The basketball internet world dry-heaved for a few hours as news came out that LeBron James missed being named a unanimous MVP selection by one vote (for Carmelo Anthony) out of 121. There was that whole distraction when Miami-based Dan Le Batard fooled everyone into thinking he voted against LeBron to make a point (he doesn't have a vote); then the witch hunt continued. Monday morning, the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn came out as the Melo Voter in a pretty strong column.
I think LeBron was clearly the MVP. 'Melo had his best season ever, and it still didn't compare to what LeBron did. Washburn argues that without 'Melo the Knicks are a lottery team, while Miami is stacked beyond James. He also credits 'Melo for leading New York out of decades-long doldrums. I don't think Washburn's case is convincing, but he has an opinion and is totally believable when he says he didn't vote 'Melo to deny LeBron unanimity.
More than anything, I credit him for announcing himself, especially knowing the ridicule he faces. Because yes, he is going to draw some ridicule from bloggers, sports talk radio jockeys, fans, his brothers and sisters in the reporting world, probably LeBron himself.
That's the real key here in why I won't bash Washburn: anonymity is far more important than unanimity. There's zero transparency in NBA award and Basketball Hall of Fame voting. We don't even know who the voters are. It took more than an hour on Sunday before it came out that Le Batard didn't have a vote. We only know who voted for Melo and why because Washburn had the stones to speak up. Otherwise, we'd slip into the future not knowing whether the Melo vote was a protest vote against LeBron winning unanimously, a legit belief in Melo's candidacy or an accident. (After Jordan Crawford's first-place Sixth Man vote, we can never be too sure.)
Think about it: vote anonymity protects sportswriters and analysts from being judged by the public for their ... sports opinions. It's inane. Voters should, like Washburn, be willing to stick their names on their votes. They are in the business of having thoughts on sports. It's not a huge stretch. Meanwhile, unanimity in award voting is seriously overvalued. If five or six voters didn't pick LeBron No. 1, I hardly think anyone would have flinched. There would have been no witch hunt. Washburn is only in the news because he was the only one who went against the grain.
A unanimous win for LeBron would have been nothing more than a nice trivia question. It really doesn't matter. Unanimity is just not that important. LeBron won the vote convincingly. Washburn is convincing in saying he didn't deny LeBron the vote out of spite. Now that the motive (or lack thereof) is settled, I'm far more interested in who dropped a fifth-place MVP vote on David Lee. I wish the internet cared as much about that so there'd be some pressure for that voter to make their case in public. Because I would love to hear it. I imagine it to be a glorious Dickensian tale of the heroism of Blue Collar Man in a world dominated by the glorious and rich. (By the way, Lee Voter couldn't have put Stephen Curry on his ballot, because Steph only received three fifth-place votes. So Lee Voter considers Lee more valuable than Curry. Lee Voter intrigues me, and I'd really really really like to hear his case.)
Anonymity let nine -- NINE -- voters leave LeBron off of their five-spot ballots completely in 2011. One can only assume they were protest votes against James in the wake of The Decision. Not one of those voters were as brave as Washburn in explaining why. That's a much bigger issue than whether 120 voters all agreed to give LeBron the award this year. Drop the veil, let sportswriters do their job and write about sports, and we'll all deal with far fewer tempests in teapots.