Trouble in the IkoSystem

Kelly Iko recently published a piece for The Athletic. He proposed a number of trades that the Rockets could make with the fourth overall pick. 

They stank. They all stank. The trades stank to high hell. Iko heard about it. 

Rightfully so. This is the public domain. The public is entitled to their opinions, and they’re entitled to express them. 

I even got in on the fun. I made a couple of tweets at Iko’s expense, and I don’t regret it. If he didn’t know that the fourth overall pick and two future firsts for Cameron Johnson was a bad trade, he needs to. 

Then, I saw a tweet that changed my outlook a little. Somebody suggested that someone ought to “smack the stupid” out of Kelly Iko’s mouth. 

Now I’m annoyed. I’m thinking about a few months ago when I suggested an unpopular trade. 

They killed me on every social media platform. Who’s “they?” The public. The hounds. A universally unified army of the outraged. Meanwhile, they asked the same question about us sports writers:

Who are these guys, anyway? 

Believe it or not, we are people. AI isn’t writing all of the sports articles yet. We are living, breathing human beings. Flesh, blood, and all the imperfections. 

Who am I? A 36-year-old male. I live in a basement apartment with my girlfriend and my two cats. I’m blessed to be in a loving relationship, I have good people around me. When my sister came into some money, she bought me a PlayStation 5 that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

Oh – and my Dad survived cancer this year. 

You don’t think there were times when, if some stranger called me an idiot and questioned my ability to do my job, I wasn’t going to respond? You don’t think there were bad days where, if you’ll excuse my unprofessional language, I didn’t give a fuck about professionalism? 

Here’s a little more of it – fuck you. I don’t know Kelly Iko. I don’t know what he’s been through in his personal life. On the other hand, I do know that, as a fellow human being, he may not be in the mood to be called a moron. 

Here’s a related question – who are you? What do you do for a living? To borrow a bit from Jerry Seinfeld, how would you feel if I showed up at your work? What if I told your boss you were inputting the wrong data on the spreadsheet? Said you were a regular “smooth brain?” 

Would you respond “professionally”? 

We are living in a society – aren’t we?

Of course, you’re not at my office. You’re on the internet. This is the existential crisis of the modern era. Everyone has two existences. Normally, they’re a lot more brave within the confines of the one that eliminates physical proximity to others. 

Would you tell me to my face that I’m a moron? You might. I’m not an especially intimidating person. On the other hand, is it strictly the threat of physical consequences that preserves civil society? 

I don’t think so. I think empathy plays its part. Most of you would politely disagree and quickly look to change the subject. 

Yet, when you don’t have to look into my eyes, I’m a moron. When you don’t have to look into Iko’s eyes, someone should smack the stupid out of him. 

What do I think of Iko’s trades? I think they’re outrageous, frankly. If the Rockets trade the fourth overall pick and two future firsts for Cameron Johnson, I will move to Houston. I will live out my days preaching on street corners about the evils of the decision-makers that made that decision. 

What do I think of Iko? I think he’s a good writer who makes up really bad fake trades. I don’t know him personally. Neither do you. 

How did he get here?

I don’t know: I can only tell you how I got here. 

I have three degrees. My work does not use any of them. Finding employment in my city has been a struggle. 

On a whim, I decided to apply to write for a basketball page. I won’t name names here, because I’m going to be getting into some…details. 

The website accepted my application. I’m officially a sports journalist – cool! 

This website has a pay-per-click structure. I was writing about a small market team. As such, the clicks were not rolling in, and neither was the pay. 

The best month I had with this employer was about $500. The worst was about $5. I’d put my average monthly pay at about $125. How did I survive? 

I borrowed and begged. I stopped just short of stealing unless you count using my parents’ Netflix subscription. 

First, I collected as much government money as I was rightfully entitled to. After that, my parents lent me rent and groceries for three months. I’m lucky that they were able to do so, but I paid them back in full. 

This was not easy. My girlfriend was very supportive, but she worried, and so did I. Eventually, I cold contacted The Dream Shake. They accepted me. 

SBNation has a very fair pay structure. The thing is, they only offer part-time work: they just pay very fairly for the work that you put in. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them, but they weren’t going to pay my rent. 

Eventually, NBA Analysis was willing to do just that. If you’re an aspiring sports writer and my employers ever offer you an opportunity, take it. These are excellent people who will pay you fairly for your hard work, and might just have plenty to offer.

I don’t know how Iko landed with The Athletic. Here’s what I do know. Iko is a good writer. He earned his spot, and he deserves it – even if his fake trades stink. 

Why do we write these fake trades, anyway? 

Because you want them. I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t want them. I want in-depth basketball analysis”. 

Sorry. On average, you want fake trades. That’s what the numbers tell us. That’s what you click. Clicks mean money, and this is an industry. Vote with your click. 

Wanna know why? You want the outrage. You want the outrage, we give it to you, and then you bite the hand that feeds you. 

Sure, Iko’s trades, if I haven’t mentioned, stunk. It is certainly possible to write better fake trades. Still, at the end of the day, he gave you what the data tell us you want the most: outrage.

So, don’t attack him personally. Hate the sinner, not the sin. Criticize the trades, but leave this man’s humanity out of it. 

Here’s a general rule of thumb: don’t be an asshole. Online, offline, wherever you are: just don’t be an asshole. 

I’ve seen it said that when writers engage with “internet trolls”, they’re acting “unprofessionally”. Here’s a newsflash: 

We don’t tweet for a living. We write for a living. 

All that we are is writers

So, we are obliged to produce a certain number of articles for a publication in a given month. It isn’t our job to take verbal abuse on the chin. 

We are not punching bags. We’re not your personal little rage room. Just because I write articles about the Houston Rockets doesn’t mean that you get to call me an idiot and I’m expected to sit there and take it like one of those guards with the funny hats at Buckingham Palace. 

You’re an idiot. That’s my professional opinion. Also, you’re giving off weird, incel, too-old-to-live-in-your-mother’s-basement vibes. That’s how it feels when you attack people behind an Alperen Sengun profile picture. Just a heads up. 

If you don’t like my ideas, that’s perfectly fine. That’s an appropriate response to a proposal. If you care about the team, you surely have your own vision of the team’s direction. If mine doesn’t align, tell me. 

Do not advocate for “smacking the stupid out of someone’s mouth” unless you want to read a hit piece that will find a wider reach than any one Twitter comment you could ever make. 


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