Looks like any thoughts about the NBA playoffs are going to have to wait at least half a day. This Gary Thorne-Curt Schilling-Doug Mirabelli sock thing is way out of control. Yes, you'd think it was over, everybody hashed out when and where the misunderstanding took place, and we're now free to ponder how fast the air has gone out of the Orioles' balloon this week.
Nope. Because here's Schilling on his blog. Like you didn't know that was coming. Like you didn't know he'd knock it out after a game, and that he wouldn't find time during a busy season to pound out 1,500 words on it. That's not an unusual length for him and his blog, by the way. As one of the writers who regularly covers the Red Sox pointed out earlier this season, he's managed to do this regularly during the season, to write more in a postgame rush on his blog than the beat writers do on the average day of game stories, notebooks and their own blogs. But if there's one thing Curt Schilling will always find plenty of time to do no matter what the circumstances, it's to talk about himself.
Now, he won't find time to get his facts straight, especially while lecturing others to get their facts straight, because, as you might have seen in his latest posting, he got the name of our former Sun colleague wrong. Back during the '04 playoffs, it was Laura Vescey who wrote her doubts about the authenticity of the sock. Not Karen Vescey. He also misspells Jay Mariotti's last name and jokes about not really knowing the first name of Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman. Not that blogs are supposed to have credibility or anything. Our writings should, not his.
He's just a honest, straight-talking, team-oriented, stand-up ballplayer. One that will never miss an opportunity to let you know he is.
There's a very basic reason why this story still has legs: because it's Schilling, who has become the all-time leader in public phony selflessness. It's not an easy act to pull off, but some athletes are masters of it. They manage to position themselves as being all about the team and about the game, while cleverly (they think) hiding the reality that they're all about themselves. By not directly speaking about themselves, in either first or third person, they avoid the most obvious characteristics of raging egoism - so he's not comparable to, say, a Chad Johnson. They generally believe that nobody can see through them. That illusion largely comes from their notion that they're smarter not only than the media they manipulate, but the fans they desperately play to.
Schilling is, and always has been, the standard by which all other phony team guys are measured. As they say, there's no "I'' in team, but there are two in "Schilling.''
There seems to be a disproportionate number in baseball, too. A.J. Pierzynski is as good as they come. David Wells is a legend; a few years back, the man who has never been in shape his entire professional career memorably questioned teammate Frank Thomas's desire - days before the reason for Thomas's missing games was revealed to be a torn bicep that knocked him out for the season.
Jeff Kent is a genius; for years, he won over Bay Area media (of which I was one, but not one who bought his act) by positioning himself as the anti-Barry Bonds, largely by always being accessible, usually to talk about what a swell guy he was, not like that selfish, distant jerk in the corner there. No one, however, was more selfish and more of a jerk than Kent - but, as some writers actually said out loud, "he always talks to us.'' He also managed to fashion himself as a good ol' country boy, leaning toward honest, hardworking cowboy, even though he's from southern California. He finally got exposed with that spring-training motorcycle accident in which he broke his wrist - and for a disturbingly long time got a lot of people to buy his I'm-just-a-regular-guy fable about breaking it while washing his truck, because he's not one for fancy high-falutin' car-washing services.
Next in line to inherit Schilling's faux-regular-guy mantle? Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas. The draft prospect made it well-known that he would not attend the festivities in New York tomorrow, because he had a regular fishing trip with his father on that date. Fine, good enough. But he couldn't let it go there.
"I'm not preparing to have a big celebration on NFL draft day. That's not what I'm all about,'' he told the Detroit News. "I want the transition to be smooth from college to the pros, and not make a big deal about the draft." He said that the big draft blowout "is not what I'm all about'' twice.
What a sweet, pure, unsullied slice of Americana.
Except that the NFL Network is actually going to be there fishing with Thomas and Dad. It will have a camera on hand there to record his reaction when his name is called, quite possibly (depending on cell phone reception out on the lake) to inform him of the news. All, presumably, with Thomas's permission. So being on camera alone, having his solid, homespun ways transmitted all across America and setting him apart from his draft peers appears to also be "what he's all about.''
Not enough people have called "B.S.'' on him, just as they didn't call it on Kent or A.J. or, of course, Schilling.
With guys like him, it's too easy to raise a question of whether that's real blood on his sock. The blood likely is real. But so is the hot air.