First of all, I am not a Thamel hater, even if I now believe that he is clearly biased against Calipari. Some will say that he is also biased against Kentucky, but I think that is most likely just because Coach Cal is there. With that said, Thamel is a good reporter and I thought his Enes Kanter article was a decent piece of journalism. Unfortunately, his most recent article makes it look more likely that Thamel may have taken a quote out of context deliberately, as reported by Matt Jones on Kentucky Sports Radio.
Why? Well, if you are crusading against someone, the gloves often come off, and quotations out of context are pure bare-knuckles journalism when you throw ethics out the window. In my view, Thamel has taken another quote out of context to give an impression of wrongdoing. More on that after the jump.
First, here is a quote from Thamel's recent NTY Quad article which was originally published under the lede, "Analysis: Kentucky May Get Just What It Did Not Want From Calipari" to "Analysis: Calipari's Past Looms Larger At Kentucky":
An independent law firm has been investigating Bledsoe’s unusual grade jumps since a report in The New York Times first raised questions in May about Bledsoe’s transcript. That information is expected to be forwarded to the N.C.A.A., which will determine whether Calipari can pull off an unprecedented triple crown — having seasons vacated at three universities.
Here, Thamel does an amazing amount in just one paragraph: He toots his own horn, he fails once again to acknowledge the fact that he was granted illegal access to Bledsoe's transcript, and he ends it with a rhetorical flourish that is really little more than a prayer for his desired outcome.
Now let's look a little deeper. The Brimingham News reporter investigating the matter ran into an ethical guidance counselor who refused to discuss Bledsoe's transcript with him:
Parker guidance counselor Susan Parks, who is listed as the high school's primary eligibility contact with the NCAA, also declined to comment on why two documents showed different Algebra 3 grades recorded for Bledsoe.
"I can't answer that intelligently, because I'm not looking at the transcript and anything on the transcript is supposed to be confidential information," Parks said. "I don't feel well discussing that with you."
If you're Pete Thamel and the NY Times, though, it's okay. Confidential information rules regarding high school kid's transcripts are only for us little people, not the Gray Lady.
Then, there is this quote by Thamel:
The former Parker principal Joseph Martin declined to explain why Bledsoe was allowed to take Algebra III first, telling the paper, "I’m going to my grave with that."
The full, in-context quote from the Birmingham News was:
Asked whether it is common for students to take Algebra 2 and 3 out of sequence, Martin responded: "It isn't normal for a person to do that or be allowed to do that. Had I looked at his transcript, I wouldn't have allowed him to do that. By the time he got to us, I guess what we had to do ..."
Martin paused before continuing: "Well, I ain't even going there with that. I'm going to my grave with that."
So was Thamel accurate? Not exactly. Martin said that it wasn't normal, but it could have been required by the situation, although we are left to speculate on why that might have been. It's hard to tell what he meant by that last comment, but it appears to be a bureaucratic snafu that he didn't care to fully explain. Thamel appears to imply an unwillingness by Martin to admit some kind of nefarious behavior, which is probably not what Martin was trying to say.
Now, let me say that Thamel is entitled to his opinion, and whenever I see "Analysis," I always consider that and "Opinion" essentially one and the same. I don't have a problem with his opinion whatsoever. But Thamel also reports hard news.
The problem is, Thamel, in my view, is revealing a clear preference for the outcome in this article. He wants Calipari to be "caught," although "Caught at what?" is a great question in this particular case. Bledsoe's transcript was legally scrutinized by all sorts of people, including UK compliance, the NCAA Clearinghouse at least twice, an independent third party in Birmingham, and wrongfully by Pete Thamel and the New York Times.
So can we trust Pete Thamel to write fairly about Calipari and Kentucky when it comes to hard news reporting? I say no. I was on the other side of the fence before, but now my suspicions are so high that I can no longer explain them away.