What was going through Bryant Gumbel's head when he turned to the camera and began his scathing commentary on David Stern and the NBA lockout? What was going through his head when he penned the script for his monologue at the end of Tuesday's Real Sports on HBO?
He was keenly aware of the backlash that would come. He said so himself in his monologue. He was not aware of the point he ended up making.
Was this his point? His own misconceptions leading to a bevy of others' misconceptions?
Whether he was aware of it or not, Bryant Gumbel has provided the juice to an NBA lockout sagging in interest. Basketball-related income? Boring. David Stern, a plantation overseer? Ooh! But Gumbel has also strayed conversation away from the only thing the lockout has and will ever be about: money.
His efforts were typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer treating NBA men as if they were his boys, Gumbel said of Stern in his commentary.
It's part of Stern's M.O. Like his past self-serving edicts on dress code or the questioning of officials, his moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place.
Like pretty much all of Gumbel's rant, that part is based almost exclusively on his misguided perceptions and assumptions.
Gumbel says that if the NBA lockout is going to be resolved any time soon, it seems likely to be done in spite of David Stern, not because of him. That's just wrong. But OK, he's trying to make a point.
His rant is full of generalizations and assumptions. The only examples he gives leads to a comparison that typifies the ridiculousness of his rant.
Sure, the NBA dress code controversy lingered for a while. It led to the same accusations of racism toward Stern that Gumbel levels here in this rant. It has to do with Stern's attempt to tackle what he perceives as the NBA's image problem.
Right or wrong - no opinion on that here - the attempt to compare the implementation of a dress code to the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement is stupid. It's stretching so far to make a point that the point gets lost along the way.
It's hard to make a point in 78 seconds, which is what Gumbel had in his closing diatribe. But it's even harder when you spew out a few clichés that serves as a baseless, general and spoon-fed criticism of Stern from Gumbel's relative awareness of the issues.
Right. That point Gumbel was trying to make. Obviously, it wasn't about his misconceptions leading to others' misconceptions. What Gumbel tries to do, in essence, is illicit sympathy for NBA players. You might remember the 1998 lockout, when this was a hallmark of the players - like when Kenny Anderson tried to invoke pity in his plight of getting rid of one of his Mercedes.
And then everyone went and tried to decipher Gumbel's message after Gumbel tried to decipher Stern. Slavery entered the picture without Gumbel ever saying the word. Slavery entered into comments from talking heads like Charles Barkley.
I thought they were stupid, Barkley told USA Today of Gumbel's remarks. Disrespectful to black people who went through slavery, when (talking about) guys who make $5 million a year.
As Deadspin points out in a strong take, Gumbel used the word plantations for a reason: pointing out the sense that David Stern has long suffered from a megalomania that makes him treat his players as insignificant employees instead of valuable allies in a multi-billion-dollar corporation.
And no one in a multi-billion-dollar corporation is going to get any sympathy. Here's the lowest of the low, the bare-minimum NBA contract for a rookie in 2010-11: $473,604.
That dollar-sign is the reason that, in rare circumstances, casual NBA fans probably aren't going to take a side. Owners make millions - billions, even. Players make fewer millions, but they still make millions.
As for the racial aspects in Gumbel's speech? Well, Gumbel didn't seem to have much of a problem with the NHL locking out its workforce for the entire 2004-05 season.
No, that dollar-sign is the reason - the only one - the NBA lockout continues in its 112th day Thursday. The sides are far apart on money, not respect.
So in the end, the only thing Gumbel's commentary accomplishes is getting people to talk about him. If David Stern is standing on an egocentric pedestal, so is Bryant Gumbel.