousands of women who have attended the event, nor for the sellout crowd that signed up for this year's late-September event. But again, in my experience at "Basketball 101 For Women,'' I've found it to be educational and entertaining. Nobody "pandered'' to anyone; we took notes, we learned, we listened, we laughed. (Oh, and a few years ago, coach Rick Carlisle stole a DallasBasketball.com video recorder. Seriously. A story for another day.)
Should the Mavs avoid being exclusionary here? Should they, for instance, offer basketball classes for men?
Ah, but they do. I've attended that event as well. I have a Mavs "contract'' to prove it.
A few years ago, Carlisle signed me up for the instructional tournament. So down to the Mavs basement I trudged, along with about 60 other "competitors,'' mostly men, some women, all there to learn, listen, laugh. (Do you sense a running thread here? How much would you like to bet that the popular Mavs kids camps are also about learning, listening and laughing?) My lack of preparedness caused trainer Al Whitley to toss me some Mavs practice shorts and assistant coach Darrell Armstrong pulled the size-11 shoes off his feet so I could play.
And again, just like the "women's'' event that I attended, the "coed'' event that I attended was of great value to me.
Actual facts and the genuine perspective that comes from them cannot be gather from the sniper's perch. True insight is better gained by attending such an event by literally walking in Darrell Armstrong's shoes, by pondering whether we should be more offended by a class for women or by the idea that women are such delicate flowers that they should be outraged by the labeling of an event, by wondering how offended we should really be because the lettering on the invite was pink.
To say "I'm just a man'' kind of devalues my opinion. To say Coop "is just a man'' kind of devalues his. But inarguably, a woman's view is of great value. So I asked for an opinion from a female friend of mine who, like me, has attended four Mavs "Basketball 101 For Women'' events.
"I've been a part of the 'Basketball 101 For Women' many times,'' my friend said, adding that the event is about "teaching,'' not about "patronizing women.'' "It's fun, informative and a great way for women to learn about the NBA.''
My friend in question, who is more qualified to speak on the subject than all the keyboard snipers in all the ivory towers, more qualified to speak on the subject than the critics male or female, more qualified to speak on the subject than yours truly?