David Stern Takes A Lockout Pay Cut, And The B.S. Express Rolls On

David Stern has been on a public relations blitz during the NBA lockout, and he's doing it all free of charge. But look a little bit closer, and the picture gets a lot more complicated. Plus: Remembering Korey Stringer, early reviews for "Watch the Throne", and more. Talking Points is a series that highlights some of the best stories in sports (and elsewhere). Read the archives here.

David Stern has been in the news all week. On Monday we found out that he makes as much as $23 million-a-year as NBA commissioner. On Tuesday, he announced a lawsuit against against the Players Association and appeared on ESPN. And Wednesday's big news tells us that contrary to earlier reports, Stern won't be taking a salary during the NBA Lockout.

All of which clouds the issue. Of course David Stern's not taking a salary during the NBA lockout. The owners won't be generating any money, and the players won't be getting paid, either. How is it news that David Stern would choose not to get paid?

It'd only be relevant if he still tried to collect his eight figures. While we're talking about salary, though... Something Stern said on Tuesday afternoon struck a chord.

During an interview with Jay Harris on ESPN, Stern explained that the economy's changed, and the system needs to change, too. "Since the players get 57 percent of every dollar and we've seen their salaries go from $250,000-a-year to $5.2 million... I actually take some pride in that, because that meant that the revenues were growing, and we could be in a position to see players making that much money. But it's time for a reset, and we don't think the union is ready for that reset."

First off all, the figures he mentions are confusing. The average salary at the start of the last lockout (in '97-98) was $2 million, which is slightly different than salaries ballooning at a 95% rate. More importantly, what Stern forgets to mention is that while players got paid more, so did he.

We have to go back to 1990 to put this in perspective. Back then, players made an average of $860,000, and Stern made $3 million-per-year (more than all three other major sports commissioners combined, according to the New York Times). And now his salary's jumped to somewhere $15 million between $23 million, depending on which reporters you believe.

So while individual players are getting paid $4 million more thanks to inflation over the long term, David Stern's making between $12 to $20 million more than he did in 1990. Not necessarily some grand inequality, but a perfect example of Stern's selective reporting.

If you were to hear that David Stern's annual salary has grown by $20 million over the past 20 years, you might conclude that NBA's been growing steadily, and everyone's getting rich. You might not blame the players when you they're salaries have grown by $4 million. And if everyone's getting rich individually, but teams are losing money, you might think that's a problem that should be solved among the teams.

You won't do any of that, though, because you'll never hear anything like the truth from David Stern and the owners, as they try to take us all for a ride on the "Bullshit Express."

Tuesday was just the latest example of a dichotomy between numbers and truth that hangs over this lockout. No matter how many out-of-context statistics it takes to make his case, David Stern's job is to paint the players as greedy and unreasonable, and make himself and the owners look like innocent victims. He's good at it, too. Did you hear he's working for free?

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With that, let's get into Talking Points...

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Mike Patterson Is Doing Okay. After collapsing on the practice field in a fit of convulsions and then getting rushed to the hospital, Eagles DT Mike Patterson is reportedly doing just fine. Phew.

It gives us a chance to be grateful that Patterson's okay, it reminds us how insane it is to be practicing football in 100-degree weather, and if nothing else, the false alarm made me go back and remember Korey Stringer. He was one of the more thoughtful, lovable men to ever come through the NFL, and his death is still one of the greatest sports tragedies of my lifetime.

Ten years later, this outstanding Esquire piece is still one of my favorite NFL profiles ever.

He realizes, okay, comfort differs from man to man. Because for him, comfort is also the feeling of being in like thirty car wrecks every Sunday afternoon. Yeah. Comfort is trying to knock the living shit out of some enormous, angry, bile-spewing brute snarling at you from across the line, over and over again, every play, like eighty times, banging your head into a wall of viciousness and barbarity. It really is.

You know, football is a violent game. That's why you use words like destroy and crush and dominate and kill and all like that. Most people, like the average person, if you were an offensive lineman and you ached in the places that he aches after the game, after three hours of just heaving your entire body into men the size of side-by-side refrigerators, you would go to the hospital probably. You would go to the hospital and get yourself checked out.

But it makes him comfortable, so that's his gig.

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Speaking Of Horrible Tragedies... You may remember the story of Austin Hatch, the Michigan recruit who lost his father and step-mother to a plane crash after losing his mother and sister to plane crash earlier in his life. The second crash left Hatch in intensive care, but now, it appears the news is finally getting better. He's still in critical condition, but he's stable, and making slow progress in his recovery.

You can track his progress here, and for a look at the whole story, Elizabeth Merrill's Outside the Lines piece does a good job capturing a story that's so heartbreaking it's almost surreal.

Here's to hoping it gets better from here.

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Time Some Lighter News... Hey, Fantasy Football Names! A list of suggestions for naming your fantasy team from Kissing Suzy Kolber. We'd provide some excerpts, but like 90% of them are way too inappropriate to reprint here. #blacktwittertags made LOL, though.

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Listening To Watch The Throne. Jay-Z and Kanye West are releasing "Watch The Throne" next Tuesday, and while we wait for the record to leak, here's a collection of observations from the listening party that Jay and Kanye hosted earlier this week. In short: the album sounds like it's going to be pretty incredible, and holding a listening party in a planetarium is just about the most Kanye West move of all time. Remember: It's not a rap album, it's an experience.

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Why Do Newspapers Make This So Hard? Here we have a perfectly fascinating newspaper story about an NFL player whose video game addiction nearly cost him his livliehood. But my thing is, why do all newspapers insist on having the hokiest ledes in the history of the world? Can't we all agree that stuff like this just makes it harder to enjoy good stories?

If somebody had squeezed Quinn Pitcock's psyche into a cup three years ago, it would have tested positive for "Call of Duty."

Oof.

Still... The story of Quinn Pitcock is kind of insane.

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The Perfect Tweet, Pretty Much. Anytime you can quote Lil Wayne and mock the NCAA... Here's North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall using Twitter the way God intended.

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Again, I love college sports.

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Why Do People Hate Wind Farms So Much? "So, you're like the serial killer who's mad at the drunk driver." This Daily Show segment was great.

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Finally, A Look Back At The '98 Lockout... Over at Grantland, Jonathan Abrams looks back at the lessons from the '98 Lockout. For novelty's sake, though, this video from Bill Simmons is even better. It's incredible how the talking points are pretty much exactly the same, 13 years later.

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