Jewish World Review June 18, 2004 / 29 Sivan, 5764
NBA numbers crunch; rap reversal?; strange bedfellows; more
NEW YORK ; There are as Mark Twain said lies, damned lies, and statistics.
But worst of all, says the National Basketball Association, there are Jeff Benedict's statistics.
On Thursday, NBA Commissioner David Stern's minions launched a full-court press against the Connecticut author's just-published expose of the league, "Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA's Culture of Rape, Violence & Crime."
They're outraged by Benedict's claim touted prominently on the book jacket that a jaw-dropping 40 percent of NBA players have police records.
"Criminal conduct is always a matter of serious concern," said Tim Andre, senior vice president of NBA communications. "But this guy Jeff Benedict has conjured up a few previously well-publicized incidents and is trying to use them as a springboard for fabricating this grossly inaccurate statistic that unjustly disparages all NBA players."
The NBA says the real figure is far lower, and Benedict himself acknowledges that his results are based on only 42 percent of the 450-player population.
He says the reason for the skewed sample is that 49 players from foreign countries were excluded ("I'm not going to go filing public records requests in Lithuania and France," he told me), and that U.S. law enforcement agencies provided information on only 177 players.
Benedict writes in "Out of Bounds," which received a favorable review from Publisher's Weekly, that if he had collected complete data, "it is conceivable that the 40 percent arrest rate for NBA players would drop."
On Thursday, he dismissed the NBA's complaints.
"That's just spin, and probably the only thing they can do is criticize these numbers," Benedict told me. "But this book isn't about statistics. It's about real stories of NBA players who have committed crimes and continued to play in the NBA."
Benedict is an old hand at raising hackles in the sports world with controversial numbers. His 1999 book, "Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL," claimed that a whopping 21 percent of National Football League players had been arrested for serious crimes.
But in a subsequent article in the statistical journal Chance, Benedict and a co-author made a stunning correction, admitting that "the NFL rates (Assault/Domestic Violence) are less than half the general population rates for both whites and blacks."
Maybe this is a more relevant statistic: the Amazon.com sales rank for "Out of Bounds" was 3,681 on Thursday.
RAP REVERSAL?: Is Jay-Z getting back in front of the microphone? The 34-year-old hip-hop entrepreneur announced with great fanfare last year that "The Black Album" was his last. But Jay-Z seemed to leave the door open to change his mind at Tuesday night's party for John McEnroe's new CNBC talk show, "McEnroe." Asked at his club 40/40 if he's sworn off rap recordings for good, Jay-Z said, "I'm a human being, so all I can say is that you ask me that question today, I say yes." Then the rumored Beyonce fiance added coyly, "But I don't know what tomorrow holds." Before Jay-Z could elaborate, he was engulfed in a bear hug by Al Sharpton, who had barreled through a crowd including NBC-Universal honcho Jeff Zucker, Democratic politico Mark Green, and "Saturday Night Live" player Amy Poehler. McEnroe, meanwhile, heaped praise on Jay-Z. "I'm very impressed about how well he's done for himself very well. So I might have to ask for a couple tips." And would Mac welcome a joint business venture with the rapper, who has added to his commercial colossus everything from clothing to vodka? "I'd be willing to discuss that." Jay-Z's response: "Lucky me!"
THE O'REILLY FACT: Yes, Bill O'Reilly walked out of "Fahrenheit 9/11" because he was due elsewhere. And yes, he was, like others who asked, turned down for a videotape of Michael Moore's Bush-bashing movie. But Fox News Channel wants the world to know that producer Harvey Weinstein offered O'Reilly a private screening. Instead, O'Reilly plans to sit through the whole film on his own time and on his own dime.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Free from the tender mercies of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, former prison inmate and longtime Bill Clinton associate Susan McDougal is getting love-bombed by high-profile Democrats. On the sidewalk outside Wednesday's screening of "The Hunting of The President," McDougal was approached by a trim, gray-haired lady who introduced herself: "I'm John Kerry's sister. It's such an honor to meet you." Then McDougal and Diana Kerry bonded over the absolute necessity to defeat President Bush in November.
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06/12/03: Giving both parties the needle
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© 2003, Creators Syndicate