The Internet, unwieldy and nebulous as it may be, still has a number of defining characteristics. You can uncover trivial facts or basic information in just a few short moments. There’s the convenience of email, the power of search engines, social-networking capabilities, maps and directions, free music, stupid videos and, of course, copious amounts of porn. And there are haters. Lots and lots of haters.
“George Karl is the most pathetic coach in the League, period,” claims #1Nugsfan in the comments section of Benjamin Hochman’s recap of Monday night’s loss to San Antonio for the Denver Post. “Feels like we got the leftovers of a coach who had a great career and just [sic] doesnt care anymore,” opines NuggsRocks. “Give George [Karl] 100 pds. of hard candy and send him on his way, something needs to be done,” adds jw. in westernco.
Of the 41 comments left on the San Antonio story – making it far and away the Post’s most commented Nuggets article of the week – nearly half make some reference to George Karl’s coaching. Some decry his misuse of the surging J.R. Smith, others gripe about the way he handles Carmelo Anthony, and several took offense to his quote that, at the end of a 5-game swing against Western Conference powerhouses Houston, Phoenix, Utah and San Antonio (twice), the Nuggets 2-3 record was “acceptable.”
Such sentiments are nothing new in the world of sports. Ever since the Greeks devised the prototype for the modern sporting event, bleacher bums have been grousing about players and coaches alike. In the message-board era, however, hating – defined here as any criticism launched primarily out of emotional frustration instead of coolly detached intellectual reasoning – has evolved into an ubiquitous monster, popping up on virtually any article with a comments section.
Despite the title of his controversial blog – www.firegeorgekarl.com – Andrew Feinstein is no hater.
“I have great admiration and respect for George Karl,” Feinstein says. “I still think he could be a great coach, just not with the Nuggets.” Feinstein, a lifelong (and therefore long suffering) Nuggets fan, repeatedly emphasizes that the blog is not intended to be a personal attack on Karl, that he harbors no personal grudges against the coach and seems almost apologetic for the controversy wrought from the galvanizing title of his site. Instead, his argument is based on several simple, indisputable facts: The Nuggets have two all-star starters, the fourth highest payroll in the league, and a coach who makes more than some players ($3 million per year, according to his site). Yet with 18 games remaining, the Nuggs are currently sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference standings, leaving them out the post-season.
“It’s inexplicable of all the teams to get bumped from the playoffs, the Nuggets would be one of them,” Feinstein says. His passion to see the Nuggets succeed is evident, but his strongly named URL address very nearly landed him in hot water. Shortly after launching the site on February 24, Feinstein received an email from Karl’s lawyer, Bret Adams, that less than tactfully threatened the blogger with legal repercussions.
“Is your life really this boring and meaningless that you would spend the hours necessary to create such a website,” Adams wrote. “As Coach Karl’s counsel I am putting you on notice that I will sue you into bankruptcy should you cross the boundaries of permissible speech.”
While Karl has since stated that he did not personally order Adams to send the angry missive, the sheer absurdity of the correspondence – along with the brushfire pace of breaking news on the internet – caught the attention of several sports and news websites, including ESPN.com, the Wall Street Journal Online and the popular sports blog Deadspin.com, where the post has received over 10,000 views. Inadvertently, Karl’s counsel created a boon of publicity for firegeorgekarl.com that Feinstein couldn’t have possibly mustered on his own.
Even though his blog went from long-simmering idea to headline-grabbing controversy in a matter of weeks, Feinstein says he’s not surprised how rapidly the story spread. “We’re all very loyal with each other,” he says of his fellow bloggers. “They may not agree in my cause but they agree with my right to my cause. And we all have bounded together.”
In spite of its name, firegeorgekarl.com is actually more of a general Nuggets blog than an angry, agenda-fueled plea for Karl’s head. As proof of his deep sports knowledge, Feinstein – whose ideal scenario would see former Nuggets head coach and certified legend Larry Brown take over for Karl at seasons end – recently started a five-part series covering the Nuggets past five administrations, beginning with the woeful Bernie Bickerstaff years. “I’m not just a degenerate Nuggets fan, I’m a degenerate NBA fan,” Feinstein says.
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In fact, he might be best described as simply a degenerate sports fan. Although born and raised in Denver, Feinstein now makes his living from L.A. illustrating and co-writing (along with Denver-based partner Justin Borus) the comic Girls and Sports – www.girlsandsports.com – a syndicated daily strip that’s read in over 200 papers every week.
For the last month or so, however, it’s been his blog that’s been garnering most of the attention. And lest you think he’s secretly rooting for Karl’s failure as to be proven right, Feinstein has offered a guarantee – should the Nuggets advance past the first round of the playoffs, he will renege on the coaching change, crack an egg across his face and post the picture on his blog. Until that happens, Feinstein is happy to relish in his role of “giving a voice to the fans.”
“What I want to say to [Nuggets owner Stan] Kroenke is that the fans are like tax payers,” he explains. “We ticket-holders pay their salaries. That means that we have a right to demand that the people that we essentially pay for care more than we do. [Former Nuggets coach Jeff] Bzdelik gets credit for wanting it more than the fans did. George Karl doesn’t.”
That may sound harsh, but Karl’s lack of intensity – whether real or perceived – is the heart of the argument for both Feinstein and many a message-board hater. And unless the Nuggets can make up two and a half games on the 8th place Golden State Warriors by April 16, the haters will have plenty of time to hate until the players next come to play. - Mark Schiff