Posts Tagged ‘ espn ’

Meet the NBA’s Next Class of Supervillains

Is “The Decision” the “Summit” of Stupid?

Most NBA fans, and certainly those in Detroit, remember The Bad Boys. The team they loved to hate in the 80s. Of course, the Celtics had their share of detractors, too — Larry Bird, Robert Parrish, Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale were all targets for various reasons, even outside of L.A. and Detroit.

Today, for some reason, it seems like the NBA is replete with players we love to love. Kobe, Lebron, Wade—even despite any past transgressions—seem to rise above disparagement, and continue to be the darlings of the NBA establishment and the media that cover (read: adore) it.

But beware the Ides of a March marked by hubris. I sense that this is all about to change.

Someone on Facebook aptly compared Lebron (in light of his hour-long, primetime “The Decision” program act of tragic hubris) to Jay Leno, both of whom (the Facebooker predicts) will fall victim to a self-inflicted PR debacle and lose much more than they intended to gain. I like that comparison. Leno, acting in self- interest, promotion and preservation, put himself at the center of a late night controversy, marked by ambition, ego and overreach.

So now we have the new crop of NBA beloveds, soon to become NBA’s next class of supervillains. The Leno case study demonstrates how quickly one can fall from media darling to public pariah. And I sense the same is true of the NBA and its A-list of celebutantes.

Has there ever been an act of greater self-promotion and display of egotistical exhibitionism than a primetime hour devoted to revealing what amounts to a five-second announcement? (I mean, some free agents are making the announcement in an 140-character tweet!) Add in a fawning gaggle of competing sponsors, an obligatory program “host” who will add little to the spectacle, an obsequiously adoring media partner (ESPN), and a bumbling league commissioner who has long since been the master of his domain, and you have the makings not of entertaining drama, but rather those of detestable and lamentable excess.

This comes on the heels of the supposedly secret but much publicized “Summit,” in which NBA’s brightest stars allegedly gathered to collude in hopes of pre-determining the fate of the entire league by handpicking a fortunate and worthy suitor to forfeit their metaphorical dowries in exchange for the honor of these elite gracing the team’s roster. To use a technical term, this is all a heaping pile of bovine manure, and it is among the reasons that the NBA is unwittingly amassing an army of detractors. Worse yet: they are forcing upon us a disconnected apathy.

Why should I care who wins the next NBA title, if a small group of players is allowed to handpick the media market to be ordained as champs? Who enjoys watching a league featuring only a handful of predictable and pre-packaged contenders dominating a field of helpless pawns in a rite of fated foregone formality? How can I bring myself to rooting for my home team, knowing that I live in a market that will never be the envy of the league’s pampered prima donnas?

Shucks, I remember when titles were something to be fought for. Now they are something to be orchestrated in the offseason. Isiah Thomas, upon being drafted, promised Detroit he would bring the city a championship. And he didn’t quit until he had brought them two. And he didn’t leave when it seemed like it would never come, despite multiple failures along the way.

Once its biggest fan, the NBA has lost me. It’s the one league with an accurate and much-maligned  reputation for officiating by fiat (If they look at Jordan with a scowl, it’s a foul.). It’s a league that recently endured the ignominy of a public officiating scandal. It’s a league famous for champ-chasing, in which uncrowned stars chase the Larry O’Brien trophy around the league by taking a mid-level salary exception to find a home that already has a title-worthy roster (see: Grant Hill, Gary Payton, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone—now Bosh, Stoudamire, Lebron).

Enough already. I like my beer cold, my T.V. loud, and my sports competitive. Three players should not determine a league’s fate. It should be the result of collective teamwork, the spoils of hard-fought competition, the culmination of months of sacrifice and training, the manifestation of strategy-meets-physical-supremacy. It should be something we teach our kids. Athletics used to represent and present life lessons. Not anymore. Not in the NBA.

So will I be watching tonight? I’ll tell ya what. I will announce tonight at 10:01 EDT if I care who Lebron selected as the lucky lady. Don’t care? I wouldn’t blame you. Why they expect me to care anymore is beyond me. The NBA might get their moment in the spotlight tonight, but please do not feign surprise, Mr. Stern, when the markets dry up, attendance flags, ratings dive and sponsors take flight. We Americans just don’t like our sports pre-fab the way Curling fans do. (Nonsensical and unprovoked swipe at the Canadians complete!)

As for me, I think I’d much prefer to watch professional wrestling next season. At least in that “sport,” I don’t KNOW who the pre-selected winner will be until the end of the match.


ESPN’s World Cup Announcers Bore

Have you been watching the World Cup, likely on ESPN?

If you’re a soccer fan, like me, you’ve likely noticed that the announcers are delivering the play-by-play action with all the panache of a pet eulogy. If you’re not a soccer fan, but have been tuning in to see what all the fuss is about, you’ve likely come to the conclusion that soccer is just as boring as you thought it was. What gives?

As a friend and fellow soccer devotee put it, “These announcers suck. I tried to watch the biggest game of the day while being forced to do other things at the time, and you’d never know by casually listening in if you were missing a bicycle kick for a goal or the ball rolling safely into touch (out of bounds).”

Lame. It’s true. The delivery has had not quite the punch of a pair of tan pleated slacks.

I get the sense from reading various reports, like this one, that ESPN was strategically trying to capture the attention of those who have somewhat aptly observed, “The best part of watching soccer on TV is the British announcers.” Meh.

The best part of watching soccer on TV is the soccer. And the World Cup is the game’s biggest stage. But to watch these announcers tell it, it’s no more an event than the Lions 7th-round pick in the NFL draft.

ESPN, in all its wisdom and strategery, sidelined one of the game’s best announcers, JP Dellacamera, presumably because he isn’t British enough. Again, meh.

Too bad. The casual fans are missing out on a real talent, and someone who could bring more excitement from the game to Joe Everysoccer than a million imperial accents. Meanwhile, the rest of us soccer nuts have to sit idly by while the Brits again invade to suck all of the fun out of the room.