Thoughts on Tim Kawakami

Warriors media day made for quite a bit of news in the last few days. Team captains Stephen Jackson and Monta Ellis took advantage of the occasion to re-air their grievances with the tight-fisted ownership of the Warriors, and the actions of Cohan henchman and team president Robert Rowell in particular. The details of this episode are already known to most readers, and I don’t intend to rehash them.  What moved me to write this post was Tim Kawakami’s take on the Jackson and Ellis situation: here, here and here. It was typically rotten. 

Kawakami has no interest in the Golden State Warriors.  I mean the team that is about to take the floor.  He has no interest in evaluating its makeup, or predicting its chances in the Western Conference.   Kawakami is interested in dysfunction.  He lives for it, hunts for it, and revels in print whenever he finds it. So it was no surprise that for him the Jackson and Ellis interviews were a treasure trove.

For those who don’t know him, Kawakami (TK) is a sportswriter for the San Jose Mercury News.  I use the term sportswriter loosely, because TK doesn’t write about sports.   You won’t find any game reporting, nor any tales of transcendent performances, or grace under pressure, or heroic effort, or the triumph of  team spirit over individual ego in TK’s column.  No, none of the things that inspire people to pursue athletics, or inspire fans to follow their teams, hold any interest for TK.  He is exclusively interested in rumors of intra-franchise acrimony, bickering and back-stabbing , and he thrives on retailing those rumors to his readers.  You will find nothing else in his columns.  And so, of course, he was happy as a pig in… mud to bring us the details of Warriors media day.  It validated his rumor-mongering existence.

For me, Kawakami  is a study in moral turpitude.  What else could you call the perverse enjoyment of human misery that is so evident in his work?  Or the propagation of human misery for profit that is his apparent aim?  To me, he represents the absolute nadir of  sportswriting.  Which is not to say there is anything original about him.  No, his archetype has been frequently portrayed in fiction, most notably perhaps in Bernard Malamud’s The Natural, which most of us know from the excellent movie adaptation.  The character of the malevolent, rumor-mongering sportswriter Max Mercy, played by Robert Duval, is TK right down to the bone.

Nor is TK unique in the real world of sports journalism.  I know of a few other prominent sports journalists of TK’s vicious predilection, most notably Peter Vecsey of the NY Post, who proved too nasty for television, and Ric Bucher, TK’s former mentor at the SJMN, who made his bones on the Chris Webber — Don Nelson blowup.  Bucher now graces us with his oily presence on national TV, where he has whitewashed his act.  But it is only TK who interests me here, because he is the Bay Area’s own.

TK’s modus operandi should by now be familiar to all Bay Area readers. Following the business model of Ric Bucher, TK actively seeks out any fault line he can find between the management of the Bay Area’s professional sports franchises and the athletes they employ.  When he finds one, he seeks to insert himself into it like a wedge, using his column and blog as a sledge hammer.  His goal is to further inflame the egos of the parties through his public airing of their gripes and grievances, and drive them further apart.  He gets the fans involved in taking sides, creating excitement in the story, and thus turns something that might otherwise have been a minor and passing and even private distraction into a major news extravaganza.  This business model worked like a charm for TK’s mentor Bucher, who leveraged his “reporting” of the Webber-Nelson relationship into national prominence as a TV talking head.  This is a lesson TK quite obviously has never forgotten.  Its a pity he doesn’t understand that he can never duplicate Bucher’s TV success.  (He doesn’t have the hair.)

I have often mused, while ingesting a TK cup of venom along with my morning coffee, what in his life caused him to turn into the scum-sucking rumor-mongering worm that he has become.  I mean, apart from the obvious greed and hunger for power.  He appears to really enjoy creating misery and spreading it throughout his readership.  What sort of person likes doing that?  Having seen him on TV, it seems likely that he was never much of an athlete himself.  Was he a jock-sniffer?  An embittered outsider?  Or does he resent the rich and powerful that his job frequently brings him in contact with?  Sports writers don’t make much coin, and even the best of them don’t get much respect in those circles.  Or has it gotten more personal than that?  None of the management of the Niners, Raiders, Warriors, Giants or A’s will have anything to do with him.  They never speak to him unless forced.  And even then they won’t share a thing with him. They know better.  They understand his type, better than he understands himself.  They positively despise him. Perhaps his columns are his revenge for that?

Or perhaps the reason is less sinister.  Perhaps behind-the-scenes franchise politics and dirty little rumors are simply easier for TK to write about than actual sports.  Because when writing about sports, you have to write something interesting about an event that everybody else has already witnessed.  Something real.  You can’t fake it. You can’t just write about rumors.  You have to actually know what you’re writing about.  But anyone who’s actually read TK, and managed to find an iota of sports content in his columns, knows that he doesn’t know a thing about sports. Not. One. Thing. Maybe that’s it.

Well, that’s enough of that.  I’m not really qualified to speculate on the sordid recesses of TK’s mind.  I got my undergrad in literature, not psychology.  Hey… wait a minute….

OK, seriously, that’s enough of that.  I want to end on a serious note, dealing with the mysterious unnamed “sources” that TK is so fond of quoting.   TK holds himself out as a truth-seeker and a truth-teller.  An enemy of the evil PR offices of the franchises he covers, that corruptly seek to hide or white-wash the nasty truths inside the franchise back-offices and locker-rooms, in order to sell more box seats and merchandise to unwitting fans.  His self-professed mission is to out these hidden nasty truths, by enlisting inside sources who are willing to spill the beans.  Have you ever wondered who those sources are?

Those who follow Bay Area sports know that franchise executives will not speak to TK.  We also know that coaches will not speak to him.  So who on the inside does speak to him?  Who are all those “unnamed sources” he so frequently quotes?

The answer should be obvious, both by process of elimination, and by reading between the lines of the quotes themselves. TK’s sources, like his mentor Bucher’s before him, are disgruntled players. And their entourages and retinues. By which I mean, their agents and managers. And why do the agents and managers of disgruntled players speak so frequently to TK? That answer should be equally obvious: to leverage their demands in the press. To get themselves a contract. To get themselves an extension. To get an annoying head coach — who more likely than not is insisting on unselfish team play at the expense of the kind of stat accumulation that lands big contracts — fired. To get themselves separated from a franchise that doesn’t sufficiently appreciate their talents. You get the idea. They are USING TK to get what they want.

Do you think TK doesn’t know this? Of course he does. TK is knowingly ALLOWING himself to be used, in order to write the kind of trash that he enjoys writing. The kind that sells newspapers, and gets eyeballs, and click-throughs. The kind that gets him quoted in the national sports press, and fuels his dreams of … what?

Which brings me to my conclusion: Tim Kawakami is more corrupt than anyone he has ever covered.

16 Responses to Thoughts on Tim Kawakami

  1. Attaboy Felty, way to get to the source of the venom and bile right off the bat. Well done.

  2. Next time you comment on TK, I want none of this sugar-coating!

    Thank heavens the guy is peripheral and probably not the main subject of your blog. You really kicked him where it counts… I thought a literature degree was only good for asking if the customer wants fries along with his burger…You write quite well. Look forward to more of this quality of expressing your observations (if not the vitriol.)

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys. I think I’ve got this out of my system for awhile. It’s sunshine and lollipops going forward :>

  4. A disappointing debut, Feltbot. This is just the typical blame-the-messenger stuff. Guess I don’t have to read further.

  5. Have to disagree a little with you JimmyJack. It is very WELL WRITTEN whatever you called it and not disappointing at all. Disappointing would have been something like ‘neener, neener, TK sucks…’ of which you actually see the equivalent on the internet A LOT. Looks like felty will be worth checking in on.

  6. I could have written the same article using just five words: Tim Kawakami is a prick.

    But bravo feltbot!

  7. Agreed. I wish people would call Kawakami out on his journalistic mistakes more often. On top os that he is a prick.

  8. TK’s articles do tend to be negative, but the problems he highlights are indeed problems. For example, he was correct in saying that the Warriors media day was a sign of bad things to come this season. Most other reporters dutifully reported the words of Jackson and Ellis, but very few went into what their words meant for the Ws as a team. To TK’s credit (and apparently, your distaste) he did analyze that uncomfortable feeling we all got from Jackson and Ellis. I say Bravo Timmy!

    Team play begins with an emphasis on the word “we,” but (as no one pointed out as clearly as TK) that single word was entirely missing from the talk of Jackson and Ellis. That is a clear sign of bad teamwork to come, no matter what fans might want to believe. Read any of TK’s posts about the Raiders, and you’ll see similar insights about their organization. TK is right, and the Raiders are already proving it again this season. Unless the mindset of the Ws’ team leaders changes, the Warriors will also prove him right. After decades of watching talented but underperforming teams, how could any Warriors fan think otherwise?

    Bravo to TK for also pointing out that players are not to be blamed for their mindset. Where would Monta ever have learned about teambuilding except from the only employer he has ever had? What do the words “loyalty” and “mutual respect” mean to a player who has been treated like a juvenile delinquent? Warriors management really doesn’t seem to grasp the team concept, and that blindness has absolutely had an impact. Is it wrong for TK to be right? I don’t think so, even though, as a fan, I often hope he’s wrong.

    One last thought: most reporters, including sports reporters, “play nice” with their subjects so they don’t get frozen out by them. TK a “whore?” Not in my book. We could use many more reporters like him, nationwide, on all topics. Check it out, feltbot. Whores are reporters who let “career considerations” drive their reportage.

  9. while i agree that TK does focus waay too much on negative storylines and dysfunction, he is very very correct about the warriors dysfunction. this team’s front office is inept and desperate. cohan needs to sell. one playoff appearance in 17 years or however long it is, is just unacceptable. especially in a market like the Bay Area’s. The fans deserve too much.

  10. No one is arguing that the Warriors aren’t dysfunctional. You’ve got to be an absolute idiot to not see the mess that’s going on with our front office. That is SO not the issue with TK.

    It’s his tendency to rub salt in the wound, to beat a dead horse, to kick a man when he’s down, to concentrate on one specific dysfunctional aspect a week at at time and twist it and shape it and print the same retread BS until I can practically recite what the dude has written without reading.

    He’s just what I call a little bitch…simple as that.

  11. I’ll bet you’re one of the douches who ripped TK for his prescient Zorn post LOL!

  12. Basketball for Dummies

    Good call Feltbot. Tim Kawakami is a bottom-feeding, talentless, twerpish, ugly, nappy-haired, weenie.

  13. I wish you guys would join me in simply not reading TK’s venomous stuff. It’s not good for your system.

  14. If I were an owner of a sports franchise, I would ban TK from even entering the premises or interviewing anyone on the team. He is like an omen or a plague walking into the building looking for any negative thing about the team to write about. What’s the big deal? Well, the power of the media is strong. His writings can actually make a situation worse for a team. In the Warriors case, a bad situation to a worse situation. Players, fans, etc.. read his colum… Let’s be real–words affect people. He is like the instigator that gets stuff started and laughs while he watches the dysfuntion get even worse. He is a horrible person and an opportunist. He’ll walk all over someone to reach the top. He doesn’t do it ethically. His homers will say that he is telling it like it is–sometimes he is and sometimes he isn’t. Someone who is telling it like it is doesn’t write the same stuff over and over again. The things he writes is 90 % negative. You mean to tell me that there is nothing positive to write about (i.e., Curry’s potential, Randolph’s potential.) He refuses to mix it up… Nellie must have hurt his feelings because he is going after Nellie hard with his writings and abusing his media power by slanting things a certain way. Even when the Warriors when to the playoffs, he wrote negative things. When the Warriors won 48 games and came down to the final week for the playoffs, he wrote negative things. Now that the horse is down and almost dead–he is kicking the hardest. What an ego!!!

  15. What a Jerk!!! is a better adjective…

  16. I just found this little gem of an article today, and am I glad I did! Nice to know that I’m not alone in thinking Tim Kawakami is a muckraking loser yellow journalist. I love it when I get the subscription offers from the Mercury News so I can let them know that I wouldn’t use their paper for cat litter as long as Kawakami works there.

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