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March 25, 2010 7:00 AM

ESPN: The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight

a jerk.jpgThe following is a true story. None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

One fine day very recently, a young guy named Dave McMenamin, who used to help NBA player Gilbert Arenas (both are pictured) with his blog, and now is employed with ESPN.com, wrote a character-reference letter to a judge on behalf of the player who's blog he used to help write.

Arenas, who's blog the young guy helped write, is about to be sentenced in a D.C. court for bringing guns into his locker room, and threatening another player after a card game went terribly bad aboard an airplane.

Authorities say that while on the airplane Arenas threatened to shoot Washington Wizards' teammate, Jarvis Crittenton, in the face and then blow up his car. You'd think shooting the guy in the face would be more than enough, wouldn't you?
Sorry. Moving right along...

Two days after making the threat to shoot the guy in the face and blow up his car, and I suppose to prove that he was a real man of his word, Arenas hauled four guns into the locker room and placed them next to Crittenton's locker with a sign that said, "Pick 1."

Well, at that point Crittenton did what any self-respecting basketball player would do, he grabbed his own gun and waved it in front of Arenas.
Now Arenas had a decision: Should he grab one of the four guns he brought with him, shoot Crittenton in the face, and then blow up his car, or should he break out a deck of cards?

Well, these guys' were obviously way too smart to get into a gun fight...and so far nobody has been shot, or any cars blown up.

Sentencing for Arenas is Friday.

Pretty riveting stuff, eh? There were less guns in the movie, "Die Hard."

But what about the far-less-sexy journalistic crime that was committed here?

ESPN, long known as a bastion of sports journalism, swung into gear Wednesday and issued a brief statement saying that the young guy it now employs, and who wrote a letter to the judge on behalf of the NBA-player-turned-felon, who's blog he used to help write, "understands his mistake."

I guess ESPN wants everybody to believe that because of all the other responsible, hard-hitting journalists McMenamin regularly comes across at the network.

Here's the full statement from ESPN:
"David wrote the letter on his own without any discussion or involvement with ESPN. While he has never been involved with ESPN's coverage of the Arenas case, this is clearly a serious matter, and he understands his mistake."

This is the part of this true story where I just want to cover my eyes.

Look, I don't think McMenamin's intent was to act underhandedly here. I do believe, however, that the young guy had no idea that what he was doing was a very serious breach of journalism ethics.

How could he?

McMenamin is a part of a network that made the decision long ago to recruit mostly carnival-barkers who regularly cheer-lead for the participants in all these games that they televise and show clips from, so that they can then have access to them.

The wiseguys who host SportsCenter have about the same journalistic chops as the pretty folks that work at the E! Network. They even share the word "Entertainment" in their names.

Apologies to those at ESPN who are occasionally able to elbow their way in front of the camera and perpetrate real journalism.
Unfortunately for them, though, it has always been about Entertainment at the place, which would be fine if they didn't give the illusion that they worry themselves too much over journalistic standards when hiring talent.

I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess that McMenamin was hired by the network because in addition to helping write Arenas' blog at some point, he typed away at other places on the Internet for a little while about the league he so loves.

In other words, the guy had what ESPN craves first and foremost when recruiting talent, access. Hired!

So the guy with all the access decides it's a good idea to type a letter on behalf of the convicted felon he used to have so much access to, and ESPN is confident he understands his mistake.

We can only hope so, though I don't have as much hope for the network that employs him.

(Getty Images photo)

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