Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Does Anyone Care Anymore?

Last night, Game 5 of the World Series was postponed again, so The Common Man did some channel surfing. On TNT, he was surprised to discover that the NBA season kicked off. Who knew?

Frankly, The Common Man couldn't care less. The Common Man has only so much room in his head for sports, and that space is disproportionately dominated by baseball and to a lesser extent football. The rest of his brain (roughly 3%) is dedicated to The Simpsons and his family. So he's chosen to only take passing interest in the game, just enough to notice who wins the title, whether LeBron or D-Wade are Michael Jordan reincarnate, and whether the Wolves win more than 20 games.

But since they're going to the trouble of playing the games, The Common Man may as well make a few half-assed predictions for the coming season.

1) Everybody will make the playoffs.

Recognizing the frustration that comes from following a team for 82 games, even though they were eliminated from contention in game 6 and tanked the rest of the way to have a better shot at the #1 pick, is turning off potential fans in an economically troubled time, David Stern has made a move to address the matter, and has announced that this year, everyone makes the playoffs. For example, Stern is hoping that the enthusiasm of the (16) Charlotte Bobcats fans at getting to face the defending champion Spurs in round 1 will be enough to keep the franchise afloat until the economy recovers, since playoff tickets are more expensive and sought after.

2) You will laugh at baller-on-baller violence.

Basketball players, as a rule, think they're hard. That they're tough. And when they feel slighted by a chippy European small forward, they get their mad faces on and start swinging. But, because today's NBAers are so freakishly tall, they could not function normally in American society anywhere but on the basketball court. And when they try to do anything non-basketball related (drive a car, answer the phone, hit a dude) they look like a gangly, awkward mess. What's more, because they were catered to by their adoring fans all their lives, they never learned how to properly deck a guy. So they swing wildly, barely connecting, their punches landing beyond their opponents head, and they look like sissies. Someone's jersey gets pulled off. And eventually, Jeff van Gundy always ends up around somebody's leg. It's embarrassing for the players, but comedy gold for you. Enjoy.

3) White, unathletic (read: bad) players will continue to be called "sparkplugs" and "energy guys," and announcers will praise them for "out-hustling their black opponents.

This happens in virtually every sport. White athletes are given some kind of extra credit for being able to hang with African-American competitors. Guys like Mark Madsen and Brian Scalabrine are given ridiculous contracts to play 8 minutes a game, track down one loose ball, miss two shots, grab a couple of rebounds, and make three fouls. And for this, they are called "gamers" for "succeeding" despite their physical limitations. Meanwhile, Craig Smith of the T-Wolves averages 9 and 5 despite getting just 20 minutes a night and being only 6'7" and a power forward, and no one pays any attention. The Common Man isn't saying these announcers are racist per se, but the latent racism behind how players are judged is prevelent throughout sports.

4) The words "NBA player," "incident," and "strip club" will all be included in at least one article on ESPN.com this season.

There are few certainties in life. But one of them is this: athletes in general, and especially basketball players, love the strip club when they're on the road. And when they are there at 3:30 in the morning, as one or more of them undoubtedly will be, nothing good is going to come of it. Just remember this paragraph when it happens. And always remember that nothing good has ever happened between the hours of 3 and 6 AM. That's a good time to be asleep and out of harm's way.

5) Instead of watching the NBA Finals, you will go outside, sit on your deck, enjoy a drink and the sunshine.

Typically, the NBA season ends in mid-April, but its finals don't get done until the end of June. Why? Because it takes a long freaking time to whittle 16 (note: that's more than half the league) teams down that far. Indeed, by the time the playoffs end and the champion is crowned, the regular season is a distant memory. One could argue it barely matters at all. And by the time the league finishes up, the weather is nice and the sun sets late. Who in their right mind would be inside watching basketball when you could drink a pitcher of margaritas in the warm evening air?

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