Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No NBA, Now What to Do?

Despite my annoyance with the recent ESPN coverage of Joe Paterno, I couldn’t help but turn ESPN on yesterday and saw a startling news story: negotiations have completely fallen through; the entire NBA season could be in jeopardy!  I’m being mildly melodramatic and very sarcastic.  As some of you know, I was quite distraught over the summer, and angry, with the NFL and their players for what can only be summed up in one word: greed.  The players and owners bilk us out of as much money as is possible, and while I won’t argue the enjoyment I get out of watching football (American football for those of you that aren’t sure which one I mean).  The main difference to me, qualitatively, between the NBA and the NFL is the reach.  The NFL reaches more people and influences more people.  With such a short schedule, a mere 17 weeks, as opposed to the endless game upon game the NBA season, it isn’t any wonder that the NFL has made it’s brand known partially through its exclusivity.

What makes me frustrated and unsympathetic with the NBA is simple: their brand has no staying power.  While I can waste time watching an NBA game, to be honest, until the playoffs are approaching, I don’t even watch games.  I am a fan of the Dallas Mavericks, but more so because of Mark Cuban and what he’s done, than anything.  I did enjoy seeing them as the perennial team in the playoffs, which I share with my hometown Washington Capitals (though they have yet to bring the Stanley Cup to the Nation’s capital).  The trouble with the NBA is manifold.  And while I could spout the virtues of the NFL, those are few and far between as it is.

The fact of the matter is, the NBA isn’t relevant.  Football has its own niche; but more than anything, the games are often exciting and meaningful.  With only a few games, each one counts thus making every week a game that could make or break a team’s season.  Hockey has a wonderfully small niche that makes it accessible.  I had the pleasure of attending a charity event last year and meeting and taking pictures with the entire Washington Capitals team.  In what other sport is it even possible to get that close to the guys making what I’d argue are big bucks.  We have one of the highest paid hockey players on our team, Alex Ovechkin, and he is completely down-to-earth, at least at team sponsored events.  I could gush for hours about my love for hockey, or football, but I’ll stop.

One of the issues I had over the summer was the level of greed I felt the players were exhibiting.  But in all fairness, the owners are making billions of dollars on attendance alone to their events.  That doesn’t even count the jerseys being sold or anything with the team logo minting money for the owners.  I don’t know if this is the case for the NBA, but what I do know is more venues than not do not sell out.  Our Washington Wizards can’t give tickets away. 

With as many games as they have, it isn’t any wonder.  But also, more notably, the parity in the NBA has never come full circle.  The salary cap, something I always found foolish, has actually helped both hockey and football is relevant.  Every year there is no telling which team will come out with the best record.  While I don’t like seeing my favourite players leave, the concept of free agency has made the movement of players seem commonplace.  Fifteen years ago, if Emmit Smith or Michael Irvin had up and left the Dallas Cowboys (after they won back-to-back Superbowls), people would have been up in arms.  But in this day and age, a player staying with a team is hardly expected, it is remarkable at times, but not so for the NBA.

If we suspend anger for a moment, and ignore the announcement from the ‘Big Three’ (which would really be the Big 2.5), the movement of big stars has hardly been successful.  Can anyone for get Carmello Anthony moving from Denver to New York last year, and how did that end?  Yes, they made it to the playoffs for the first time in forever, but were they ever any good, no.  Miami is a great example too.  Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are great players, but together, they couldn’t win a championship, despite their own hype.  Do you see baseball, football or even hockey players guaranteeing championships or victories?  I’m not trying to make the NBA seem like it is a league full of thugs, but in a way it is.  But that isn’t any different than most leagues of men being paid as kings who are nothing but boys, but I’m veering off of my course.

The NBA lockout is a travesty, but the people it robs aren’t the over-paid, over-hyped ne’er-do-wells that make million upon millions of dollars, it’s the staff or vendors or working stiffs like you and me who make a living having people attend events to glorify these kids.  There are a few that have hard-luck cases, no doubt, but in the grand scheme of things what can we, as mere observes glean from this?  And ESPN plasters its site with polls about who is to blame.  Guess who I blame, again?  ESPN, and the news media.  The two groups combined are  glorifying these players, making them believe their sport is relevant and worthwhile, when in actuality, no one will notice there isn’t any NBA being played.  Congratulations players of the NBA, mission accomplished, I care even less now than I did before.

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