Speaking only for myself, as someone who is naturally suspicious of Russian oligarchs with no visible principles, I would not say that I’m terribly bullish on new New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. There’s no way that I could possibly hate him as much as I do former Nets owner/destroyer-nebbish Bruce Ratner — I don’t even know where to start with the parenthetical evidence-linkage, here, although this long essay from The Awl is a good start — but I for the most part make it policy not to hang around people who do business with Robert Mugabe. I’ve found it surprisingly easy, or at least easier than David Stern evidently has. To be fair, though, Stern seems a lot less troubled by it.
At any rate, while Prokhorov himself may not be what you’d call a good person, he is at least a good deal more interesting than the nightmare nebbish he’s replacing as the Nets’ owner. Ratner could bulldoze comparatively vibrant neighborhoods to make way for a ghoulish glass forest of luxury condos, all while hunting for undeserved public funding and stripping a team to near-historic levels of ineptitude and induce nothing but yawns the whole while, thanks both to his New York Real Estate Guy policy of being relentlessly on-message and negligible charisma. (David Paymer could play Ratner in a movie about the Nets, but he’d be way too magnetic a presence) Prokhorov… is on YouTube, for one thing. But he also held an honest and wide-ranging one-hour presser earlier this week in which he proved admirably unwilling to dodge questions. Afterwards, Prokhorov did two one-on-one interviews.
One of these was with grandiose human veal chop Mike Francesa, in which Prokhorov was presumably required to praise Derek Jeter for 20 minutes and then run out for some more Diet Coke. The other interview, which wound up being a wide-ranging 2,300-word Q&A, was done with someone named Vinnie Rotondaro, whom you almost certainly haven’t heard of. Rotondaro is a blogger at a site called The Brooklyn Ink, and graduated from Columbia Journalism School earlier this week. The story of how he wound up getting a 40-minute exclusive interview with Prokhorov — which went down at Clover Club, in Carroll Gardens — is pretty freaking amazing, and well-told by the New York Observer’s John Koblin and Irina Aleksander. Is it enough to make me like Prokhorov? It doesn’t exactly cancel out the whole Mugabe, thing, but it does at least raise the possibility that Prokhorov’s sketchiness could at least wind up being interesting:
Mr. Rotondaro said that he received an email about three weeks ago. It was light on details. In the note, he was asked if he would be interested in an exclusive interview with someone really important. It didn™t say who. If he was interested in pursuing this further, he should call this number.
These are the sort of emails that journalists routinely receive and routinely delete. Mr. Rotondaro wisely decided to call.
œI was kind of weirded out, he said. œBut they left a number and you might as well call back, right?
When he called, a handler said that Mr. Prokhorov wanted a Brooklyn blogger to interview him. The handler had read some of his stuff on The Huffington Post and thought Mr. Rotondaro would be perfect. He said Mr. Prokhorov wanted “to meet up with you. Pick your favorite bar or cafÃ© in Brooklyn.
Before the interview, he was told there would be no restrictions. He could ask anything he wanted, and write anything he wanted.