Monday, November 14, 2011

The 12%-ers

If a league falls in the forest, will it make a noise? Will anybody hear? Will anyone care?

According to a recent survey, only 12% of respondents would hear the noise of the NBA effectively closing down the 2011-2012 season before it has even begun, the 12% of fans who would care at all. Listen closely, 12%-ers – that sound you just heard coming out of the player’s meeting in New York was the final chop of the ax.

The NBA players union rejected David Stern’s (no relation to Howard Stern) ultimatum today, and have taken the first steps towards decertification. So, there will be no NBA this season. Can you hear it now? Timber!


I cannot count myself among that group of loyal 12%-ers that will miss the games. Professional basketball has always been a bore to me, save for a few epic late round playoff matchups in years gone by. Think Magic v. Bird, MJ or Reggie v. Spike Lee, Shaq v. Kobe, LeBron v. Cleveland. The college game offers more excitement in a day than the NBA can offer in a month. At least in a college game, the unexpected occasionally happens.

It has been said many times but it bears repeating now that the players have killed the golden hoop goose - the only part of any regular season NBA game worth watching is the final 2 minutes. That means in an 82 game season, if half of a team’s games are close (and I’m being generous here), then the average sports fan need only watch fewer than 90 minutes over 6 months to enjoy the totality of the action. The rest is a cacophony of fouls you can’t detect, traveling violations that never get called, and blaring horns that seem to go off for no apparent reason. Perhaps if the seats outside of L.A. were ever filled with fans I’d cared more.


As a devoted hockey fan, I survived the lost NHL season of 2004-2005. It wasn’t as easy as Lt. Daniel Kaffee made it sound to Dawson and Downey (“6 months! It’s nothing. It’s a hockey season!”). It seemed much longer. A team from Florida actually held the Cup for 2 years because of that work stoppage. That’s just wrong, you know? However, we did come out the other side with a stronger product that is finally starting to re-establish itself in some pockets of North America. 6 years later, we get decent ratings on January 1st for a gimmick game. That’s progress after a league turns its back on the paying fans and cancels the season.

Take heart, 12%-ers. Your game will come back, and you can look forward to average TV ratings for your Christmas Day showcase of games sometime before the end of the decade. You might have to add some new wrinkles to gin up interest, like the NHL added the overtime shoot out and the Winter Classic. The NBA could have a game on an aircraft carrier…oops, been done. The NBA could have an outdoor game on the blacktop in the middle of a city in mid-July. Who wouldn’t tune in for Shirts vs. Skins inside a chain link octagon?

Wait, I’ve got it – Basketball Dodgeball. Dodgeball gets good ratings on ESPN 8 (The Ocho), so you could piggy back on the success of the historic Average Joe’s vs. Globo Gym finals. (If Carmelo can dodge a wrench, he can dodge a ball).

Enjoy the hiatus from the NBA, sports fans. Fear not. Bracketology is only 4 months away. Now, THAT we would really miss.

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