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Etan Thomas: "I Feel Blessed"


A few hours ago, RealGM posted an extensive post-surgery interview with Etan Thomas conducted by longtime Etan confidant Dave Zirin. He says his sternum needs two months to heal before he can resume any normal activities, but that he's "on the road to recovery" and is "feeling good." Which is, of course, the one thing everyone is concerned about, and the one thing everyone was hoping for.

The interview is a nice read, and Etan touches on the fact that he's known about his "leaky valve" for years, that while his experience was solid he also got to see "our health care system at its worst," that he's been doing a lot of writing and will publish a book of essays titled "Freedom to Speak," that he's been comforted by Kwame Brown and Ronny Turiaf, that he and Turiaf hope to do some offseason work with the American Heart Association, and that above all he feels blessed and thankful.

But he also launches extensive blasts at the media, and at the beat men from the Washington Post and the Washington Times, which seems to be the popular thing to do nowadays. Thomas didn't appreciate the speculation about his condition before the true facts had been released or the surgery conducted. Not at all.

The people close to me were horrified when they opened the paper only to read a lot of unfounded, un-researched, speculative articles and statements. I believe the article in the Washington Times read, "Thomas could be done." Another one in The Washington Post brought all of these different cases that had nothing to do with mine, and presented them as though they were one and the same. They wrote about the worst possible cases and scenarios they could find. Len Bias, Jason Collier, Hank Gathers (may they all rest in peace).

They just started throwing names and cases around without doing any research. They didn't say that each case is different and although the heart is the common denominator in each case, comparing would not be intelligent to do until further details are obtained. At the time, the only details they were given were that I missed the beginning of camp to do further testing for heart irregularities. Now they took that small piece of information and turned it into these illustrious articles questioning if I will live, breath, walk, much less play ever again.

So when the people who actually do care about me open the paper, they are frightened by these mountains of poorly written, heartless, inconsiderate, writers whose only concern is to sell papers at any cost. It would be different if we were talking about The National Enquirer, but we are not. I guess that's the sad state of present day journalism. They don't want little nuisances like facts to get in the way of a good story.

Jeez. Well, I can assure Etan that John Mitchell and Ivan Carter their editors' only concerns are not, in fact, to sell papers at any cost, since journos have no idea about our daily circulation fluctuations, don't benefit from one-day spikes in newsstand sales, and are, believe it or not, actual human beings with actual emotions rather than bloodsucking demons. The concern is to provide the most accurate information possible under a variety of limitations. On the other hand, would I want to read articles quoting heart experts and comparing me to various dead people if I happened to be undergoing a complex, uncertain heart procedure? Probably I would not.

Anyhow, good news here.

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 23, 2007; 2:41 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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glad to hear he's doing well post-surgery, all the best in his recovery.

Posted by: anonymous | October 23, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

As a fan of the Washington Wizards I'm giving Etan a big pass on his anger about the coverage of his health & surgery.

This guy was reading stories (and getting phone calls from people freaking out) while at the same time debating whether or not to let someone crack open his chest and start cutting on parts of his heart.

Come back as soon as possible Etan. You don't need to play, just be in the building let the fans see you.

Posted by: Crabhands | October 23, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Great job. Shame on those reporters and their premature diagnoses.

Posted by: | October 23, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Etan Thomas actually had something intelligent to say. This is indeed a first, people. Etan may be a public relations disaster in DC (what with his spewing of his pitiful ignorance with every opportunity he gets, including telling young, black children that Republicans don't like them). But in this rare instance, he did get it right. The Post should be ashamed of their coverage of Thomas's health prior to his surgery.

Glad the guy is going to be alright, just hope he resumes his career while on someone else's roster.

Posted by: Barno | October 23, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Etan - Welcome to the world of the imperfect media. If somehow you were the only one that this happened to I could get your indignation. Unfortunately (and I'm not bashing the media) that's the way the media works - With EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING. As an astute observer of society, you should be abundantly aware of the nature of how things work. The media did similar stories on Senator Johnson who had the stroke and trying to figure out how that would change the balance in the US Senate. Sorry Etan, that's what the media does, AND the media does that because that's what people are interested in knowing.

I hate to break it to you but as awful as this is, when your condition was discovered, the first thing that MANY Wizards fans thought was how does this impact the salary cap, the luxury tax, can we sign someone else, who will get his minutes. Sorry, that's not nice or respectful to you or your family. But it is the truth. You do seem to focus on the truth a lot too don't you?

Posted by: Chris | October 23, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why anyone has to qualify their good wishes for Etan with jabs to his character. May he continue to recover and speak his mind. I will celebrate his recovery and look forward to his comments and insights along the way, agree or disagree. Get better, big guy, and sit courtside as soon as you are able, and continue to say what you feel. That is the life-affirming thing to do.

Posted by: Robert McEachern | October 23, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"Etan may be a public relations disaster in DC"

Barno, are you out of your mind? Etan, a PR disaster? I havent seen any bad PR about Etan and his politics, except for that raving Moonie lunatic over at the Times. One writer in the whole city who works for a second rate newspaper, and thats about it.

Its pretty obvious you and I dont live in the same DC (if you even live in DC). Most people who I live around in DC think that Etan hits the nail on the head the majority of the time.

Posted by: the cheat | October 23, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse


He makes a lot of intelligent, well reasoned comments. Just because you don't agree with him doesn't make him wrong or ignorant. Your shortsightedness is your problem. And I'm not trying to be hateful to you, but I don't appreciate some people telling other people they're ignorant simply because they have a conflicting point of view.

Posted by: Colin | October 23, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

By "public relations disaster", I meant he is a disaster for the local public, not necessarily that the media portrays him that way.

But any man who goes around spreading ignorance in a public forum is not good for the general public. And in that context, he certainly has been a disaster in this area. He is a dangerously naive human being, and his penchant for spreading his naivety to others IS a public relations disaster.

Posted by: Barno | October 23, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Now, now, folks. The McLaughlin Group web portal is around here somewhere. Let's find a more positive outlet for political rhetoric.

Posted by: | October 23, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse


You got no heart.

Posted by: Etan | October 23, 2007 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Wait, so you're saying that Republicans like young black kids? Link please?

Posted by: amalg | October 23, 2007 7:06 PM | Report abuse

I'd take Etan in a wheelchair over Brenda. Get well soon Etan!

Posted by: ebaggg | October 23, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

keep on truckin, Etan. best wishes for your speedy recovery.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 23, 2007 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Barno, speak for yourself man. I don't think you really know what Etan is about. He is one the most intelligent, well spoken athletes out there. And as painful as it is to some to admit, he speaks what a whole lot of us are thinking. And I am curious as to what ignorance you claim he is spreading. Etan speaks the truth. Get well soon Etan! We love you big guy and are in our prayers for a speedy recovery.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 24, 2007 7:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree with some of the stuff Etan says but he has a tendency to overdo things, make huge generalizations, and take things far too personal. As was the case with his whole attack on the media only caring about selling papers. I'm sorry but covering Etan's health condition in a certain way will not boost washington post sales. Thats absurd. I wish Etan a speedy recovery. We all know he plays with more fire than Haywood on any day ending with "y." If only he could learn a couple post moves but at the end of the day its not his fault that the wizards overpaid him.

Posted by: Delasoulos | October 24, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Lol Barno says "I meant he is a disaster for the local public..." Perhaps at the Ruby Tuesday in Gainesville, but not in the city of Washington, DC, where we overwhelmingly support much of what Etan says. But go ahead and keep speaking for the rest of us Barno, and we'll keep laughing at you.

I greatly admire Etan for speaking his mind when others do not. He can be a lightning rod for issues, but he's a genuine breath of fresh air compared to the cringe-worthy sound bites we hear from athletes every day.

I think he's dead wrong about this, though. I appreciate that his friends and family were alarmed when they read those articles, and I sympathize. But the reporting also had the greater effect of putting his condition in the public eye, and it encouraged all of us to pull for the guy. The papers aren't written for the Thomas family, they're written for Joe the fan.

Posted by: bryc3 | October 24, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, "public relations disaster" is certainly not the correct term to use with Etan. I admit, I only agree with him about 20% of the time at best, but he hasn't been a disaster. He at least cares and geniunely tries to make the world around him better, even if his tactics are a bit eccentric and heavy-handed at times. (Basically, he's preachy). But the guy does community work, doesn't get busted for drugs, doesn't beat his wife, and generally acts like a pretty good citizen.

Also, I don't think Etan is correct on this particular point about the media; however, I empathize with his plight - who WOULD want the media speculating about all the possible negative outcomes of one's health conditions? I hope he gets better b/c let's be honest, we will need another legit defensive/rebounding big man come playoff time. And don't say Blatche/Pecherov (sp.)

Posted by: BiGpimpin | October 24, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I don't recall reading Ivan Carter or anyone else comparing Etan's condition incorrectly to anyone else's condition. Can anyone point to anything that was written along these lines?

Posted by: Frank | October 24, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Wizards fan and I sit on the same side of the political fence as Etan, so I want to agree with what Etan has to say. But have any of you ever read or listened to him? He starts with some nuggets of truth, but then it goes downhill with wide speculation, straw men arguments, irrational leaps of logic, etc. He's essentially a left-wing version of Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. The world could use less of those sorts of clowns. So I thought his comments in the article posted above were par for the course for him.

I'd like to see Ivan respond to Etan's accusations. Or the Ombudswoman!!

Posted by: Sean | October 24, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

When did Etan say Republicans don't like black children? It's pretty obvious they don't like black children, brown children or even white who's parents make less than 250K a year. I just don't remember Etan saying it.

Posted by: Mac | October 24, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

"wide speculation, straw men arguments, irrational leaps of logic, etc"

Sean - I think you actually just described Gary Sheffield

Posted by: BiGpimpin | October 25, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

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