So Dwight Howard has blamed the Orlando Sentinel for shooing him out the door and toward Los Angeles. "Same thing u guys did with Shaq," he tweeted Tuesday.
First of all, the idea that the Orlando Sentinel is responsible for Shaquille O'Neal's departure is pure folly, as you can see in this 1992 article from (wait for it) the Orlando Sentinel:
"LSU junior Shaquille O'Neal, at 7 feet 1 arguably the best college center ever, announced he was turning pro Friday -- and he said he wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers."
Howard can't be blamed for not reading the Sentinel in 1992, when he was six years old, but perhaps he should have read the paper one day before his tweet, when Brian Schmitz wrote the Magic "need to get him some relief from the bench."
The fact is, the Sentinel could not be more pro-Dwight if it incorporated the Magic's colors and logo into its own, which the paper did last year during the playoffs.
Maybe Dwight missed that too. But he had another chance Wednesday, as on the front page (now back to black), the Sentinel's lead columnist, Mike Bianchi, asked for Amway Arena to be renamed "The Dwight House." (They should really call it "The Bedroom," because that's where the Magic happens.)
This is the same columnist who instructed the town to grow playoff beards to support the team. And the mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, actually did it.
Well, it's not like the Sentinel built a fan page for the franchise center at pleasestaydwight.com.
Blaming the media is an old trick, but often it has merit. Not this time. Blaming the Orlando Sentinel for pushing Dwight Howard out of town is like blaming dorm food for dropping out of college.
Dwight Howard wants to be the next LeBron James. He wants the drama of "The Decision." He wants the YMCA backdrop, the Jim Gray treatment, the ESPN special. He wants to be wanted even more than he's wanted by Orlando fans, which is a lot.
The Orlando Sentinel ran a poll a couple of years ago: Who is your favorite athlete? Dwight Howard or Tim Tebow?
Improbably, the contest ended in a virtual tie. That means Dwight Howard is as popular in Orlando as the most popular human being in Florida history. Tim Tebow is probably just as popular as the Special Forces agent who killed Osama bin Laden -- though surely most Floridians think Tebow was the Special Forces agent who killed Osama bin Laden. (Prove it wasn’t him! Prove it!)
Why can't Howard just say he loves Orlando but he wants to be courted?
Maybe it's because he realizes Orlando is the next Cleveland-in-waiting, doomed to have a palatial building and no centerpiece. Maybe it's because he feels guilty that Orlando is insanely generous to him in every way, willing to pay Rashard Lewis $30 billion (roughly) to give its Batman a Robin. Maybe it's hard for Dwight to say there might be no amount of money or love that can win him over.
You can't blame Howard for whatever choice he makes. But you can't blame a newspaper for whatever choice he makes.
They report. He decides.
Eric Adelson can be reached at email@example.com. His wife is a former employee of the Orlando Sentinel.
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