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Marbury's 'real talk' an excess of access

7/29/2009 - NBA Stephon Marbury

Stephon Marbury has spent much of the past five days in his Los Angeles home broadcasting live video feeds on his Ustream and Justin.tv accounts.

We've seen him cry. We've seen him swallow Vaseline. We've seen him, during his marathon 24-hour session Friday, go several hours without eating or going to the bathroom, work out in his pool, show off his car, dance in his bedroom, introduce us to his crew and answer countless questions from fans via the live chat function that runs in congruence with his lifecast feed. At times, his personal reality show was vulgar. He swore, as did his chat participants.

If Twitter and blogs are an unedited, authentic glimpse at athletes directly from the source, Friday's social experiment took that notion and flipped it on its head. It was, as Marbury constantly referred to it, real talk. He hammered home that traditional media couldn't edit him here, couldn't cut out the shocking sound bite and leave it out of context. It was live and direct from the entertainer to the consumer.

If you occasionally tuned in, you would have seen him answer "Kobe or LeBron?" (Kobe) "Where are you going to play next year?" (not sure) and "How is your cousin Bassie?" (he doing good) enough times that you'd be able to respond in sync with him. You would have also heard, in typical Marbury fashion, a few goofy quotes.

And, for the most part, he was right: This was access to the nth degree. Marbury invited us into his home to ask him questions, to hang out with him. As he said, "They tried to put me in a box!" Here, in front of his MacBook, he was outside it, for all of us to see.

But there's another person benefiting from Marbury's face time the past few days, besides the fan: himself. Friday's marathon session got plenty of media mentions, from two popular blogs -- Ball Don't Lie and Deadspin -- to The New York Times.

As Marbury sat on his balcony, he showed off countless new designs for his Starbury line of clothing. He pimped his children's books. He gloated about doing big things with his newfound Internet fame. He talked about wanting millions of viewers. He told us his personal motto was "I'd rather own than be owned." On Friday, as a more mobile camera was being set up for him to walk around his home, a Ustream employee brought in to help told him they'd link his channel on the front page of the site, but he'd need to clean up his language a bit. He happily obliged.

On Tuesday afternoon, during a live session on Justin.tv, Marbury dropped this as he looked at his monitor: "Watch the commercial. And another commercial. They got two now. One here and one there. There you go. Watch the commercial. That's money right there. You gotta pay to do that. That's how they keep the Web site going, you feel me? They keep it going, they got the Web site. So when we do it, we do our own, they got to pay us. We got 10, 20 million viewers? Why would you go on TV when you got 10, 20 million people that you could go talk to?"

His Justin.tv feed has 312,000 views at press time, so he's got a way to go until he gets up to 10 million to 20 million. Still, Marbury's dreaming big for the possibilities of his lifecasting.

But he's forgetting one of the main tenets in reality television, one he's constantly derailed the past few days: editing. No one is that interesting for that long. If "The Real World" was a live stream from cameras set up around the house, viewers would get bored fast. That's why people were requesting a five-minute highlight reel from Marbury's Friday shenanigans. The access is great, but only to a point.

It's interesting and fun, but not if it's overkill. Short, entertaining, meaty clips work on the Web. Attention spans run thin quickly. We are not a culture willing to sit on our hands and watch as Marbury answers the same questions over and over (and over and over); we are as Aldous Huxley wrote in "Brave New World Revisited," a culture with an infinite appetite for distractions. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the Web.

On Tuesday afternoon during that same Justin.tv stream, Marbury took off for what was supposedly a meeting, and the laptop's Web cam captured one of his large walk-in closets, and that alone. After minutes of viewers staring into the abyss, Marbury's cousin, Hassan, hopped on and started answering questions.

Chat member "Knicks3085" had this to say: "This starbury show has really gotten boring … im out."

Real talk, indeed.