The virtues of taste in the MVP race

April, 8, 2011
4/08/11
8:53
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prosepctus, in his case for Dwight Howard for MVP, captures a sentiment that's been gnawing at me as the argument over MVP has become more and more contentious over the past few weeks. Those who value advanced analytics have made the empirical case against Derrick Rose, while proponents of Rose's candidacy have noted his impact in Chicago's outstanding season and an individual game that has, by any account, grown tremendously:
My greatest sadness about the MVP debate this year is that it has been reduced to stat geeks against Derrick Rose, which hasn't helped either side. Look, Rose has had a fabulous year. I enjoy watching him attack a defense as much as anyone. And it is absolutely unfair that he's taken a barrage of criticism from statistical analysts because of an MVP campaign that he's had no role in orchestrating outside of his play.

The tenor of this year's discussion about MVP has grown toxic, not just because there's a lack of unanimity like last season, but because the debate has been drawn along ideological lines.

Sports, by and large, is a constellation of arguments: Who's the Greatest of All Time? Who do you want taking the last shot? Should there be a designated hitter in baseball (apropos of nothing, both LeBron and, more vociferously, James Jones said no last week in the Heat locker room). And arguments, by their very nature, are oppositional: My conclusion makes more sense than your conclusion.

This season, the dispute over MVP has grown uglier, because it's degenerated into a dispute about methodology. We're not just impugning each other's choices, but the way we perceive the world. That, in and of itself, doesn't have to be a bad thing. An exchange of ideas generally makes the world a better place, but some of the Rose-James and Rose-Howard debates I've overheard and read in recent days aren't so much a contrast of the players' attributes as a condemnation of those doing the arguing: Do you stat geeks even watch the games and observe the results, or do you just consult your spreadsheet to draw conclusions? Meanwhile, if you listen to the extremes on the other side, you'd think Rose was putting up Arenasian numbers this season.

What are we really arguing about here? If I support LeBron James for the MVP Award, what I'm essentially saying is that Rose is a dynamic talent who just happens to be the second, third or fourth best player in the world. How insulting. Rose-over-James offers the same construction. These disagreements might be contrasts in methodology, but at their very heart, they're about taste, and taste is a very personal quality.

I've argued with friends for "Some Girls" over "Let it Bleed" and "Beggars Banquet" (somewhat unsuccessfully, but I'm a sucker for middle-late Stones), and for "Blueprint" over "The Black Album" and "Reasonable Doubt" (more successfully), but we always seem to arrive at the same place:

Artistry invites diverse tastes.

"Let it Bleed," my third favorite Stones album, is freaking phenomenal -- and so is Derrick Rose. Ranking them behind a top choice doesn't discount that affection at all.

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