Sympathies for C-Webb

How dare the Bee anger our hero just because he’s dating a supermodel

Illustration By Dack Thompson

Why God? Why?

That was my first reaction to hearing that Chris Webber wouldn’t be talking to the local media anymore.

I can remember where I was at the time: at the breakfast table, the Sacramento Bee in hand. All I wanted to do was check the box scores and read the “Ask Scoopy” question on the weather page. Instead—upon reading of Webber’s threatened silence—I stared blankly into my fiancée’s eyes, unsure whether I could steady myself for another day of work. I did, eventually. But it was hard.

I read that Webber was upset by an article in the February 12 Sacramento Bee style section by J. Freedom du Lac that asked the question: “Are Chris Webber and Tyra Banks an item?” Webber was so angered by the invasion of his privacy, the article said, that after a game against the San Antonio Spurs he ripped the local media and threatened to not speak with them anymore. A little later I saw the episode on the local television news. A pissed, hurt and shirtless Webber stood his ground and gave the local fishhacks a piece of his mind. I thought I saw a tear forming in his left eye.

In that instant, I just wanted to hold him. “Everything’s gonna be OK, little one,” I’d say. But alas we’re not very close. Without his words in Bee beat-writer Martin McNeal’s game stories, we’d be even less so.

After I absorbed the shock, I focused my anger on the offending journalist—pop culture writer J. Freedom du Lac. “Why doesn’t he stick to writing about Britney Spears?” I thought. Because of du Lac’s handiwork, I’d no longer be able to read Webber’s comprehensive quotes in McNeal’s post-game notes.

Insightful chestnuts like this one would never have seen the light of day: “Our play feels good now, but sometimes you start to worry that you are going to skip the basics when you are playing so well. We just need to stay focused.”

Swiss-born psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is famous for a book she wrote called On Death and Dying, in which she described the five stages of grief. In the days following the shocking Webber announcement that he would not talk to the press, I went through the five stages in rapid succession. Listening to local sports talk radio, I could tell I had some company. “Why can’t they just stay out of his business?” asked one caller. Why indeed. Here’s how I went through the five stages.

“This isn’t happening,” I thought. Chris Webber is such a friendly fellow. I always see him just walking in Downtown Sacramento, shaking hands and signing autographs. In fact, he regularly comes into the News & Review just to hang. Every Sunday morning in the off season, you’ll find him passing out $20 bills to homeless people down by the Capitol. It’s clear he loves Sacramento. When people say, “Aw, come on, the guy lives in Granite Bay!” I tell them it’s only because if C-Webb lived in Land Park or the Fabulous 40s, he’d be out playing hoops with the local kids every day and he doesn’t want to do that because he might tire himself out. Damn right!

Again, my resentment was toward the Bee, which had the temerity to do a story on Webber and supermodel Banks after seeing them hang out at All-Star festivities. I mean, why are the Bee reporters so hard on Webber and the Kings? Check out how they unleashed bulldog Martin McNeal on the Kings beat. It was only grudgingly that Webber chose McNeal to help him write his autobiography, and he only did it so he wouldn’t piss McNeal off. Who knows where that book deal stands now that Webber has decided to freeze out the local media. Marty might have to call his broker.

Upon hitting this stage, I called up the Maloofs and promised them that if they got Webber to talk I’d take out $10,000 in loans so I could pay to go to a few games. They told me if I got the money and agreed to towel off announcer Grant Napear whenever a call happens to go against the Kings, they’d consider speaking with C-Webb. I’m not sure about this—what would Sacramento basketball be without the announcer rooting for the home team?

What would life be if Chris Webber didn’t speak to the media? We might not know if he’s giving “110 percent,” or “taking one game at a time” or whether the Kings were “kind of sluggish in the first half.” The thought of not being inside the head of C-Webb chills me. Frankly, I need a diversion. Wondering how my fiancée and I will be able to provide for children in an economically stratified society AND figuring out how we’ll afford the $115 courtside Kings seats can be stressful.

Coming to terms with this whole Webber fiasco has forced me—and I’m sure other Kings fans—to re-evaluate just what I expect from my sports heroes. The question has been whether athletes are just pampered, overpaid big kids or simply human beings who play sports, locked into a fishbowl life because they have physical talent. In C-Webb’s tirade we have an answer—basketball players are just human beings like you and me. And Webber is a sensitive young man who wants to keep his private life private and his fans’ eyes focused on the court. The media attention makes me feel sorry for him.

Well, as much as you can feel sorry for a guy who has a $124 million contract and dates Tyra Banks.