Thursday, February 2, 2012
Well, not really. He watches a lot of NBA games. He has lots of opinions about the NBA, most of which are wrong. Neither of those is a good substitute for actual knowledge.
Hey, you know what's popular right now? The National Basketball Association.
Joke riffing on the Dilfertarded "National Football League" phenomenon, or copycat crime? You decide, America.
After antagonizing basketball fans for five solid months
Oh THAT'S what you were referring to. "In 9 months, there's going to be a big political event in the United States (the presidential election)..."
barely avoiding a potential catastrophe (a nearly canceled season)
Terrible, terrible writing and use of parentheticals (take it from someone who really overuses them).
and suffering a public relations semicatastrophe
6 FOR 24 LOLOLOLOLOL
(the voided Chris Paul trade),
the NBA weathered the storm, regrouped and delivered a uniquely entertaining first month.
I'm starting to realize that this is the premise for most Simmons columns. He's That Guy who makes everything into a bigger deal than it is because it makes him feel wise to have such a profound perspective on every MASSIVELY IMPORTANT AND SPECIAL thing he's observing. As such, he's also probably That Guy who tells stories about any old average night out drinking as if that night were a recreation of The Hangover, but I'd rather not think about partying with him.
NBA TV's ratings are up 68 percent and an estimated 6.7 million people have uttered the words, "I can't understand Shaq."
1995 would like its joke back when you get a chance.
Here's the weird part: The product itself hasn't been good.
Completely unnecessary use of italics, except that we're dealing with someone who thinks every little observation he makes is as important as the discovery of penicillin.
Blame the owners for this one: Instead of playing 60 games over 120 days (fairly reasonable), they crammed 66 games into those 120 days (unreasonable).
Based on my extensive 45 seconds of research into how many games my favorite team played between Nov. 1 and Feb. 28 the past three seasons, a normal NBA season has about 58 or 59 games per 120 days. His stance that 66 is unreasonable isn't completely stupid, but at the same time, probably also based on the fact that his favorite team is old and has no bench and is getting run off the court every few nights this time around. IT'S NAWT FAY-UH! If he were a fan of a young team with a lot of depth? THIS IS A GREAT PR PLAN! WAY TO WIN BACK THE FANS WITH EXTRA GAMES, NBA!
Why do it that way? Hold on, I'll give you a second to think about it. (Twiddling my thumbs.) (Humming to myself.)
(Nodding.) (Trimming my fingernails.)
And … time! The answer: Money!!!!!! You were expecting another reason?
HAHA! GOT ME! I CERTAINLY WAS! Or wasn't. I don't know. Why are you pretending like we're in the same room, having a conversation? You lost your everyman "voice of the fan" appeal like eight years ago.
Players were paid for six extra games, owners received three extra home games apiece, and fans were treated to a slew of, "We know you paid to see Derrick Rose tonight, but playing in his place, here's John Lucas III!!!!" moments because nicked-up players have no time to heal.
Fans were also treated to several more games per night than they usually get, and close to an extra game a week from their favorite teams. They'll live. I also like how his populist "someone think about the fans!!!!" platform is built around people who pay big money for tickets. THE 1% OF BASKETBALL FANS, IF YOU WILL HAR HAR HAR. Told you he lost his everyman appeal a long time ago. Does anyone like me, who goes to maybe one or two games a season and watches the rest on TNT and ESPN, really feel slighted and insulted by this schedule? I hope not.
Screw the fans, right? We're just in the way.
Yeah! Screw us! We hate watching more games per week! I paid several hundred bucks for these seats, someone pamper me!
Throw in a missing training camp (deadly for teams with new coaches or too many new players) and the lack of practice time and … I mean, how did these first five weeks have a chance?
Because these are the best players in the world? Sure, some games have been ugly, but is it really some kind of travesty?
Which teams struggled the most? Let's see … painfully untalented teams (Charlotte, Washington),
A class of teams that thrives under a normally-paced schedule.
rosters that experienced too much turnover (Sacramento, New Orleans),
Same. My God, he has the longwinded analytical skills of a self-important college freshman.
teams handpicked by Joe Dumars or Bryan Colangelo (Detroit, Toronto), teams brazenly gutting their roster for a 12.65 percent chance at Dwight Howard (New Jersey), and teams that sabotaged their rosters while refusing to do the dignified thing and trade their signature player even though he's a good guy and would rather sink with the Sarvertanic over selling out his teammates by asking out (Phoenix) all morphed into something between "an unequivocal mess" and a "first-class shitshow."
Older contenders (Dallas, San Antonio, Boston)
THERE'S the real complaint. TELL ME WHY THIS IS FAY-UH!!!! (Waiting for you to tell me.) IT'S NAWT!
and top-heavy rosters (New York, the Lakers) struggled to get going, while young legs (Philly, Denver, Oklahoma City), roster depth (Indiana, Minnesota, Chicago) and even altitude (Utah, Denver again) mattered a little too much.
The hell does that mean? Utah and Denver always have great home records because of the altitude. Utah went like 39-2 in their building a couple years ago.
I haven't decided whether this year's title winner will come with a permanent asterisk — like the 1999 Spurs, for example — but we could be headed that way.
No one with a brain puts an asterisk on that title, much as the Spurs deserve asterisks for all of their titles for employing such shithead players year after year after year. How Greg Popovich's reputation remains so sterling after more than a decade of enabling the Bruce Bowens and Ginobilis of the league is beyond me. Sure, he should be recognized as a great coach... who encourages his players to play like complete cunts. Somehow that second part isn't in the basketball fan collective consciousness. Bothers me.
"Hold on a second," you're saying. "This doesn't make sense. You're crapping on the same season that everyone seems to be enjoying … including you! Explain yourself."
(Shaking my head no.) I wasn't saying that. I don't care about this awkward, imaginary tension you're trying to force on me.
The easy answer: We haven't had this much top-shelf talent and this many storylines in nearly 20 years (since the iconic 1992-93 season). Here, check this out …
1993: Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing (superstars); Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Mark Price, Larry Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal (franchise guys); Tim Hardaway, Kevin Johnson, Drazen Petrovic, Chris Mullin, Dominique Wilkins (entertaining All-Stars); Joe Dumars, Dan Majerle, Reggie Lewis, Reggie Miller, Mitch Richmond, Danny Manning, Larry Nance, Derrick Coleman, Dennis Rodman, Brad Daugherty (All-Stars); Isiah Thomas, Clyde Drexler, James Worthy (tenured All-Stars); Kenny Anderson, Shawn Kemp (entertainment X-factors); Gary Payton, Latrell Sprewell, Christian Laettner, Tom Gugliotta, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning (up-and-comers); Horace Grant, Detlef Schrempf, Sean Elliott, Glen Rice, Terry Porter (have to be mentioned). 2012: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant (superstars); Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge (franchise guys); Rajon Rondo, Blake Griffin, Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili (entertaining All-Stars); Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Rudy Gay, Chris Bosh, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrew Bynum (All-Stars); Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan (tenured All-Stars); Ricky Rubio, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry (entertainment X-factors); John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson, Eric Gordon, DeMarcus Cousins, Andrea Bargnani (up-and-comers); Kyle Lowry, Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, Tyson Chandler (have to be mentioned).
Another old favorite from the Simmons playbook- act like the current situation is incredibly unusual and noteworthy, when it's not. Go look at some stats and check out the 40ish best players in the league in any season between 1993 and now. Other than the fact that four of the first six have the greatest player of all time, kind of making them seem a little more badass, guess what? Yyyyyup.
Look, I'd still take the 42 signature names from 1993 over the 42 signature names from 2012. But it was closer than I expected,
When I began to approach this non-comparison that I made up and am trying to sell to you as worthy of thought,
We already witnessed dozens of games like the ones I attended on Wednesday and Thursday night, when the Clippers split hard-fought, overly physical and undeniably sloppy games against the Lakers (loss) and Grizzlies (win).
I'm surprised they even let you into the arena, seeing as how the league clearly hates its richest fans! Did they make you wait in line to get in? Were there not free t-shirts draped across your seat when you arrived?
Did I enjoy those games?
BARELY. Once I got over the fact that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin couldn't play 48 minutes each because there are too many games on the schedule this year.
Absolutely. Would you have called it "good" basketball? Hell, no. But each night, both teams fought off fatigue and slugged it out. They gave a crap.
He has way more in common with Easterbrook than either would admit.
That's the biggest reason why the 2011-12 NBA season managed to remain so compelling.
No, the biggest reason is that these are 299 of the 300 best basketball players in the world (J.R. Smith! Come back before your whole family gets justifiably beaten courtside by an angry mob!) and they're fun to watch even when they're a little out of shape and out of sync.
You know what else helped? The league shut down for five months, made its staunchest supporters believe the season was getting canceled … and then, BOOM! Suddenly we were playing hoops again! The NBA crammed its entire signing period into four whirlwind (and genuinely fun) weeks, launched on Christmas (and owned that day like never before), then rolled out seven to 12 games night-after-night-after-night. I don't know anyone who loves the NBA and doesn't secretly (or openly) love this season.
No one secretly loves it. No one is being coy about liking great basketball.
It's a quantity-over-quality thing — and remember, the NBA's regular season was never great, anyway.
Unless you like basketball, in which case, it's always been pretty great. But Simmons and ESPN make a great match (I chuckle every few years when either ever acts like they'd ever let the other one go over some dumb contract dispute or something) because he doesn't actually like sports. He just likes Boston sports, really exciting moments in sports, and anything that involves celebrities getting involved with sports.
Like six months of halfhearted foreplay. Now? It's four months of furious, energy-sapping foreplay; we're just hoping everyone has enough left for the playoffs; and there's a dangerous edge because it could lead to real disaster. In other words, it's the Eyes Wide Shut sex party of regular seasons.
Great reference to a 13 year old movie no one enjoyed.
Two other factors really helped …
Yet another standard Simmons construct: "Let me give you the complete and comprehensive list of explanations for this phenomenon. Since I know everything let me be your guide to everything as I show you how everything works. Isn't it completely insane how there are three factors contributing to this secretly astonishing season?" What a fucking chode.
1. The League Pass/Twitter/Texting/iPhone/
iPad Era These are fairly amazing times for technology. At my cousin Kristin's wedding reception in Boston two Saturdays ago, 10 guests huddled around me watching the fourth quarter of Saints-Niners on my iPhone (via Slingbox).
I don't care if it was the last thirty seconds of the coolest Super Bowl ever, no way am I watching a game on a 4" screen with that man.
At one point, someone said to me, "Should I walk to my car and get my iPad so we can have a bigger screen?"
"Any chance I can send you to get the iPad for me? And maybe just not come back?"
We debated whether it would be worth the walk outside (in freezing weather),
More abuse (of parentheticals)
ultimately deciding against it. The following night in our hotel room, my wife decided she wanted to watch the first episode of Downton Abbey on Netflix Streaming (to see if she liked it).
Tell me more! What happened next? Did you use technology to entertain yourselves?
We hooked up the iPad to our bedroom TV with a special HDMI cable, and within a few minutes we were watching poor Bates get crapped on by Lord Stanley's staff … although really, I was only half watching it, because I was also watching a League Pass replay of Saturday night's Lakers-Clippers game on my iPad.
Holy shit, you're like Howard Hughes! How is your life story not a 12 hour HBO series yet?
Read that last paragraph again.
It's that engaging, I agree.
How did we get here? Did you ever think we would be able to do things like watch football games on a phone at a wedding reception or watch our own on-demand shows on a hotel TV while also watching NBA games?
As of when? 1990? Probably not. 2004? Yeah. This isn't like telling someone in the dark ages that one day most of the population will live to be 70 years old. It's really not that unimaginable unless, well, you're like 70 years old now and grew up during the Eisenhower administration.
The technology boom has been fantastic for NBA fans —
Back to the college freshman who can't wait to tell you about shit everyone knows, but with the attitude that he's letting you in on the secret to the JFK assassination.
with an onslaught of games every night, you can watch two games at once (one on your TV, one on your computer or iPad), catch up on games you missed (through those valuable League Pass replays), sneak peeks on your iPhone (hopefully not while going 75 miles an hour on the highway) or attend one game while watching another on your iPhone (depending on the arena's cell reception).
If the teams even let you take use your phone while you're there! I hear this season they're confiscating them all at the door and breaking the thumbs of anyone who tries to bring in a spare!
You always hear about players wanting to play in bigger markets, but here's the reality: Once technology progressed to a certain level, markets stopped mattering as much. Yeah, the Lakers and Knicks will always outspend everyone else because of their ticket/cable revenue, and yeah, players will always gravitate toward big cities,
One more time.
You always hear about players wanting to play in bigger markets, but here's the reality: ... markets stopped mattering as much. ... and yeah, players will always gravitate toward big cities,
warm weather or tax-free states. But from a visibility standpoint, it doesn't matter where you play in 2012. Our marquee contenders are Miami, Chicago … and Oklahoma City. Our marquee superstars are LeBron, Wade, Kobe, Rose, Howard, Nowitzki … and Kevin Durant.
Worst parallel sentence structure in the history of written language. Awesome fun cities : dust bowl sprawl with shitty weather :: awesome players : other awesome player.
The best example of things changing: The Minnesota
Timberwolves Rubio Loves
(Laughing uproariously!) Those are their two best players!
improbably morphing into America's Team. This couldn't have happened 15 years ago, 10 years ago, or maybe even five years ago, but the League Pass/Twitter/Texting/iPhone/
iPad Era has been a phenomenal asset for them. Any time something is brewing with Minnesota — the T-Wolves trying to upset another contender, Rubio approaching a triple-double, Love going for a 30-20, you name it — word spreads quickly enough to catch crunch time. You know, assuming you weren't watching it, anyway.
Their two best players are white. You know Simmons will be always watching.
2. The Christmas Day Launch If we learned anything these first five weeks, it's that nobody can provide a reasonable answer for the question, "Everyone loved the NBA season starting on Christmas Day … so, um … why wouldn't the NBA season always start on Christmas Day?" Hmmmmmmmmm. You can't answer that one without first answering the question, "Why has the NBA always gone from October to April?"
Because the league likes to jump into the televised sports fray as soon as baseball ends? Because back in the day, it was insane to let the playoffs get deep into June because the arenas would heat up to like 110 degrees during the playoffs?
Here's the answer: Because that's the way we've always done it.
The NBA should only play 16 regular season games a year, like the NFL! And teams that wear green should get 20 free points per game! Think outside the box, folks- stop being sheep!
That's right, the eight most dangerous words in sports are back! Our first champions (the Philadelphia Warriors) started their season on November 7, 1946, played 60 regular season games (winning 35), then played another 11 playoff games and won the then-BAA title on April 22, 1947. That paved the way for the league's eventual October-to-April road map, a savvy idea in 1947 because baseball ruled everything back then.
All right, so let's go back to 1947 … you know, when it made sense to mirror college basketball's schedule, avoid America's pastime and position the future NBA as a winter sport. Does that still make sense in 2012, a good 25 years after football replaced baseball as America's most popular sport?
Wouldn't you want to avoid as much of the National Football League as you possibly could?
That's a fair point, except that the NFL dominates everything through early February these days, so it's not really avoidable. Starting the NBA season later just gets it further lost in the late season NFL playoff push. The Christmas launch was a big hit this year, but I think Simmons underrates the "post lockout euphoria" aspect of it.
By launching around Halloween every year, the NBA gets lost in the shuffle because of the baseball playoffs (running through October),
In the last few years the WS has run into November, but baseball is working to avoid that now. Game 7 in 2011 happened on October 28, and the series could have been over as early as the 23rd. Expect more of the same going forward. Meanwhile the NBA season usually starts on the 26th or after. But researching all that would be hard. Took me a good two minutes.
college football (cresting toward the conference championships in mid-November),
Every conference championship that people care about happens on the first weekend in December.
the NFL (in full swing at this point)
The NFL is in full swing from mid September until late January, or maybe even longer. It's 100% asinine to act like the problem "The NFL is taking all our viewers!" can be helped or solved by moving the NBA's open weekend from Halloween to Christmas.
and even November sweeps (when networks stack their best programming).
Yes, the NBA is apparently competing for eyeballs with CBS's atrocious sitcoms.
Three weeks pass … suddenly it's Thanksgiving, then Black Friday weekend, then everyone shifts into Christmas/Hannukah/holiday party/shopping/vacation/final exams/NFL stretch-run mode, then it's Christmas Eve, then most people wake up the next day, open presents, turn on their TVs and say, "Hey look — it's the NBA! Who's good this year?"
That's why the NBA smartly turned Christmas into its first signature day of the season.
Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that the NFL never played on Christmas until 1989, and of course now only does so when Christmas is a Sunday. But putting pieces like that together takes special Googling skills, skills that apparently I have but Bill lacks.
So why not own it? If the NBA launched every Christmas and played a 75-game season
Which would be mo-ah fay-uh to some of the oldah teams in the league.
over the next 160 days, that takes us to Memorial Day weekend and pushes the playoffs far enough away from baseball's first month
As a fan whose favorite sport is baseball, I can promise you that almost no one gives a shit about baseball in April after opening day.
(and that "new car smell" baseball always has),
the NFL draft (always the lead story for that last week in April),
Right, no getting around that worthless volcano of hype and idiotic analysis.
the heart of May sweeps (the other time networks stack their shows),
the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs (always frenetic),
I don't mean to dog on hockey, but I don't think the first two rounds of the playoffs are generating all that much buzz.
that crazy first sports weekend in May (which features the Kentucky Derby and a marquee boxing match)
Who the hell watches the Kentucky Derby for more than 4 minutes?
and even college exams.
College kids are always prioritizing exams above sports. It's a tragedy.
Conceivably, the NBA could own those next nine weeks (say May 29 through July 31), bang out its draft and free agency signing period in August (remember, those first three weeks in August are deadly boring from a sports/entertainment standpoint), then take the next 10 weeks off right as college and pro football are taking off. So … why wouldn't that make sense? I keep asking People in the Know this question and get the following rebuttals:
"How did you get this number? Can you please stop calling?"
"People go on vacation in July; our season-ticket holders don't want to be worried about planning a vacation if their team might be in the Finals." (News flash: I'm pretty sure they can plan a different time to vacation and/or sell their seats.
That's great. "NEWS FLASH!" Pardon your zinger, sir. Also: isn't this the guy who just bitched about how the league doesn't care about the ticket-buying fans?
And by the way, only four of the 30 teams would even be playing in July.)
Fuck those fans!
"You can't do it because of the Summer Olympics." (News flash: The 2016 Summer Olympics happen from August 5 to August 21. We could easily get creative that year and end the NBA season in mid-July so there's enough time to regroup.)
"Why aren't we doing things the way I envision them working? Sure, it would be a logistical nightmare subject to constant retinkering and disastrous inefficiency, but come on! I mean, COOOOME ONNNNN!"
"That would suck for NBA employees — they wouldn't get a summer vacation basically." (News flash: Neither do Major League Baseball employees.
Right. They get 4 months off during the winter. See how that works?
Also, can't you just take the last two weeks of August off stretching into Labor Day? You'll be fine.)
I'm not saying working for a pro sports team is hard or something, but come on. You're not really going with apples to apples here.
"We can't chop seven games from the regular season — it would cost teams too much money." (News flash: Every player says, "I wish the season was shorter. It would be better for us." Why not listen to them?
Because the market for player labor will easily bear the 82 game season?
Don't you care about your product?)
Don't you realize that pro sports franchises are not NPOs?
"Because that's the way we've always done it." (News flash: Those are the eight worst words in sports.)
"Because Simmons thinks we need to change things." Your move.
You're not going to believe this, but I spent waaaaaaaaaaay too much time trying to figure out something that will never actually happen. And here's the reality: It would be too radical for the NBA to launch on Christmas every year. At least right away. Which is why I'm offering the following plan …
I hope you didn't actually want to hear about it, because I certainly didn't want to bother with picking it apart. Just imagine a really drunk person explaining their airtight plan to rob a bank and flee to a non-extradition country. It's about that coherent, but way less entertaining.