Monday, March 7, 2011

11 comments Sometimes The Simple Answer Isn't The Correct Answer

Buzz Bissinger believes he knows why the NBA is losing popularity, even though television viewing numbers for the NBA are up. He thinks white NBA fans don't like watch non-white players play the game of basketball. I feel like Buzz is projecting some of his opinions on to others here. I am sure for some people this may have something to do with it, but overall I don't believe this sufficiently explains the decline in the NBA's popularity. Buzz disagrees.

(For the record, I don't believe the NBA is declining in popularity. I believe fewer fans are coming to the game because they can't afford it. Buzz grasps desperately on to the idea he sees empty seats at NBA games and thinks the NBA is becoming less popular because there isn't a white superstar.)

My editor thinks I should write something about professional basketball. The timing is certainly right—the National Basketball Association’s All-Star extravaganza starts today in Los Angeles, culminating in the All-Star game on Sunday night.

This tells me two things right at the start:

1. Buzz Bissinger has no interest in talking about the NBA and may not know a hell of a lot about the NBA.

2. Buzz had to think fairly hard as to what to talk about in regard to the NBA. So while reading what he has written, and how he lumps everyone into his own feelings about race in the NBA, please remember there is a good chance he doesn't know what he is talking about.

The problem is, I don’t really know what to say about the NBA other than I almost never watch it anymore.

Which, depending on your point of view, makes him one of the people best-suited or worst-suited to talk about the NBA and its decline in popularity. This is the state of journalism today. A serious sports journalist (and I would consider Buzz Bissinger to be one) begins an article saying he was told to talk about a subject and he doesn't know much about a subject...yet he wants us to take his ideas and beliefs seriously. The fact Buzz wrote this makes it a topic for debate, but why should it be. Buzz has pissed all over his own credentials to discuss this topic expertly in the opening paragraph.

I am not a basketball junkie and I have no desire to be one. There are maybe three players I would pay to watch.

Clearly, Buzz's discussion on the NBA's decline in popularity is a passion project for him. I am going to make a new rule. If you don't watch a sport, don't want to write about a sport and wouldn't pay to see but three players in that sport perform, then maybe you should refrain from writing about that sport and believing you know the reason the sport is in decline is because of racial issues. Few things are worse than reading an uninformed person trying to talk about race.

Then Buzz lists LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant as the players he would pay to watch. Through this entire article I think Buzz has a somewhat tough time differentiating between fans who pay to go to NBA games and how this affects (or doesn't affect) the overall popularity of the NBA. For example, he uses the decline in attendance as a reason for why the United States wants to see more white players in the NBA, but the ratings for the NBA All-Star Weekend argues differently about the NBA declining in popularity. The ratings for TNT and ESPN NBA games also argue differently, but because Buzz doesn't see asses in the seats while flipping between "House Hunters" and his local news he thinks the sport is in decline. Essentially I think Buzz confuses NBA fans wanting to pay to go to games with the overall popularity of the sport. There is more that goes into fans attending games than just how much those fans like the sport (like the economics of purchasing a ticket).

The game is in trouble and I don’t think there is much dispute about that. Attendance was down last year and is slightly down so far this season. Although basketball is supposed to be a team game, it has become more one-on-one in the NBA than a boxing match.

The style has changed and it is a definite turnoff.

Buzz answers his own query as to why the NBA could be declining in popularity. I would argue it has less to do with race issues and more to do with the style of play in the NBA. This would explain why the race issues he argues are present in the NBA are not present in the NFL, college football, college basketball or MLB. Wouldn't the same people who want to see more white athletes also decline to support those four other major sports? Logically yes, but other than MLB none of those sports are declining in popularity. Buzz will make an argument that other sports have white superstars and that's why white people will watch. I find it hard to believe this is a compelling reason.

The problem with the NBA, at least in my mind, is the style of play is not that exciting. When I watch an NBA game I find myself looking at players jog down the court, go stand in a corner, and I have a hard time getting into the game. Sure this sounds like a cliche, the NBA player standing in the corner and watching another player go one-on-one, but it is a true cliche. Carmelo Anthony was isolated nearly 37% of the time in Dener. Yes, Anthony is good at isolation, but this doesn't make for a very exciting time while watching the game.

Buzz essentially hits the nail on the head for why people like me don't enjoy NBA games as much anymore, but of course he then blames the NBA's decline on another cause (race). Something has changed in the way NBA games are played and the average fan may not want to pay to go to a game. I believe between the obvious incompetence of some team's front offices and other factors like how the game is played the average NBA fan has lost interest. Race may have something to do with it, but not as big of a role as Buzz Bissinger wants to believe.

For example, this may be hard to believe, but I lose interest in the NBA when Cleveland trades Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis. After seeing the Cavs lose LeBron James I was rooting for them to turn it around, but then they trade for Baron Davis and it makes me wonder if the Cavs' front office didn't deserve to lose LeBron in free agency. This type of incompetence and bad trading is pervasive through the NBA. I think what separates this trade deadline from others is some teams didn't just dump salary, they got some talent back in return for players.

But a major problem with the NBA, one that is virtually never spoken about honestly, is the issue of race

This issue has been discussed repeatedly over the last 10-15 years. Beginning with the Iverson era and how the NBA allowed (yes, allowed) people to frame their players and the league, the issue of race has been a major issue involving the NBA. That's why David Stern instituted a dress code and started the silly "NBA Cares" promotions, which forces players into donating their time each year so the NBA can film them and say they care.

I have no hard-core evidence.

"I don't like Subject X. I don't watch Subject X. Subject X is in trouble because of Reason Y, but I have no proof of it. But believe me, I'm right about Subject X being in trouble."

I know that whites ascribe very different characteristics to black athletes than they do white ones.

I find this untrue, but let's assume it is true. So why doesn't this affect the popularity of other sports that have more black and Latino athletes than white athletes? It would make sense for MLB fans not to like baseball as much because of all the Latino athletes and for the NFL to be declining in popularity if this were completely true. Every athlete has minorities that are superstars, wouldn't "whites" ascribe these characteristics to these players and lose interest in said sport? If Buzz believes I think minorities are lazy then why would I watch a college basketball game and enjoy it more than I enjoy an NBA game? Because there may be a white superstar on the court? That's ridiculous.

I also make a habit of asking every white sports fan I know whether they watch the NBA. In virtually every instance, they say they once watched the game but no longer do. When I ask them if it has anything to do with the racial composition, they do their best to look indignant.

This look of being indignant is obvious proof to Buzz that the racial composition of the NBA is the real reason these fans don't watch the sport as much. Somehow this racial composition doesn't affect the popularity of other sports, including college basketball and college football. Strange.

But my guess is they felt very differently about the game when Larry Bird and John Stockton were playing.

There is a reason you call it a "guess," because you don't know. So pretending to know the reason these people don't watch the NBA is be a useless exercise with Buzz's current knowledge base. A writer just can't think of a reason why he believes something is true and then when presented with opposing data doubt the honesty of the person giving the data.

Based on various statistics, the percentage of African-American players in the NBA has remained relatively constant over the past decade, fluctuating between 72 and 75 percent. The number of foreign-born players has increased exponentially to about 18 percent. The number of white American players, meanwhile, has decreased from 24.3 percent in the 1980-81 season to roughly 10 percent now.

These foreign-born players aren't all non-white. Many of them are white Europeans. So the average NBA fan is not only covertly racist, but also xenophobic?

The one white American player today who comes the closest to being a star is Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He is averaging 21 points a game and 15 rebounds. He is on the West roster in the All-Star Game. Do you know anyone who would pay to see Love play?

Whether a person would pay to see a player play the sport of basketball isn't the end-all be-all to determine the popularity of that sport. Many people, especially in this economic age, can't afford to pay to see athletic events. So to connect NBA attendance completely with the popularity of the sport and the racial composition of the NBA is a tenuous connection at best. I can be a fan of Kevin Love, enjoy the NBA and not buy a ticket to a Timberwolves game.

I watched Kevin Love play in college, along with his non-white teammates, and I enjoyed it very much. Why would I suddenly become racist once Love and his teammates make the NBA? Isn't it possible something other than primarily race issues makes fans enjoy college basketball but not the NBA? I love MLB but I don't watch college baseball. What does it mean other than I prefer professional baseball to college baseball?

It boils down to this: Are whites losing interest in a game in which the number of white American players not only continues to dwindle, but no longer features a superstar?

No. Whites are losing interest (where is the data to prove this other than a poll of Buzz's friends?)---though I think this is arguable---for reasons other than this. I won't deny the lack of a white American superstar in the NBA may have some reason for the (supposed) decline in popularity of the sport. These people who use this reason to not watch the NBA aren't NBA fans though. These people aren't fans of basketball, which is why fans of basketball would watch the NBA regardless.

I do also think this may say more about the sport than it says about the racial opinions of white America. If the roles were switched and MLB did not have a non-white superstar, and faced declining interest due to this, I would imagine there would be quite a movement (rightly as well) for MLB to get more non-white fans involved and hope to spring interest in baseball among non-white youths. I am not exactly sure the point Buzz is trying to prove. I have always thought it is a bit contradictory that a sport (like MLB) has been seen as needing to integrate more non-whites in order to gain a large fan base and increase in popularity because that non-white fan base needs players to identify with, meanwhile the NBA isn't seen as needing to add white players (which is a ridiculous idea) and the lack of a white superstar and the league's (supposed) decline in popularity shows just how racist we all are.

I am digressing a bit...

In a piece for Parade magazine last year, he wrote that the NBA game needed to be significantly modified to regain its former popularity. In talking with NBA watchers, he came up with six solutions to improve play, including shortening the 24-second clock, increasing the number of fouls for a player before fouling out, and shortening the season.

I don't know if these suggestions would work or not. Here are 11 more ways to fix the NBA, from the same author. I think these suggestions on how to fix the NBA are a lot closer than simply saying interest is declining because the sport isn't white enough. I don't think the NBA should be contracted though.

It has to do with racial stereotyping. Those stereotypes are wrong. They are malicious. But to act is if they do not exist is disingenuous. When I wrote the book Friday Night Lights about high-school football in Texas, I saw the racial stereotypes of some whites up close—their firm belief that white athletes admirably succeeded because of hustle and hard work and brains, and black athletes succeeded solely on the basis of pure athletic skill.

Buzz has written this entire article racial stereotyping the reason why whites don't watch the NBA. Now he projects his own race issues on everyone else.

Do you which group is the absolute worst purveyor of this "lazy black man-hardworking white man" belief? The mainstream media. How many articles about the grit and hustle of guys like Danny Woodhead, David Eckstein, Darin Erstad, and tons of other white guys do we see written per year? So it isn't the fan who is the originator of this belief, it is the sports media that writes articles and fluff pieces which show white athletes as hard working and full of grit and they tend not to do the same for a black athlete. Here is an example I covered of this concerning Danny Woodhead.

I know there are people who have this belief, but Buzz shouldn't blame this belief on his own unofficial research from over 20 years ago in Texas. He should look on the Internet and in the sports pages to see where this idea truly originates from. I refuse to believe the idea black athletes don't work hard is why the NBA is declining in popularity. This is lazy thinking. Am I to really believe this "lazy black man-hardworking white man" idea was prevalent in the 1980's as well, but the fact white America had a white superstar to look to this was ignored? The presence of Kurt Rambis, Bill Laimbeer, Jon Koncak and Greg Kite helped white America feel better about the sport even though non-white players like Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and Patrick Ewing were dominating the sport?

Lack of effort is what whites still assume of black athletes in basketball—they don’t have sufficient desire, their body language during timeouts connotes boredom, they are always looking in the stands for the next concubine, they just don’t have that blue-collar work ethic that makes great white athletes great.

"Looking in the stands for the next concubine?" Really?

It doesn't take a genius to see where many NBA fans may have gotten lost. Look at games from the 1980's and 1990's. The game is played much differently now than it was then. The game is just different now. It is not about who is lazy and who is not lazy, and has very little to do with the perception of the athletes playing in the NBA. It is about the pace at which the game goes. The game seems to move slower now and everything seems less rowdy, on and off the court. I watch the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals from time-to-time and it feels like a different game from now. It has nothing to do with white or black players either.

This whole "white athlete works hard" and "the black athlete is lazy" dichotomy does have some merit...but very little merit. Most of the merit, as I stated before, is seen in how white athletes are covered by the media. This dichotomy is the reason why college basketball analysts fucking go bananas whenever the name Jimmer Fredette is mentioned. Sports analysts have a tendency to overhype white college basketball athletes (see: Morrison, Adam) while seeing a non-white player who is merely really, really good as a disappointment at times (Harrison Barnes). So yes, white college basketball analysts have a tendency to make white players more prominent. Yes, there is a larger sample of white college basketball players to cheer for, but I still believe college basketball would suffer the same racial problem the NBA has if white fans thought black athletes were lazy.

(Side note: One of the most irritating things for me this college basketball year is Jimmer Fredette. Yeah, he's great. He also averages nearly 19 shots per game. He's a great player but he also takes a lot of shots. Compare him to Deron Williams all you want. I am keeping notes on this comparison and will be glad to throw them in someone's face in 3 years.)

The National Football League is majority African American. Since the game is predicated on brute strength that is impossible to fake, there is rarely any grumbling that African-American athletes are not trying hard enough.

How many times have people accused Terrell Owens of alligator-arming a pass over the middle? Accused Randy Moss of not trying hard enough? I have personally accused Julius Peppers of taking plays off. Deion Sanders was always criticized for not wanting to tackle. I don't think criticism of players in the NFL trying hard enough is as rare as Buzz believes. This hasn't seem to affect the NFL's popularity. I think NBA attendance may be down, because like MLB, fans will watch games on television rather than go to a game during these tough economic times.

The stigma of the African-American quarterback—that he will never have the intelligence to read defenses and make instant adjustments no matter how quick his release or how far he throws—still very much exists. Which is why Donovan McNabb, the greatest quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history, is inexplicably loathed by thousands of fans for what they perceived as poor judgment and inconsistency--

I am a defender of Donovan McNabb and think he has always gotten a bad rap. McNabb is also loved by thousands of fans. Thousands of fans, even Yankees fans, loathe Alex Rodriguez and it isn't because he is not white. It is based on the fan's perception of that player's performance. The issue I have here is that some of the criticism towards McNabb doesn't come from whites. So to point the criticism as proof of what white fans think of NBA players is just not a good comparison. Terrell Owens called McNabb out of shape after the Super Bowl loss to New England and in the link that Buzz just linked this was the exchange between Rush Limbaugh and Tom Jackson:

RUSH: I've been listening to all of you guys, actually, and I think the sum total of what you're all saying is that Donovan McNabb is regressing, is going backwards —

TOM JACKSON: Mmm-hmm. (Nodding)

Tom Jackson is not white. So while it is fair to say McNabb got criticism, it is not just criticism from a white fan base who thinks black quarterbacks are lazy. This is a lazy stereotype from Buzz. He wants to prove his point so he falls back on the stereotype that everyone believes black athletes are lazy. All goes to prove is that Buzz really doesn't watch the NBA and he shouldn't be speaking for anyone other than himself.

Major League Baseball is only 9 percent African American. The number of Latino players from Central America is skyrocketing, but there are white stars at every position. Once again, the identification factor.

I will pretend to agree with Buzz on this issue for a minute. What can the NBA do about it? Very little. It is a good thing the NBA doesn't have to do anything about this either, because while NBA attendance is declining, I am not sure the popularity is.

Unless the ghosts of Bird and John Havlicek and Jerry West return to the floor, that isn’t going to happen. And since it isn’t going to happen, the NBA will continue to struggle with an identity crisis that no one wants to publicly acknowledge.

I always love the idea there is a crisis that "no one will acknowledge." The idea this crisis doesn't exist and that's why it isn't acknowledged never crosses Buzz's mind. When in doubt, stereotype and then talk about how there is a crisis no one else will talk about.

So maybe the best thing for whites to do, including myself, is accept the fact there will be no white hope, drop the work-ethic fallacy, and revel in a game that is embedded more than ever with beauty and grace and strength and acrobatics.

How does Buzz know the NBA is embedded more than ever with beauty and grace and strength and acrobatics if he doesn't watch the sport? I don't care about the white hope, clearly Buzz still does.

This column is the result of Buzz being forced to talk about the NBA, Buzz wanting to write an article that gets pageviews, Buzz having no evidence the NBA is broken yet insisting that it is, and then creating a stereotype that he clearly believes as the reason the NBA is broken. How unfortunate this got published.


rich said...

When I ask them if it has anything to do with the racial composition, they do their best to look indignant.

" their best to look indignant"? You just called them racist for not watching basketball because of race, they probably weren't doing their best, they were probably incredibly pissed off.

If whites wanted a white dominated sport, hockey and soccer would be insanely popular. Someone should ask Europeans and Canadians if they don't like the NBA because of race.

But my guess is they felt very differently about the game when Larry Bird and John Stockton were playing.

Larry Bird played in an era where Magic Johnson was arguably the most popular player. John Stockton played second fiddle to Malone.

Once again, this doesn't prove race, but it does indicated that it might be the style of game. Sure people may have felt differently when Bird and Stockton were playing, but that's because the game was vastly different.

Think about all the big shots that led to the Bulls 6 championships. I remember huge shots from BJ Armstrong, Tony Kukoc, Steve Kerr, Will Purdue, etc. Jordan was the greatest player of his era, but he knew when to take the shot and when to rely on his teammates. Most players today seem to lack this ability.

Based on various statistics, the percentage of African-American players in the NBA has remained relatively constant over the past decade, fluctuating between 72 and 75 percent.

I love how they throw up the "it could be the way the game is played" argument and then try to use stats to prove its race... when the stats clearly favor the idea that the style of the game is what is turning people off.

The one white American player today who comes the closest to being a star is Kevin Love

Blake Griffin?

Lack of effort is what whites still assume of black athletes in basketball

Let me take a stab at this. Quite a few of the African American players grew up in incredibly poor neighborhoods, where basketball was seen as a way out. What's the easiest way to catch scouts' eyes? Put up huge numbers. So I think the attitude of a lot of players in the league is to "get theirs" and whine and pout when they don't.

For example, look at Tyreke Evans. He's averaging 18 points a game, but shooting 41% from the field. He's hurting the team, but watching him play, he doesn't seem to give a shit as long as he's getting his 20 points.

The real problem is that a lot of these superstar caliber players don't have anyone telling them no. Their teams in HS and college are built around individual success, where a great player can lead to team success; that same idea doesn't carry over to the NBA.

Which is why Donovan McNabb, the greatest quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history, is inexplicably loathed by thousands of fans for what they perceived as poor judgment and inconsistency--

I love McNabb, but he is inconsistent and he does make really bad decisions. I also hear the same arguments for white QBs too, see: Favre, Brett.

It is based on the fan's perception of that player's performance.

It also has to do with how the player presents themselves. Arod sounds awkward and acts awkward. Jeter sounds intelligent and does everything in a "classy" way. You listen to a lot of basketball players and they sound borderline retarded.

The problem isn't that the NBA is filled with African-Americans, it's partially because the game has become filled with huge egos that need to be deflated a bit.

You listen to someone like Kobe or Jordan or Magic talk about the game and you learn something. Try listening to LeBron or Bosh about the game and you feel like you've actually forgotten stuff. It's not that they're not as hard working, it's just that fans can't relate to what them because they do rely more on their freak athleticism than they do their brains.

Martin F. said...

I'd say that the NBA is more popular now then it was 5 years ago. Better players with better attitudes then were in the NBA throughout the 90's.

Also, there are a ton of non-black players in the league now who are talented and stars. Maybe they still only make up 25%, but it's a far more important 25% then a decade ago. All the players from Europe and a few from South America have made it that way. No longer is it 11 black guys and a white guy sitting at the end of the bench, to paraphrase Charles Barkley.

buzz is just a clueless old man at this point in his career.

cs said...

In NY, a narrow example, the Yankees' most popular player is half black. Their most popular pitcher is black, albeit latin, and their most popular starting pitcher is black. As long as they keep winning 95+ games a year and get at least a Wild Card, that stadium will be jammed. Go back to late-80s, early 90s, the tier was half empty on a nightly basis. And a white guy was their most popular player.

And as far as business goes, if one of your markets is decreasing and being enticed, with tremendous success, by a semi-indirect competitor, you can either try to recapture it, pursue new markets or pour your money into existing markets you already dominate. Baseball has long been successful in tapping into the Latin markets, and continues to be successful with white America. Trying to entice black kids into baseball is difficult, considering hip hop culture kind of holds hands with basketball culture. The NBA did an amazing job at making their league the absolute shit to a pretty decent segment of our population. If you take that approach, making something bad ass and cool, you are bound to alienate the other extremity. So be it, because I'm a white male, late 20s, and guaranteed at least every Sunday afternoon and Thursday night, I'm watching the NBA.

Also, last thing, I agree with the economics argument. I was at Knicks-Heat two Sunday's ago, and my seats were good, via work, 15 rows up. These tickets are going for $400-$700 on a nightly basis, resale obviously. This is ridiculous. Bill Simmons makes a good point - its much easier to watch the game from home, especially with the kind of TVs we all have, vs paying $80/ticket for horseshit seats on the top level, or pissing away your salary on good seats. If live sporting events are now corporate events, the ticket prices of good seats jacked up and sold to businesses ($8,000 resale for court-side), and then the NBA and the networks market their televised broadcasts on TNT/ABC/ESPN with so much vigor, people are not going to turn out and buy resold tickets for 500 bucks. Unless, you have a product out there like the Heat, like Blake Griffin, like MJ, a can't miss in-person experience.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I think the Canadians don't like the NBA b/c the NBA takes their team and moves it to Memphis and the team in Toronto generally sucks.

I still enjoy the NBA, but I also know a group of people, and not all white people, who don't enjoy the NBA as much now as they did a decade ago. It's just a preference for a style of play. I don't enjoy watching some of the teams play now. That's just my opinion and it has very little to do with race.

What's funny is that players like Tyreke Evans are eventually weeded out of the league at some point. A guy like Evans who is only out for his (not that Evans is that way or the only one) isn't a successful player in the long run. I am thinking of other score-first point guards like Marbury, Arenas and Francis. They tended to fade away at a certain point for various reasons.

I think the NBA's problem was the sport was marketed the athleticism side of things and it wasn't just that which made Jordan, Ewing and company popular. It's hard to put a finger on, but the league marketed itself on the athleticism and individuality of the players and then they became a bad thing at a certain point.

Martin F, I agree with you. I think Buzz is getting television mixed up with the game attendance. I will watch an NBA game but I wouldn't go to one. It's too expensive for a product I don't enjoy. It doesn't mean I don't like the NBA b/c I don't go to games though.

Cs, winning fixes everything, you are right about that. I there is competition right now for dollars and the NBA is losing to other sports. I know it isn't a zero sum game but certain fans will be more interested and pay for tickets to NFL and MLB games.

I think the economics argument is 10x better than the racial or any other argument. It's just a matter of the NBA being a good sport, but it is expensive to go when you can sit at home and watch it. There's something about the experience about going to a MLB/NFL game that is missing in the NBA. At least for me.

Bill Simmons has a great point and I think that's the main reason the NBA ticket sales may be down, but popularity is actually up. Buzz doesn't want to pay attention to this though.

Ace said...

Hi, long time reader, first time commenting.
I agree with most of what you said, however, there was one part that bothered me. When you said this:

"For example, this may be hard to believe, but I lose interest in the NBA when Cleveland trades Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis. After seeing the Cavs lose LeBron James I was rooting for them to turn it around, but then they trade for Baron Davis and it makes me wonder if the Cavs' front office didn't deserve to lose LeBron in free agency. This type of incompetence and bad trading is pervasive through the NBA. I think what separates this trade deadline from others is some teams didn't just dump salary, they got some talent back in return for players."

I'm not sure if you knew, but the Cavs also received a potential lottery pick from the Clippers to take on losing one player who's barely a starter, another who's just an average role player, and a rental of the talented, but injury plagued chemistry cancer Baron Davis. It doesn't seem like that bad a deal to me, despite the lacking talent in the upcoming draft.

Trust me, the trade was for the second lottery pick to rebuild for the future, and Baron was just a bonus/curse. I'm not expecting the Cavs to compete for the next 3 years at least, anyway.

I do agree overall that there are many utterly incompetent front offices. One can look no further than the T'Wolves drafting two point guards in the 1st round of the 09 draft, or Chris Wallace helping the Lakers win two championships for Kwame Brown and Gasol's younger brother.

On the article itself, I have actually been watching less NBA games, but that's mostly because of the dirty politics, and the fucked up priorities of the NJ Nets. (Used to be a fan, now I'm just rooting for the Cavs for some reason)

Alonzo Mourning received a lot of undeserved hate when he left NJ. His reason was understandable, the owner (Bruce Ratner at the time) cared more about building his ridiculous arena in Brooklyn more than building a championship team. He's a major reason why the Nets went from 2 Finals appearances to breaking 70 losses last year. And after all that they're still going to Brooklyn so I've cut my ties from that bull crap. (Sorry for the slightly off topic rant just giving my personal view on why I am losing interest in the NBA)

cs said...

I feel the same way Ben, I go to baseball and NFL games way more often than NBA. This is partially do to the fact that my team has absolutely sucked for a decade, and I was living in D.C. for 5 years and missed the Jordan era by a year, and wound up in the Agent Zero era, which just was not fun basketball to watch.

The NFL experience is just on a whole different level. Only 8 games to savor, and the sheer majority of games played on a day that most people have off. Tailgating, drinking, the feeling that this game today really fucking matters and is not one of 82 or 162... being around that energy only an NFL or good college game can bring, it's worth the price of admission.

Baseball, well, it's on a totally different level too. Outdoors, relaxed atmosphere (though when interleague started up, and the Braves came to the Bronx in 1997, the summer after that WS, I have never been in a more electric place in my life, any sport, any concert, anywhere. Yankee Stadium was just buzzing literally, no Red Sox-Yankees, Mets-Yankees game has ever compared, and it was my first time hearing 60,000 people in unison tell Bobby Cox "you suck cocks" after he got ejected), but aside from those games that are just absolutely electric, the average game is just a really perfect experience.

When they built the new stadium in D.C. for the Nats, I'd go to a game a week because, for one, the stadium is a great place, wide open, and it was just beautiful being outside in the summer. The game is really suited for the season. And when we talk of fan experience, what's better than getting to the game 2 hours before and being allowed in to watch batting practice, and just generally bullshitting around , maybe talking to/heckling some players, etc etc.

On the other hand, NBA arenas are just these static backdrops. Aside from the colors, they're all the same generally, and they don't offer the fan a real unique experience. I'm sure L.A. is unique in that it has it's celebrity benefits, but aside from Staples, I don't know.

Point is, racial issues may have various and countless implications here, but economics, the "fan experience", and the improvement of technology, I think these all play a part. When Yankee Stadium couldn't fill their behind homeplate absurdly-priced tickets, I don't think anyone was saying that rich New Yorkers didn't want to watch a bunch of latin and black people play the game, or that the style wasn't fun to watch. That shit was just overpriced relative to its value.

rich said...

I am thinking of other score-first point guards like Marbury, Arenas and Francis. They tended to fade away at a certain point for various reasons.

BGF, I agree with the sentiment that they eventually fade away, but while they're in the league, they make such a stink that it's actually kind of annoying.

I know you said, PGs, but it extends to all players. Latrell Sprewell and his "I can't feed my kids on 13M," Sebastian Telfair and his "oh, you mean I can't take my wife's gun on an airplane?" and so on just kind of ruin(ed) the NBA.

The "subplots" of the egotistical players have taken away from the game. Instead of talking about the game itself, there's constantly a subplot behind everything, which is annoying when there's 16 games (ala football), it's unbearable when there's 82.

Back to the original point, all three of the players you listed all made tons of money in the NBA and lasted quite a while. Francis was in the league a decade and had at least one "holy crap, you're paying him what!?" contract. Same for Marbury. I know it's picking and choosing as I'm only going off of the three guys you listed, but I can think of a few other players to add to the list. Modern day Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Ben Gordon, etc all were cut from the same cloth.

Arenas I think typifies the egotistical player to a T. He's basketballs version of Chad Johnson, the only problem is that when it's ten guys in a league of 1500 players, you can kind of ignore it. When it's ten guy in a league of 400 players, it becomes much more evident.

Speaking of Gilbert Arenas, his contract also illustrates a huge problem with the NBA. You look at some of the guys and you wonder how in the world they're making the money they are. Ben Wallace was making 10M a year to ride the pine, Arenas is a 100M player, Rashard Lewis got the max as did Rudy Gay. Then the owners turn around and tell fans that the league is going broke and they, like CS said, need 80 bucks for tickets... sorry, I'll find another way to entertain myself.

Another sign of why the NBA is slowly dying was the atmosphere surrounding "The Decision." The fact that LeBron still says he doesn't understand the problem speaks volumes as to the mindset of modern day players.

Carmelo pouted his way out of Denver, Deron pouted his way out of Utah, Chris Paul pouted a bit two years ago, Kobe constantly pouted when the Lakers weren't winning and didn't take a single shot in the fourth quarter of a playoff game because he was called selfish.

Even in the game, players constantly pout. Tim Duncan reacts like he's been charged with murder on every call against him. Players who get "injured" act like they've been shot and flopping has become increasingly more apparent to me the past few seasons, culminating in that absolutely atrocious flop by Bosh a few weeks ago.

Then you add in the ref situation and the star treatment the league has and it adds up to a game that, IMO, is hard to watch.

rich said...

Of course as I typed my diatribe, CS sums up everything succinctly:

Point is, racial issues may have various and countless implications here, but economics, the "fan experience", and the improvement of technology, I think these all play a part. When Yankee Stadium couldn't fill their behind homeplate absurdly-priced tickets, I don't think anyone was saying that rich New Yorkers didn't want to watch a bunch of latin and black people play the game, or that the style wasn't fun to watch. That shit was just overpriced relative to its value.

A thousand times this.

I'm not about to drop 60 bucks a ticket for decent seats to watch a barely .500 Sixers team, when I can use that same 60 to watch a first place hockey team or use the money to go to two baseball games.

FJ said...

This is essentially what he's saying:

Bengoodfella said...

Ace, thanks for commenting first off. Maybe I shouldn't have written exactly what I wrote about LeBron and the Baron Davis trade. The Cavs didn't deserve to lose LeBron in free agency and I do recognize the value of the Clippers pick. I would never put Baron Davis on a rebuilding team though. I would be afraid if he didn't pout and play poorly on the floor, he would bring a bad attitude to the locker room. I have to say he has been pretty good since coming to Cleveland. I don't think it will last too long, but for now it is good.

I realize the pick for players that weren't in the Cavs future is what they wanted. Though I have a post going up in a couple of days and I don't believe this draft will be quite so bad as everyone expects. I think the Cavs can at least get a building block or two out of the draft, even if they don't find a superstar.

Mourning is one of my favorite all-time players, so I think he is a great guy at all times. I am biased towards him.

For me, even as a Celtics fan, I started to lose interest in the NBA once the Charlotte Hornets started rumbling about moving. I used to be a bit like Bill Simmons with the Hornets and go to as many games as I could afford to as a child with my father. Once George Shinn started acting the way he did and he wasn't committed to winning like I thought he should be, it showed me something about the NBA and how they basically said "screw you" to the Charlotte fans and let Shinn move the team.

I still like the NBA though, just not as much.

Cs, I think you nailed it. The NFL experience is a great fan atmosphere full of yelling and the idea you are at one of few games per year. The MLB experience is laid back (some may say boring) where you get to enjoy being outside (in most places) and drink some beer and take in your surroundings. The NBA doesn't have that experience and when you combine in the price of tickets, I think it is more of an economic issue by far than a racial issue.

You make great points and I believe get to the real entertainment/value/economic reason why NBA attendance may not be great. Why go to a game when you can have a great view at home? Bill Simmons is right about this.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, Buzz Bissinger would say it is race because nearly every player you named is a minority. I don't find that true, but that's how he would see it.

I think the fact we have named a couple of legitimate reasons why the NBA doesn't have quite as large a fan base as it used to shows it isn't just one simple race issue. The product on the court just isn't worth the money being paid to see the product.

There are overpaid players in nearly every single sport, including baseball, but in baseball a guy who is making $10 million rarely is sitting the bench and doing nothing. Teams have 9 spots to fill and find a place for that guy or get rid of him. In the NBA, there are only 5 spots on the court and it is so hard to get rid of a bad contract. I think the NBA could benefit from an NFL-type salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts. It would make it interesting to say the least. Teams wouldn't be saddled with bad players and can cut the players when they aren't playing anymore. If the NFL can have non-guaranteed contracts, I don't see why the NBA can't have them.

Here's an example, the Hawks are 37-26. They are 23rd in the NBA in home attendance at 14,000 or so per game. The Atlanta Braves drew 30,000 fans per game. The Braves, in a recession by the way, drew 150,000 more fans in 2010 than they did in 2009. Baseball is just a better value for fans they have a new superstar fans can identify with by the name of Jason Heyward.