By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Don't buy the martyrdom.
Because Dallas' Only Daily is selling you a knock-off.
In an ironic twist, turns out Dallas Morning News reporter Tim MacMahon got himself temporarily banned from the Dallas Mavericks' locker room because, in part, he failed to go into the Dallas Mavericks' locker room.
The Morning News would like you to believe that MacMahon, its hard-working, omnipresent blogger, is a martyr who valiantly fell on his cyber-sword as the catalyst for owner Mark Cuban's virtual line in the blogosphere. The paper repeatedly trumpeted MacMahon as singularly persecuted, ostensibly for having the balls to write a negative item about the Mavericks. Morning News deputy managing editor Bob Yates protested Cuban's infamous March 10 blogger ban, characterizing the unprecedented policy as "a veiled attempt at retribution" for MacMahon's criticism of head coach Avery Johnson.
If that were true, it'd be petty of the Mavs. If that were true, it'd be hyper-sensitive of Cuban.
It ain't true. Close? Maybe. But 100 percent genuine? Nope.
Because during a three-week circle jerk in which the Morning News canonized MacMahon and elicited harrumphs from the mainstream media mush, the paper conveniently left out the Jerry Stackhouse incident.
Which one? This one.
On February 25-26, MacMahon penned items on the Morning News Mavs blog stating Stackhouse had long been grousing about his role on the team. "No more wondering what his role is or complaining about not being able to get in a rhythm," MacMahon wrote on the 26th. Stackhouse, a Mavs info junkie, fired off an angry e-mail to the writer he'd never met.
"The problem I had was that it wasn't accurate," Stackhouse said before Dallas' March 25 home game against the Los Angeles Clippers. "Without talking to me, he portrayed me in a way which was just wrong. So I let him know I was pissed off."
Before Dallas hosted the Sacramento Kings February 29—the night after Johnson benched Jason Kidd for the final 34 seconds of a gut-wrenching, head-scratching loss to the San Antonio Spurs—the doo-doo collided with the oscillating Deco Breeze.
While Cuban—alerted to MacMahon's criticism of Johnson from the night before—discussed the merits of blogging during his traditional Stairmaster session with reporters about 20 feet away, MacMahon approached Stackhouse's locker with hat, and blog, in hand.
"He said I was right, and he apologized," Stackhouse said. "I told him to stop trying to read my mind or determine how I'm feeling. He agreed. He said he should've come in here and asked me about it first. In the end, we were cool. To me it was quashed right there."
A locker-room source said that when MacMahon joined the group surrounding Cuban, other Morning News reporters were essentially admitting they could write information on the blog that wouldn't be allowed in the paper.
"Mark was like, 'There's a big problem right there'," the source said. "You could see his wheels starting to spin."
Cuban told MacMahon to leave the locker room, promising to craft a policy concerning bloggers. During ensuing discussions with team personnel, Cuban was informed of the Stackhouse incident. MacMahon was prohibited from entering Dallas' locker room at American Airlines Center before games on March 6 and 8, and on March 10, the team formally announced a blanket ban that later barred bloggers Andrew Kamenetzky (Los Angeles Times) and Henry Abbott (ESPN.com's TrueHoop).
"It's not like I was losing sleep over it, because I put bloggers down on the level of a rash," Stackhouse said. "But I thought there was something funny about the timing of it all."
Cuban, a founding father of blogging who has his own blog but claims he never knew of MacMahon's site before February 29, refuses to pin the ordeal's genesis on a single item.
"It wasn't about Avery. It wasn't about Stack," Cuban told me last week via e-mail. "It was the fact that I had no idea that any bloggers at all were allowed in. When I found out there were bloggers, the one thing that was important to me was that mainstream media have no advantage over individual bloggers. Lack of space was a convenient excuse."
For us to think the Stackhouse item didn't play a factor in Cuban's decision, we'd have to be nuttier than Sandra Crenshaw.
For a newspaper to camouflage the incident, it would have to be deceptive and misleading, flirting with untruthful.
I'd love to give you the Morning News' excuse. But, ironically, the guy who blogs constantly off the top of his head from the middle of his couch suddenly went mute. MacMahon failed to return multiple phone calls last week. (In a peculiar "Pub for the blog; Anonymity for the blogger" positioning, multiple sources say MacMahon is ordered to decline all interview requests.) Morning News sports editor Garry Leavell also refused comment and directed me to Yates, who was out of town and unavailable.
The only time the Morning News publicly acknowledged the MacMahon-Stackhouse incident was Yates' interview with TrueHoop posted March 24.
"Tim MacMahon and Jerry Stackhouse had a conversation in the locker room on [February 29], before Mark Cuban told MacMahon to leave the locker room," Yates told Abbott. "Tim left his conversation with Stackhouse thinking the issue was resolved."
In the hours after Cuban announced his ban, MacMahon heroically found enough time to stop patting himself on the back and type: "The Bad Boy Pistons had the Jordan Rules. These Mavs have the MacMahon Rules."
Tim MacMahon = Michael Jordan. Self-aggrandize much?
Cuban agrees the Morning News is exploiting the ban as a marketing ploy. Sweep some truth under the rug here. Paint MacMahon as a martyr there. Voila, sympathy for a blogger and publicity for a blog.
"Of course they are," Cuban said. "They need to do everything possible to create traffic. Why wouldn't they? It's the smart thing to do."
Along with the mysterious Stackhouse omission, I'd like to ask MacMahon and the Morning News head honchos whether their blog was significantly dented by the ban. The Morning News wants you to believe MacMahon—like Braveheart's William Wallace—was stretched, racked and disemboweled. When really, the whole thing's a tempest in a teapot.
MacMahon still sat in on Johnson's press conferences. Still ate in the media dining room. Still attended games. Still blogged, using the Mavs' in-house wireless. (Take it from my offerings on Unfair Park; you don't have to be present to blog.)
Because of the NBA's perfunctory edict to ban Cuban's ban, MacMahon will be allowed back into the locker room before Wednesday's home game against the Golden State Warriors. If Cuban delivers on his comical caveat, he'll have company.
"I literally will open the doors to all bloggers and make them all come in and out as a group," Cuban said. "It will be fun to watch Tim and the other big-company bloggers walk in the door with the 15-year-old high-school bloggers. I will have [director of basketball communications] Sarah Melton send out the warning 'bloggers in the locker room!' just like she does with 'ladies in the locker room!' It will be fun to see how they respond then, and if it's truly just about having access."
In the end, MacMahon's blog doesn't require access to the locker room. Bloggergate wouldn't exist, in fact, had he utilized the access granted in the first place.
But that won't curtail Dallas' Only Daily from its smug sense of entitlement.
We don't need a spiffy new kindergarten color scheme to see that.