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More Messages: What Lessons?

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Like most big-city dailies, the

Denver Post

puts out what's known as a "bulldog" -- a version of its signature Sunday paper that's made available a day early in order to pump up point-of-purchase sales at newsstands, grocery stores and the like. Typically, the main page-one headline doesn't change from one edition to the other, but this weekend it did. A tie-in to Carmelo Anthony's return to the Denver Nuggets in a game tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies was bannered "Lesson Learned" on Saturday. By Sunday, however, it read "Loud and Clear" -- a reference to the message sent to Melo by the fifteen-game suspension he just finished serving.

The first headline undoubtedly was preferred by folks in the Nuggets team office, who are working overtime to suggest that their young star is feeling properly chastened. The team recently posted a letter on its official website; it's signed by Anthony and addressed to "Nuggets Fans, Teammates, Stan Kroenke & the Nuggets Organization." The note's tone is very different from the one Anthony used in a YouTube chat with comic Katt Williams, in which he pointed out that hockey players who throw a punch, as he did in a mini-melee with the New York Knicks, get suspended for ten minutes, not fifteen games. (To see Adam Cayton-Holland's blog item on that conversation, click here.) The key passage of his mea culpa declares:

I've also spent time thinking about the huge responsibilities I have as the captain of the Denver Nuggets, the captain of Team USA, a face of the NBA, and a role model to young people. I'm aware that a great deal is expected of me, and not just as a player. I'm expected to make the right decisions, lead by example and to be a professional.

These lines read is if they were written by Anthony's PR reps -- and the spin isn't new. Prior to the start of the season, Melo's men and women told everyone within listening range that he'd moved beyond the mistakes he'd made during his first couple of years as a pro, including an appearance in a DVD that argued against cooperating with police and at least one near escape from a pot possession charge. Moreover, the Denver dailies eagerly bought this line. For example, a July 12, 2006 Post front-pager focusing on Anthony's new $80 million contract quoted aforementioned Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke talking about how the signee had matured "on and off the court"; it also squeezed in comments by Melo about how he didn't condone drug use. Likewise, a September 30, 2006 piece in the Post announced that Melo was "coming of age," and included a quote about how mature he was for his age. A major feature in the Rocky Mountain News hit this theme even harder. Its headline and deck? "Growing Up Melo: Surviving Crash Course: Lessons Learned From Year of Adversity Have Helped Father-To-Be Anthony Grow Up Quickly."

These items come across like wishful thinking in the wake of Anthony's suspension -- and the Post's "Lesson Learned" headline will seem even stupider if another claim of maturity on Anthony's part proves premature. Hopefully, the danger inherent in such headlines gets across to Post sports-department personnel "Loud and Clear." -- Michael Roberts

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