TrueHoop: Bret LaGree
Bret Lagree has been writing Hoopinion since the halcyon days of basketball blogs way back in 2004. In October 2007, Hoopinion zeroed in on the Atlanta Hawks, and quickly became one of the smartest, most incisive team blogs on the scene.
What are you doing with a sports blog?
I'm writing every day. That's important to me, but I lack the discipline to do so just because it's the right and proper thing to do.
What, to you, is the point of a sports blog?
For me it's a way to clarify my thoughts about basketball, to then make the effort to communicate those thoughts in a way that makes some sense to other people, and then engage with the people who take the time to agree or disagree with what I've written.
I think both the personal and the interpersonal aspects would be difficult to achieve in a traditional media format. I consider myself very lucky not to have to write a game recap on deadline. The extra time improves the quality and clarity of my argument and limits (though certainly does not eliminate) the factual errors. After I've done my piece, the direct, immediate reader response both makes me want to write the next post and helps direct my focus. If I've made a relevant point but beat that point into the ground to such a degree that those who choose to take the time to read what I've produced do not want to hear it again I feel a responsibility to delve further into the subject. A blogger's work is never done.
You are, in fact, a produced playwright. Can you tell us a little more about your career?
I think it's safe to say that following college I overestimated my importance to the American theater. I believe Alan Rudolph once said "I don't have a career. I have a careen." That was after making 15 films or so.
I've got one pretty good unproduced play still in search of a willing and able theater. I've also got a terrible unproduced play that I wasted most of the last three years trying to make work. I'll feel a lot better about the renewed potential of a career once I prove I can complete a good play again.
In your Hoopinion manifesto, you wrote that there needed to be a blog written by "someone who described his professional basketball loyalty thusly, 'Essentially, I'm still a Kansas City Kings fan.'" Here's your opportunity to expand on that loyalty.
I don't think I'll ever have that devotion to the Hawks that comes from supporting a team from a young age. That doesn't prevent me from caring about the team's fortunes but I do lack that childhood emotional attachment to the franchise. I think that's a good thing, though. It gives me a slightly off-center point of view on the team which has lead to some good discussions on the site. The most prominent of which (in my mind) was my conviction late last season and during the past summer that the Hawks should seriously explore trading Joe Johnson in order to acquire assets while also building around Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Josh Childress. That wasn't a popular position and I think the quality of the criticism I received led me to re-evaluate both Johnson's value (he's currently enjoying the best season of his career) and the value to those lifelong fans of the team competing every season it's plausible to do so. The current rebuilding cycle took too long and had too many missteps but that shouldn't unduly color the accomplishment of making the playoffs or winning 40+ games.
Anyone who has spent large portions of their life at the Omni can tell you that being a Hawks fan has been a thankless endeavor. How did you allow this to happen to you?
I attended almost every University of Kansas football game in the 1980s. I still follow the Royals closely. I've witnessed every Chiefs playoff game in the last 20 years. I spent this Saturday morning following the BBC's text commentary of Leeds United's 2-0 home loss to Carlisle in the 3rd Division of English football. I think it's fair to say that either a) I don't know any better or b) I don't believe I deserve any better.
You also write an incredibly good film blog called "Film is a Battleground." Who should direct the cinematic story of this current Hawks team?
With the caveat that I think it's generous to use the present tense when discussing "Film Is a Battleground," I'd tap Billy Wilder circa Ace in the Hole to make a good film about the Hawks organization. Ownership encourages a certain, constant level of cynicism from its fans and there's an unresolved tension between the amount of obvious effort put in by the players, coaches, and the personnel side of the front office and the limited self-awareness they demonstrate.
It's just basketball so it's difficult for me to use a moral term like "good" to describe their intentions but I don't doubt anyone's desire to win. I'm just skeptical that there's a plan in place at any level to maximize their ability to win.