With LeBron James, How Anonymous Is Too Anonymous?
Between all the Hall of Famers announcing that they would never unman themselves like James has, there's been the lasting cry that conspiracy, foul play, and all manner of trickery were at play in the formation of the Uber-Heat. Adrian Wojnarowski landed one of the most devastating blows on this front, with an expansive piece following James (and the other principals) from 2004 up through The Decision.
Woj's piece was unique in that it didn't simply cast the Heat as nefarious, but made LeBron out to be an unforgivable jerk at every turn. Brilliant, history-making stuff. Except there's one complaint, or at least a concern: Like so much journalism, sports or otherwise, Woj's epic relies largely on unnamed sources and shadowy allusion.
Ethan Strauss of the TrueHoop network took the trouble to run through the piece, line-by-line, and point out all the times he as a reader (and editor) was left with questions. The larger issue, though, is that in the increasingly moralistic climate surrounding James, it's now acceptable to let these sources, and their incomplete revelations, heavy-lift a narrative along for several thousand words.
I know that anonymous sources are part of the game. Deep Throat is a national hero, as are Woodward and Bernstein. However, this kind of journalism is closer to what Seymour Hersch does in The New Yorker -- where, because he's Sy Hersh, we take seriously far-fetched scenarios supported only by loose-lipped sources at the highest levels. Woj's track record makes us inclined to accept his story. But apart from his reputation, the article is a house of cards, if not a tautology.
Why is it true? The sources said so. Why do we trust the stories? They make sense of the story. Factor in the muddy details, and it's even harder to come away completely convinced.
And with that, we're back to the old Socratic question: it is true because Adrian Wojnarowski said so, or did Adrian Wojnarowski say it's true? Or, to push this one step further, do we believe because of Woj, or does Woj tells us what we want to believe? I suspect that, if anyone dared craft a pro-LeBron narrative this extensive, the burden of proof would be much, much higher.