August 25, 2008
The day after the Madden VIP party in Los Angeles, I was up at the Universal City Hilton with all the guys from EA Sports just hanging out, getting film for "Boom Got Them Three," and discussing the future of the movement. The people behind my favorite game seemed to be semi-celebrities to me. They make my life better and I recognize that.
We were outside by the In-'N-Out truck enjoying ourselves when Eric Musselman walked up to say hello. We were outside of the Pump Brothers Coaches retreat, which was part of the whole weekend experience, so there were coaches saying "hi" to us the entire time.
Musselman was a different story to me though. See, the last time I saw him, actually the very last time I saw him, was right after a three-hour mini-camp before I was to leave for Vegas with the Sacramento Kings back in 2006. Everyone had all of their bags packed and were waiting for us in the locker room so that we could board the bus to the airport quickly after practice. On my way to the locker room to shower and get my things in order, Musselman called me and Odartey Blankson over to speak with him.
"Guys, thanks for coming, but we won't be needed you to make this trip with us," he said with a stern face.
I remember it being one of the worst feelings of my life. I stood in silence while Odartey began to question it. There was nothing that could be said. That was it.
Two years later here he was being friendly and smiling; it was awkward for me to see him. It was like seeing an ex after a rough break-up. After he left, I told the guys from EA how awkward it was. I told them that the only other person who had released me from a team was Lawrence Frank. Almost as if I had said some magical words, Coach Frank and Musselman appeared in front of me, talking to the EA guys about camps and a number of other things. I was now surrounded by people who essentially had direct control over my immediate future and made the decision to send me down the hard road.
In pure "chew it over with Twix" fashion, I stuffed my mouth with a Double Double so that I clearly was not able to speak. When I had it all the way down, there was just enough time to say a quick hello and goodbye with a "you drafted my boy Ryan Anderson" in between.
The EA guys laughed when it was just us again. They understood what I was just attempting to convey. Nothing about this business is that easy, even the easy stuff.
Now, as a blogger in general, that story is lighthearted, funny, and a bit insightful. As an athlete-blogger, though, is it too much? I ask this because in the past few months, many people writing stories about athletes who blog or make YouTube videos — athletes who report their business candidly — have all asked me that question in some capacity. Is there a certain line that should not be crossed, and even if I think so, does the NBA, or any pro-league that has blogging players, feel like that line should be more conservative?
I bring this up for two reasons. First, an article came out on SI.com recently that pretty much explored the negative side of blogging, a side I had recognized, but hadn't taken so seriously. To quote the article:
"As successful as Benson has been with his creative endeavors, the possibility exists that they could have a negative impact — that the stigma of being a blogger could actually keep a talented 6-10 athlete out of the NBA. Says Benson's agent, Bill Neff, 'One GM told me that [the blog] was a red flag, and he wasn't the first. There's an insecurity, from NBA guys, about the blog that shouldn't exist, because Rod is just hysterical. People may end up looking at him less seriously, even though he averages more rebounds per minute than any pro other than Dwight Howard. Instead of thinking of that, [GMs] may be saying, 'Do we want this guy writing about us?'"
My personal opinion is that if a team that wants to sign a guy like me, or already has a high profile blogger signed (Gilbert Arenas, Donovan McNabb), and they have a problem with the content of the blog, they will go to that player directly. I mean if you really think about it, many guys have been signed to teams with much higher red-flags on their social resume than a blog. I even know of a former D-League player who is banned from the D-League for life who is signed to an NBA team right now.
So I take that to mean that talent can overcome a checkered past. Plus anyone can change. A blog is the easiest thing in the world to change. Just delete a few words and boom.
The second reason I bring this up is because, I have, over the course of the last few months, been more reserved with what I write on Ball Don't Lie. A big part of that was my closer proximity to NBA teams. I guess while in the D-League it's easy to speak about the team and the city because I know all of them. It's much tougher to be so candid when you don't know how the people who are potentially signing you view the material that you put out there. I mean, heck, my BEST stories from Vegas, such as the "Rubber Ducky Escape", will only grace the pages on TooMuchRodBenson.com for that very reason. I even debated writing about Musselman and Frank just because you never know, you know? It is my full understanding of the old phrase "don’t bite the hand that feeds you" that leads me to censor myself at times.
Well, although I am not a pioneer in the athlete-blogger world, I am one of the most candid. However, I do think that each year, there will be a new and growing crop of athlete-bloggers, ready to say exactly what’s on their mind. I don’t see that as a bad thing, and I certainly don’t see my own writing as having a negative impact on my chances of getting signed. I’m going to continue to write because I enjoy it and I just get so damn bored. I can only play so much Madden!
That being said, I want to know what you think. Do you think that the number of athletes who are candid about their social lives in their blogs will continue to grow? Do you think they should censor their material (beyond the obvious; clearly nobody should bad-mouth the NBA or their team in public)? Let's hear your thoughts.
Rod Benson is a Cal grad who played for the D-League's Dakota Wizards. When he's not eating Twix chocolate bars, he blogs one or two times a week on Ball Don't Lie. Read his archive, pay a visit to TooMuchRodBenson.com and always support the Boom Tho movement.