LOS ANGELES—As Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers against the Magic in the NBA Finals, fans are seeking the expert views and insights of top sportswriters for help in formulating an opinion on the 11-time all-star.
"Please, sportswriters, if you're reading this, I need you to write more columns discussing whether or not Kobe Bryant is the type of player who thrives under pressure," Los Angeles resident and longtime Lakers fan Sam Lawson said. "Does Kobe want the ball in his hands with time running down? Does he have killer instinct? I just don't know these things until I read them in Jack McCallum's Sports Illustrated column."
"I'm certain McCallum, of all people, can tell me, because he is a truly original thinker and a genius," Lawson continued. "Sportswriters are all geniuses."
Like Lawson, a majority of U.S. fans are begging luminaries in the combined worlds of letters and sport to confirm certain obscure and rarely discussed aspects of Bryant's basketball career that remain unclear to the average reader. Despite watching many seasons' worth of full games, hundreds of hours of game analysis, and as many personal profiles and capsule biographies of Bryant as humanly possible, many fans still feel they are in the dark about the 2008 MVP.
Basketball enthusiasts claim sportswriters have repeatedly helped them to determine whether Bryant is a better defender than most people think, and whether he has figured out how to use his teammates instead of being a me-first player. In 2009 alone, tens of thousands of basketball fans have called on sports journalists to answer the following questions: Is Kobe Bryant intense? Is Kobe Bryant competitive by nature? Does Kobe Bryant have a deep and abiding passion for the game of basketball? And if so, how do his intensity, competitive nature, and passion compare to Michael Jordan's?
Citizens claim that if they are not given at least 40,000 more sports columns concerning these topics, they will be utterly unable to comprehend even a single minute of a basketball game.
"I was personally unsure whether Kobe was 'focused' or not," Baltimore resident Michael Shields said. "But then I read Jonathan Abrams' lengthy New York Times article about Kobe Bryant's focus and I learned that Kobe is really very focused indeed. Now, I had thought that Kobe certainly looked focused during his 40-point performance in Game 1, but you can never be sure of these things until it's confirmed by a professional."
According to basketball-watching Americans, sportswriters have thus far answered innumerable questions about Bryant that would have been nearly impossible for laymen to answer for themselves. For example, the nation was shocked to learn Monday that Bryant sets the tone for the Lakers offensively.
"I had no idea," Orlando Magic fan James Graft, 42, said. "Literally, none."
Fans have also turned to sportswriters to help them understand whether or not Bryant is hungry for a fourth championship ring. A survey of hundreds upon thousands of nearly identical but equally brilliant sports columns—penned by many different writers—and painstaking viewings of ESPN's Around the Horn have confirmed that Bryant is, in fact, metaphorically hungry for said ring.
"After three championships, I was thinking that maybe he didn't want or need a fourth," said Los Angeles resident Derrick Glass, who has had season tickets to the Lakers for the last 15 years. "To be honest, I thought that maybe he only wanted to win with Shaquille O'Neal and didn't really feel like proving that he could win a title without him, but fortunately Jay Mariotti and Woody Paige are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to steer me in the right direction on that one."
Overall, sports fans stated that although they will listen to what Bryant's teammates say about him, or even to what Bryant himself has to say, ultimately they look to sportswriters to regurgitate that information in an urgent yet carefully modulated tone of voice, thereby conveying that what they have to say is very, very important to the national sporting dialogue.
"To get a full grasp on Kobe, I need Skip Bayless to yell at the top of his lungs," Michael Shields of Cincinnati said. "After he shouts about Kobe as often as possible while fixing a sour look of disdain on his self-important face, I will know what I myself should think about Kobe."
Most importantly, citizens stressed they need sportswriters to tell them precisely where Bryant stands amongst the all-time greats. Americans unanimously noted that it is absolutely necessary for sportswriters to provide them with the invaluable service of writing 600,000 to 1 million more columns that rank current and past players in lists of 10, 20, or 100, depending upon how much space their editors need to fill.
"I could never do what these guys do," Tom Matthews, 34, said. "But what I find most moving is when they sum up these apparently inconsequential stories with poignant closing sentences, often just a few seemingly inane words—or perhaps even a separated quote that's given its own standalone closing paragraph—intended to make the reader ignore the previous 872 words of mindless filler and take a moment to think about sports' overall influence on who, ultimately, we are as a nation and a culture."
"It's simply ingenious," Matthews added.