Aug 18, 2005

Why I Hate Basketball

So today I decided to begin a multi-part series on sports. I guess I could call it "Why I ... Sports". But that is a pretty dumb name. I will begin with basketball, and then move to baseball, football, hockey, and others. I promise I'll get back to other more important stuff later - not like that makes a huge difference to your world.

Basketball should be the most popular sport in America. It is easily the most accessible. You can play it with the fewest people (one). For the price of a gaming system (Xbox) you can buy a hoop for at your house. There are hoops all over the place. Yet, it has rapidly dropped to third out of the "Big Three" sports in America. Why is that? Why is it that there are, according to Bill Simmons of ESPN, "only 19 true NBA fans left in the world"? Since I'm not a sociologist or a sports journalist, I cannot give you the actual stats or studies on that fall. All I can do, is tell you from my point of view. Here is why I hate the NBA - and as a result basketball as a whole.

It wasn't always this way. I loved basketball. I always liked football more, but I loved basketball. I played it in the backyard with my brother, watched it on tv, actually thought about trying out for it, and served as cameraman for a season with my high school team. When I was in high school, I probably thought about basketball more than any other sport - the Cowboys were frustrating me in the NFL, the Yankees were in their lull in MLB, I didn't know anything about hockey. So for a few years, it was big for me. Then I moved to Orlando - a city with an actual team! And I went to games, and the Magic went the NBA finals. I honestly watched every playoff game that year. This was 1995. In ten years, it went from required viewing to apathy to loating. How?

1 - Shaq - I had become a huge NBA fan - and a huge Magic fan. Shaq, Penny. Awesome. They made it to the Finals in 1995 and lost to Houston in the finals. Then in 1996 they made it to the conference finals against the Bulls and got swept. Shaq was the only Magic player who did much, but he still seemed like he wasn't there any more. Then it happened. Shaq was a free agent, and despite the Magic offering him more money - he bolted to the Lakers - killing the franchise. And the way it happened stunk. He and his agent had been talking to the Lakers before the season was over, and the Magic did nothing about it. All of the Olympians were at MGM Studios for a parade in July, and a friend of mine who worked there got a ton of us in for free for it. So we were at the parade, and the crowd was going nuts for everyone. Shaq rides by and yells, "I love you Orlando." Kept yelling it. The crowd was like, "He's staying!" We all left and drove over to visit a friend working at one of the hotels. He says, "Did you hear Shaq signed with L.A.?" Ugh. I think you would be hard pressed to think of an athlete who meant more to a city that left that city than Shaq with Orlando.

2 - The Atlanta Hawks - They were my first basketball love, largely because we had TBS and they broadcast every Hawks game. That and Dominique Wilkens. Number 21. I had his jersey and tons of Hawks stuff. 'Nique was the man. His battle vs. Larry Bird in the playoffs was legendary. The scoring title, the slam dunk title, the battles with Jordan in the dunks. He was awesome. The Hawks started rolling, had some good seasons and some playoff battles. Then in 1993-1994 it was supposed to be their year. Jordan had retired. The Hawks were going to win their division. Nique would get his title. Then they traded him in February to the Clippers! For Danny Manning. AAAAHHH. It was to get them ready for the playoffs, to make more of a charge. Wilkens had been everything to that team, and then for their first serious title run, they traded him for Manning. That was it for Atlanta. They had a few good years in the late 90s, but they had no soul. I firmly believe their terrible play over the past 5-6 years has been payback.

3 - The Player Revolution - Somewhere along the line, the players took over the NBA. I don't know when it was exactly. Was it when Penny led the revolt against Brian Hill with the Magic, leading to his firing? Was it when Sprewell choked his coach and wasn't banned for life? I'm not sure. But now, coaches are not even given one year to turn things around. People like Vince Carter and T-Mac can admittedly "dog it" to get teams to trade them, and there is no penalty. Bit players with little talent play their hearts out during the last year of their contract, and then go back to being slobs once they score a huge contract from some other sucker (Mark Blount, Erick Dampier, the Knicks). Because he was dogging it and whining all the time, the Magic traded T-Mac (along with two other players) last year for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, and Kelvin Cato. Later they traded Mobley to the Kings for Doug Christie. Francis was mad about the second trade and quit playing well. Christie didn't want to come to Orlando, so he faked an injury, was deactivated, and then cut this offseason. So what did Orlando get for one of the 5 best players in the NBA? A whiny point guard and an injury-prone center. Good night. But nothing is ever done to the players.

4 - The Showboating - This is not an urban/rural thing. This is a complaint against how the NBA does not care about talent - they care about potential. They have been drafting 18 year olds for so long, they don't ever get polished players in the league any more. And when they do (LeBron, Dwight Howard) they take over b/c they are such a rarity. As much as I hated Bird, his teams were skilled and played with an amazing knowledge of the game. The same with the old Lakers, MJ's Bulls. They only two teams who still cared about that last year were the Pistons and Spurs (coincidence they were the Finals teams?). But even those two would have been destroyed by any of Magic's, Larry's, MJ's, or Isaiah's teams. There is no focus on skills. It is all about dunking and three-pointers. Where are the low post players (besides Shaq)? Where are the true point guards? Everyone wants the highlights. No one wants to work for them.

5 - The Announcers - I don't think that any sport has anyone to compare to the idiots and loudmouths who are associated with basketball. Yes, they are trying (NFL - Michael Irvin, Sean Salisbury, Theisman - MLB - John Kruk). But no one compares to the idiocy on parade between studio hosts, sideline reporters, and "experts." Let us look at the names: Stephen A Smith (ugh), Stu Scott (not the same personality as the NFL Stuart Scott - I swear he morphs on the court), Bill Walton, Greg Anthony, Tim Legler, Dick Vitale, Billy Packer, Kenny Smith. Morons. What happened to David Aldridge? He had class. There are no classy tv personalities in the NBA, except crossovers Mike Turico and Al Michaels. Most of them just yell and overanalyze, just to get face time. Except Charles Barkley - who is absolutely hillarious.

6 - The Boston Celtics - I hate the Celtics and always have. But they are one of "those teams." Every sport has them - the teams that everyone either hates or loves. The Yankees, the Cowboys, the Lakers, Notre Dame. They are the teams that never seem to really lose it. They may have some sub-par years. But never do they become a joke. But the Celtics have managed to do that - it just doesn't seem right. It is like the NBA doesn't have a villain any more. What good is a movie without a villain? How does the NBA let that happen? That is your flagship franchise.

What happens in the NBA then spills down into college and high school. As a result, all basketball has gone down the same route. They all have turned into sorry displays of poor sportsmanship, poor play, boorish personalities on and off the court, yelling and screaming, immature coddled players, and ridiculously stupid decision making. If I want to see incompetence on the screen, I'll watch a Burger King closed circuit camera or any movie involving Rob Schneider. And that is why I hate basketball.

Aug 4, 2005

This Blog is Steroid Free

If you only had read this blog, and never had met me, you would think I lived in some kind of philosophical state where I look at everything with an eye to the serious and theological. If only you knew how wrong you were. It is pretty funny. So far, I only once have written about my favorite pasttimes - sports and movies. Not playing sports - watching and following sports. So briefly, just a touch of my approach to sports and movies.

SPORTS - I love football. College and pro. My favorite college teams are the Georgia Bulldogs (since 1979) and the University of Central Florida (UCF) Golden Knights (since 1992 - when I began sending large sums of money their way). Fortunately for me, they are in two different classes. They played once, UCF made a game of it and then lost. So there. As far as the pros go, you can go back to the archives to read some of my thoughts on that. My favorite teams are Tampa and Jacksonville. I also love certain players, like Daunte Culpepper and Priest Holmes - which adds to my enjoyment of fantasy football.

I watch college basketball in March and always play tournament bracket challenge. I watch the NBA in June. I watch baseball when there is nothing else on tv. I follow UCF religiously in all sports. I am a Yankees fan (since 1980) and I love Barry Bonds. I follow the Tour de France because I am amazed at those athletes. I like to watch tennis. I'll watch golf if Tiger is playing. I hate auto racing. (That is not a sport. I drive all the time to work and back and don't get squat for it.) My wife likes gymnastics, and I don't dislike it. I am a big fan of Olympic sports - a bigger fan of the Winter Games. I think bobsledding is about the coolest thing I have ever seen. I have never played sports, but I do love them.

On one hand, I hate steroids. On the other, I don't care. I love Bonds (as I already said) but I hate Canseco. I was a big McGwire fan and still am. And I still don't like Sammy Sosa or the Boston Red Sox. I could care less about Rafael "I Never Used a Steroid Sir" Palmiero. I guess it comes down to the fact that baseball is like the Food Network to me. If I have to have the tv on and it has to be sports, I'll watch baseball. Until the playoffs, which I'll watch every game.

MOVIES - Movies cannot be judged on one set of standards. There is the quality measurement, and the entertainment measurement. If you mesh those, you can come up with some sort of overall measurement, but not very accurate. For example, Saving Private Ryan is one of the BEST movies ever made. Its quality is undeniable. Would I call it entertaining? Not really. Neither is Schindler's List, but few would argue that it is one of the finest pieces of film ever released. On the flip side, take Dumb and Dumber. Quality? Not even remotely there. Entertaining? Oh yes, my friend, oh yes. So, you have to realize this to talk movies with me.

The ideal is for the movie to hit on both counts. Now that is harder said than done. That is why there are few "rewatchable movies." [This is a topic covered in Bill Simmons' recent article on ESPN Page 2. I'm not stealing his point of view.] When you have a movie with at least 3 stars out of 5 in quality, and then a strong 4 stars in entertainment - you have a really enjoyable movie. Now some would argue the other way, at least a 3 for entertainment and then 4 for quality. I disagree. But this is the common position for movie critics. Which is why movies like Million Dollar Baby win Oscars.

Personally, I favor the higher entertainment number. When I used to watch movies all the time, I could handle more of the high Quality/mediocre entertainment because I knew that I would be seeing more movies again later. Now that I have kids and only see about six movies a year in the theater, I am more wanting the entertainment factor. If I want real life, I'll watch the news. Since I already avoid the news, I don't want that in a movie either. I want to have a good time. That is why I loved Hitch, Batman Begins, and Oceans Eleven. They had enough quality and then rocked the entertainment factor. Some of my friends call me a movie snob. I think I used to be, but that I am slowly losing that. Of course, that doesn't mean I'll go rent Without a Paddle or Electra yet.

I'll probably post more movie stuff soon. I really enjoy reading about how movies develop and I follow all kinds of rumors on that. I find it much more interesting than the discussion of who Jude Law slept with last. I would much rather hear what superhero he is rumored to be linked to than which starlet. So that is the background on those two things. See, I can be empty and shallow as much as the next guy. :)