Last week was a nightmare for your humble correspondent, and for that reason I have been unable to comment on a couple of stories that cropped up in the last few days, the most important of which was this article from the Birmingham News regarding allegations made by Pete Thammel and Thayer Evans of the New York Times against former Kentucky Wildcat and current Los Angeles Clipper Eric Bledsoe.
Here is, in relevant part, what Thammel and Thayer reported back in May:
When the rent payments stopped being made in early 2009, Axle said that she asked Ford about it on occasion and that he told her he would call Reddick.
Bledsoe and his mother abandoned the house in May 2009, and, according to Axle, left it in poor condition. When Axle last saw Reddick in June, she asked her who was going to pay the $3,200 she owed in rent.
"She said Maurice should have paid me," Axle said. [Emphasis mine]
Note the funny double-marks around that last sentence. Those marks, known as "quotation marks," indicate that is a direct quote from Axle -- not a paraphrase.
Why is this important? We'll get to that part after the jump.
Comes now the Birmingham News:
Axle told The Birmingham News that Ford gave her cash a couple of times but she always assumed the money came from Reddick. Her lease was with Reddick, Axle said, and she never wrote a receipt in Ford's name.
Axle said receiving the money occasionally from Ford -- she declined to estimate a number of times in case she was wrong -- provided an easy way to collect Reddick's rent because Axle frequently worked at Parker. [Emphasis mine]
That's not entirely consistent with what she told the Times:
Axle, the landlord, said that Reddick signed a one-year lease for $400 a month. But she said she never received any money from Reddick or Bledsoe. She said that Ford paid her for the rent three or four times in cash, usually while Axle volunteered at Parker High School. [Emphasis mine]
A couple of times versus "three or four times." Suddenly, in the space of just six weeks or so, Brenda Axle has had an odd bout of forgetfulness. "Three or four" is seems to me unquestionably more than "a couple," and how could she have been so specific in the first case and so vague in the second? And is "a couple of times not an "estimate?" Not only that, she told the Times that she "never" received any money from Bledsoe or his mother.
The Birmingham News article goes on to say that a cousin of Bledsoe's mother and a friend of the family helped with the rent, but then there is this:
Axle said she is not familiar with McMullin's [the family friend] name, adding he could have provided money directly to Reddick for the rent. [Clarification mine]
Okay, how does this make sense if Reddick "never" paid the rent to Axle, as Axle claimed in her account to the Times? Also, Axle claims to the Birmingham News that the Bledsoe and his mother owed "over $2,000", but was either much more specific to the Times, or the Times simply did the 4-payment math and came up with $3,200. Why be so specific to the Times and so non-specific to the Birmingham News?
It's hard to figure out what was actually owed to Axle after Bledsoe left. In order to play his senior year in high school, Bledsoe had to enroll at Parker sometime in the fall, let's say September. He had to move into the house before enrolling at Parker in order to be eligible to go there.
If the house was leased for one year at $400 in, say, September, and Bledsoe and his family moved out in May, as the Times article says, that means at least 8 rent payments would have been due. Assuming that only four were actually made, the Bledsoe family would have been in arrears $3,200 as the Times says. If more than four were made, the $2,000+ figure quoted by the Birmingham News looks more likely to be correct. What I want to know is, who made the payments to Axle other than Ford, and how many were made in total? Anybody? Bueller?
But that pales in comparison to this:
Axle said she has never received the remaining rent amount she claims she is owed after Reddick left the house in May 2009. The New York Times quoted Axle as saying that Reddick told her Ford should have paid the remaining rent amount.
"No, I told (The New York Times) that Maureen told me she was going to get to the bottom of it," Axle said. [Emphasis mine]
Now, this is an outright reversal of her previous commentary to the New York Times, assuming the Times reported it correctly and did not get it wrong as she suggests to the Birmingham News. The quote she gave the Times and the one she gave the Birmingham News are completely irreconcilable, and as such, one of them is wrong. Either she said what she said to the Times, and later said something entirely different to the Birmingham News, or one of the two reporters misquoted her. There is no middle ground. It is impossible to have understood "Maureen [Bledsoe's mother] told me she was going to get to the bottom of it" as "She [Bledsoe's mother] said Maurice [Bledsoe's coach] should have paid me".
What actually happened here? Is Brenda Axle changing her story, or did the Times misquote her? I have no idea. But these two stories contain several such contradictions.
In the end, it probably doesn't matter. Since the payments were purportedly made in cash, it's impossible to tell who's cash it was without some kind of sworn statement, and those are not likely to be forthcoming. Despite the inconsistency in the two accounts, at the end of the day, it is a "he said, she said" with no witnesses so far to gainsay any of them.
Finally, there is this question that everyone must be thinking: Is Bledsoe's sudden status as a millionaire influencing Axle's memory of events? The Times article makes it look like Axle was angry about getting stiffed for "over $2,000" or $3,200, depending on who you choose to believe, and that would be a reasonable response from a landlord under the circumstances. But the Birmingham News article, which was done after the NBA draft, shows Axle to be generously accommodating, willing to "write off" the money because Bledsoe was "a fine young man." Interesting. How careless of the Times not to explore that sentiment during their interview with her.
Assuming that family and friends did chip in to help, it would seem to exonerate Maurice Ford, Bledsoe's coach at Parker, of wrongdoing in the case. Ford has said all along that he did not pay any of Bledsoe's rent money, and this latest article seems to support him in that claim. I guess in the end, that's the most important thing.