Friday, July 09, 2010

On King James...

So, LeBron James has decided to play in Miami, forsaking Cleveland (perhaps the most loyal of all sports fans, considering their city hasn't won anything since the Magna Carta was signed) for the sunnier climes of Florida.

A few remarks:

1. I hate basketball. With a passion. What's even worse than basketball is the American version of the game which is less about sport and more about contrived soap-opera drama. If it wasn't "Can Kobe win without Shaq?" storylines, it's all about "Where will LeBron Go Now?", and it's all frankly sickening.

Give LeBron credit where it is due; he does something that I cannot, at a level that is most extraordinary. I can appreciate the athleticism, skill and artistry of what he does, but can you really justify LeBron James being a potential billionaire for basically tossing a ball through a hoop that he can reach without his feet breaking contact with the floor?

2. To me, sports must involve three things: physicality, defense and competition. Of all the major sports played in America (sans "women's" sports) , basketball is perhaps the second-least physical (baseball is hardly physical at all -- the majority of the action revolves around two men playing catch, and the other seven standing around waiting for something to happen). Yes, sometimes you catch an elbow under the rim, or take a charge in the chest, but it's not like football or hockey where one of the objectives is to actually flatten an opponent in order to gain an advantage.

This si why, contrary to the protests of fat, rich, gay White Men everywhere, Golf and Tennis are not sports, and Tiger Woods is not an "athlete"; he's just a guy who's good at putting a ball in a distant hole without anyone trying to take his head off, or throw him curveballs.

By definition, any game in which it is possible to routinely score 100 points is bereft of defense. You can't bump anyone, you can't hand-check, you can't even put your butt in someone's mid-section and block him out anymore (like you could, and were expected to, in the Old Days). Nowadays, the game of basketball is all about dunking, with players allowed a 20-foot running start on their leaps (whatever happened to traveling calls?). This is not exciting, to me, and it gets rather repetitious. If there's little or no physical contact, like someone allowed -- and waiting -- to take your head off when you make your run to the hoop, then there's no defense.

3. This whole "Where will the Big Three Play" drama (James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade) is a example of collusion between players to hold, basically, an entire league hostage to their desire to play together at extremely high salaries. These three guys basically got together and formulated a plan to build their own "Dream Team", and they have the talent to ensure that it happened. I can just imagine what would have been the reaction of the NBA Player's Association if Management (i.e. the Owners) had gotten together to collude in ensuring that players weren't signed by certain teams, conspired to hold salaries low, or had made arrangements to "spread the talent out" by Gentlemen's Agreement. You can bet the players would scream bloody murder.

Yet, James, Bosh and Wade have done just that, and openly. There were meetings between them, all eagerly covered by a sport's press that has nothing better to do until football season starts. There wasn't even a hint that what these three guys were/are doing is in the best interests of the game, the fans, and the league.

The excuse that Free Agency and their talent level gives them the right to do this is fatuous; had these guys been, say, construction workers or computer programmers, than workers acting collectively or individually to ensure they got the best deal for as many of their colleagues as possbile is a good thing.

But Professional Sports is not the same as the conventional labor market. These guys are employees, and beneficiaries, of a Federally-protected Monopoly. NBA basketball is a racket, in much the same way as the NFL, MLB and the NHL are; there is only one Big-Time professional basketball league in the United States, and this be it.

4. I'm getting sick and tired of hearing NBA players say that everything they do is "about the Ring", and "bringing a Championship to X", because at the rates at which these guys are being compensated, it's probably all bullshit. I could live quite happily, thank you, if I made $16 million a year (guaranteed) to run around in my shorts chasing a ball in a game without defense without having achieved a Championship season, or even entry into The Hall of Fame. The truth is that the majority of NBA players will never see their name engraved on a trophy, or enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but they will have been paid a shitload of money to do something that millions of men would give a testicle to do for free just once. If I had a big, fat bank account, I could console myself quite easily if I never got a Ring, or that call from the HOF.

And somehow, there's always someone willing to take these guys seriously when they spout that sort of nonsense, and it happens every day. Right now, there's a utility player for the Kansas City Royals talking about being in a World Series. Right now, there's a St. Louis Rams 5th-round draft pick talking about a shrine in Canton with his name on it. At this moment, I can promise you that one of the dimmer bulbs on the Florida Panthers is predicting a Stanley Cup in South Florida.

It usually doesn't happen, but somehow they are obligated to say it (to keep the fans interested and hopeful, I guess), and you can usually tell they don't buy a single word they've uttered on either subject.

LeBron James is probably a billionaire already, considering endorsements, and he's never won a damned thing. Not only that, but he's just manipulated The System without the force of actual credentials/achievements (i.e. playoff success) at all, in a way that no one outside of professional sports will ever be able to do. Do you really think LeBron James cares about a Championship when he has a billion in the bank?

Somehow, we take these guys seriously when they spout this kind of garbage.

The NBA is going to rue the day it let the inmates run the Asylum. Baseball already has $200 million players so that the average fan a cannot afford regular visits to the ballpark, and very soon, the same will happen in Miami; we're talking $86 million for Bosh, $99 million for James, and I don't know (nor can bothered to find out) what Wade is going to get. In Miami. Do you really think Miamians can afford to the soon-to-be-ridiculously-priced tickets the Heat will need to sell to keep these three guys in green?

So, I say congratulations to LeBron James for at least being able, as a probable-billionaire, to stick up the other real-billionaires. But otherwise, this really all just a large, stinking pile of manufactured bullshit which makes us reg'lar, thinking folks sick to death of professional athletes and their phony posturing, manufactured drama, and lip service to us, the Paying Customer.

No comments: