Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Winter Sports Doldrums

In my estimation, March is the greatest sports month of the year. The NCAA brings you excitement in the form of March Madness and MLB brings hope in the form of spring training. Both are so close, and yet so very far. In the meantime, however, we have to endure the void of February. With the Super Bowl now over, sports fans are forced to endure the National Basketball Association.

I have been fairly vocal of my dislike of the NBA. I think it's directly proportional to how much I enjoy NCAA basketball. The two styles of play are remarkably opposite for it being the same game. In college basketball, the game is all about the team. Guys like Greg Tonagel and Jake Diebler of below average skill are tremendous players because of their team first and leadership attitudes. In the NBA, the game is all about the individuals. Guys like Ali Berdiel are somehow making a living. Isolation sets where everyone stands around letting one guy make a play are the norm, and defense went out the door decades ago. Be that as it may, the NBA is the lead story every day for the next week.

Even worse, the news story of the day is not about great games or key trades. No, the news story making the rounds is that John Amaechi is coming out of the closet. I have absolutely no idea who this guy is or why he's especially relevant. I did minimal research and found that he was a below average NBA player who hasn't dribbled a basketball in years. I'm not entirely sure anyone can vouch that he actually played in the NBA.

Be that as it may, he has decided to make his announcement whose motives I am fairly skeptical of. It's rather nice that ESPN has something to do with his book, as I'm guessing none of you would have purchased if it had been "John Amaechi: NBA Journeyman." A nice TV special and convenient media leaks to build up to a TV special on "Outside the Lines" make the situation questionable at best. We are not talking Jackie Robinson noble here, folks.

Most of all, I hate the NBA for making this a story. It's bad enough that the NBA is stuffed down my throat as a sports fan for the next month. For them to force a retired, mediocre pro's personal life down my throat as breaking sports news is nauseating. Just a wee bit longer until pitchers and catchers report and schools we've never heard of are making the 65 team tournament. I, for one, can hardly wait.


Edwin said...

Drew, I love you and all, but you're not watching the same game as I am.

The "isolation" NBA is a once true cliche that people who haven't watched a game in years keep going back to. It's akin to saying that home runs are killing baseball. Hey, Notre Dame is playing DePaul on ESPN and I've only seen 7 bricks in the past minute, but look at them box out!

Secondly, the NBA has nothing to do with the Aemechi story. Actually, is one of few media outlets that hasn't acknowleged the book yet. You're correct that "John Aemechi: NBA Journeyman" isn't an interesting book, but neither would "Tony Dungy, White Football Coach." It's that Aemechi was different, and thus so were his experiences. I could care less about the stories of journeymen like Chris Gatling or Harold Miner, but when you get a look into an openly homosexual NBA Player's life (and there aren't many to go around) it becomes interesting.

lonewolf said...

Ed, I love you, too. I confess that I avoid as much of the NBA as possible, but unless the game has changed dramatically since the last two I attended personally (spaced out every other year is all I can stomach), I either got a really bad sample or we will have to agree to disagree.

Your second point is correct. I allowed my disgust of the NBA to cloud my judgment, and it misdirected my apathy which would have been more properly sent toward ESPN. As it was, they were the ones giddy about the news, publishing the book, and running the TV special. I maintain that the cause in way its presented is less than noble, and I contest that it is different than the best selling Tony Dungy example.

Tony Dungy accomplished a level of achievement that John Aemechi did not, and the inevitable book deal that will come of it is because of something that happened in the field of play. That to me is the story and that Dungy is black is a sidenote. I understand that this will not be a widely held view, but I like my sports to be about sports and less about the larger social impact (steriod hearings, race, sexual orientation, arrests). Call me an anti-social crusader but that Dungy was black and Aemechi gay is very disinteresting to me, and I would not care to read about either.

JR said...

John Amaechi is also British. John Amaechi: British Dude is something I would purchase.

Eli said...

Drew, watch the Suns or Nuggets if you want to see beautiful offensive basketball. And as Ed said, the isolation sets haven't been around for at least five years -- zone defenses all but wiped that out. There's a lot of transition basketball going on now, much more like the early 90s style of basketball.

If you want defense, check out the Spurs, Bulls, Mavs or Rockets.

Also, your entire support of college basketball is rendered moot because you used JAKE DIEBLER as an example of what is right with the game.

Give me Gilbert Arenas and Dwyane Wade any day.

JR said...

I have watched the NBA recently and I agree with Eli and Ed. However, I can't really put my finger on it, I still find that it lacks the soul of college ball.

College has the following things, all of which I believe are not truly available in the NBA game: raucous, crazy cheering sections, court-storming upsets, a greater value on the possession (if you're into that sort of thing) and better drama, period. The latter point is debatable, but I simply can't feel the fluidity or the energy generated by a college game in an NBA contest.

Perhaps there's more that I don't truly understand that makes these games so different. But the truth is, I can't get enough college basketball. And watching the NBA is completely boring. What's wrong with me?