Friday, December 7, 2007

An Open Letter To The Morons In Charge Of NBA Programming

Dear Sirs, Madames, and F*ckwits,
We're writing to you today to inquire as to the logic behind your recent decisions regarding national TV coverage of the NBA. As we write this, it is November 28th. Between now and next Wednesday, the college football season will come to a close until bowl season begins. Baseball is over. Hockey has no national television coverage. And the NFL, while still dominant on Sunday and Monday nights, is starting to become less and less interesting to everyone outside of the Green Bay, Dallas, New England, and Pittsburgh fan markets. Eventually this season will become uninteresting to anyone outside of Patriots fans. So now is a prime opportunity for you to showcase the best parts of your league. To really show what you can do. To get people excited about this league the same way most of its hardcore fans are, by showcasing the wide variety of play styles, superstars, and smaller market teams that have reached success. So what have you done?

You made dookie.

Here's what's been on the last few weeks on national television (since you're still trying to figure out what the hell to do with NBATV; by the way, here's a hint, give it to TNT, dipsh*ts).

Wednesday, November 28th:
No games.

Friday, November 30th:
Boston at Miami
LALakers at Utah.

Tuesday, December 4th:
No games.

Wednesday, December 5th:
LA Lakers at Denver

Look, we get it. We understand. ESPN's got college basketball ramping up, and it has better viewership. TNT likes to lay low until after the All-Star break. We get that, too. And we know you have numbers and figures and data to support the decisions that you made way back before the season. There's just a few problems with what you've done..

1. In the NBA season, you cannot expect teams to hold true to last season or preseason form: We get that you're working off a similar deal as with baseball. But it's not the same. The game isn't the same. Yes. Showing the Giants is similar to showing the Heat because Barry Bonds and Shaq are equal draws. Here's the difference. If the Giants are terrible, Barry Bonds can still have a good game and the Giants can win. Baseball's fun like that. The NBA? We've already covered that anything can happen here. But no one outside of south beach wants to watch the Heat right now. No one. It doesn't work the same way. Even if the Heat had ended up beating the Celtics, it wouldn't have been fun to watch. That would have meant that the Celtics misfired, and Ricky Davis came off the bench for another explosion? Why don't you ask around for who wants to watch Ricky Davis explode off the bench. You cannot predetermine which NBA games are going to be good. If you want to showcase the league in the best light, you have to put yourself in a position to highlight the games that are interesting at that point in the season. In baseball, if you have Giants vs. Cardinals in April, you're still getting Bonds vs. Pujols and the game is still relatively similar to all other games that go on that night. It's not so in the NBA. When teams are playing badly, they're playing horribly (say hi to Mr. Wallace and his merry band of Bulls). When they're playing great, they're a joy to watch (Big Baby Jesus would like a word with you). Take last night for example: the Nuggets and Mavericks we're going to let slide based on star power, even though we've seen more Nuggets than the guy in Super-Size Me. But Miami-Portland? We know, we know, the Heat were supposed to be good and the Blazers would have had Oden. Here's the point: they didn't. And you missed out on a pretty good Hawks-Timberwolves game last night featuring a lot of young talent. It was cool watching Brandon Roy and Big Nifty tear it up, but watching the Heat makes us want to watch Seven to cheer ourselves up. That leads us to our next point.

2. Injuries Can Wreck An NBA Game: When Barry Bonds was loafing in between fighting off indictments and breaking the most important record in American sports, you could still watch the Giants on television and catch essentially the same game, just minus the big draw. The point is that if you wanted to watch baseball, you're still watching baseball. There are other guys on the Giants that can hit home runs (some even without the use of performance enhancing drugs!), so you could see the same show without the star. Same thing with the NFL. Is watching the Cowboys as exciting (or loathsome) without T.O.? No. But football's still football, and you don't need one guy to make your team. This is not how life is in the NBA. Don't get us wrong. We're junkies. If you're showing the Spurs without Duncan, or the Suns without Nash, or the Celtics without Garnett, we're still watching, because those teams are still worth watching without those players. And those teams are still good. You know who's not good without their star? Cleveland. At all. Look, we love partaking in Witnessing. We think the same thing about the King that everyone else does. He can do things on a basketball court no one else can do (see things no one else can see! Lo-Pan!). But without LeBron, that team is wretched. Horrible. Terrible. Ugly. We spend so much time trying to convince ourselves that, because of their success, his teammates are pretty good. They're not. He's just that good. And when he's not on the floor? Sorry. I just don't really want to watch a defensive minded team that doesn't shoot well and features Booby, Z, Gooden, and Hughes. No offense. I mean, without LeBron, they'd have the cap space to pick up two or thee other good players and be entertaining. We don't blame the Cavs for this. It's a sticky situation. (Although that team needs a shooter like we need an LCD TV. Very, very badly.). The point is, when LeBron's not playing, all televised games featuring him should be pulled. Injuries can change a basketball game more than any other sport. Yes, the Spurs can win and be competitive and entertaining (as much as the Spurs can be entertaining) without Duncan. But they're the class of the league. We love this Magic team. But without Dwight Howard? Everything about that team changes. You need to be able to adjust to injuries. The fact that I've seen Portland and Seattle ten times as much as I've seen the Magic or Pacers or Hawks this year is proof of this fact.

3. You're Not Going To Draw The Casual Fan Until The Playoffs. Get Over It: There's a stigma against the NBA. You know it. I know it. Hardcore fans love it, can appreciate everything from the fascinating nature of shot charts to the absurdity of Zero and Marbury, to the class of the Spurs (well, except for trying to kill Steve Nash last season, but we'll get to that later), to the athletic glory of superstars like Kobe and LeBron. But the casual fan doesn't really like it. The controlled grind of the NBA season leads to a different attitude on the court. It takes a ton of concentration for a guy just to dribble down the court, get in possession, avoid the steal, and set the offense. Thing is, AI's been doing this for over a decade. So he makes it look sluggish. It comes off as indifference, when it's just the long nature of the season. Same thing with crowds. Your casual fan can turn on an NCAA game and see that there's 2 minutes left, a 5 point differential, and all the students jumping up and down like mad. This seems exciting to them. Even if the score is 52-47, meaning that these teams are shooting like crap, it still seems more exciting. Conversely, in a small market arena like Milwaukee, the place probably isn't rocking in December like San Antonio, Dallas, and Phoenix will be in April. And that's fine. But accept that the way to increase your fanbase before the playoffs is to try and lure them into being actual fans. Don't show them a blowout game between a struggling Denver team and cram Kobe down their throats. Don't force feed them Cleveland versus Detroit every time. Once is great. It's good basketball, they have a rivalry, awesome. But you can get more people into it by showing them different players they can get excited about watching. Show good games, not just good players. We're not suggesting you should abandon showing superstars. God, no. They're the best part of the game. But beating it into the ground makes it mundane. You can attract viewers by doing more than just showing the biggest markets with the biggest stars. Then, when you do show those things, it's even more amazing. The average guy on his couch, if he decides he wants to watch basketball, will watch basketball. Having Kobe or LeBron on is not going to necessarily sway him, because he knows he's going to see those guys play a ton during the season. Give him something interesting. I'm not calling for Hawks-Bobcats, just some flexibility. Which leads us to this...

4. People Are Aware Of And Care About NBA Teams And Players Other Than Kobe Bryant and the Lakers: Kobe Bryant is the second best basketball player in the NBA (and we won't object to anyone saying he's the best). He's the best scorer, period. He's marketable. He's popular. He's amazing. But for the love of God, we don't need to see him on TV 24 times, especially when we're not going to get to see other teams hardly at all. The argument could be made that with LA being such a huge market, and given the superstar, and their surge to start the season, this is justified. But I am now getting physically ill of seeing Andrew Bynum. And I like the kid's game. Also, bear in mind that we know it's impossible to predict good games. You broadcast a Lakers-Nuggets blowout, and you could miss a great Jazz-T-Wolves game. It doesn't change the fact that there's more money in the other game. But we're not saying to leave them off completely. Just try it. Try and find the best matchups. A national television audience should not be subjected to the Miami Heat 24 times in a season.

5. You've Got The Flex Schedule. Use It!: We know you have the capability to switch out games. Just take advantage of it. Especially you, TNT. You've got an easy setup. If you've got Cleveland, Miami, or Chicago playing some scrub because you wanted to showcase them beating the crap out of someone, just go find the Magic, Warriors, or Hornets game and show it. You'll be a lot better off. And ESPN? On situations like January 13th, when you've got Milwaukee at the Lakers? If you're not going to show the game that was watched by 200 million people, I think you can throw me Memphis at Golden State. And ABC? Nice move. Enjoy having Dwayne Wade look like he wants to cry for four quarters while Riley stews in his own filth as they Heat get trounced game after game.

6. We Have No Issue With The Christmas Games: We feel bad for Greg. We feel bad for ourselves. We feel bad for Blazers fans. We feel bad for you. Oden going down ruined what would have been a great matchup. You couldn't have predicted the Heat would be this terrible...okay, you could have, but we understand you weren't paying attention. And Wade versus LeBron is a good matchup on a day that we do support your superstar pandering. Just might want to have a backup plan next time, Christmas and all. Maybe just sliding in Magic vs. Warriors. Or just having the Celtics play anyone. Hell, have them practice and televise it. It'll get better ratings than No-Can-Shoot versus Big Nifty and the Blazers sans Oden.

7. Help Us Help You: We only want the best for you guys. Ratings are up, advertising's up, and people are going to be sick of the Patriots annihilating everyone in January. You've got young stars, the East is finally competitive, you have entertaining plotlines, including watching Madison Square Garden detonate like the Ghostbusters containment system. Take advantage of it. Show more than Kobe. Give us some quirky matchups. Play the best games you can find. Show the teams that are actually playing well and scrapping for playoff spots, especially late in the year. Give the country something great to watch without League Pass. We believe in you.

Also, the next time Yi Jianlian and Yao Ming play? You might want to actually show the damn game.

If it's Where Amazing Happens, you might want to actually show the amazing parts. Thanks.

Hardwood Paroxysm

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