Thursday, March 19, 2009

Drinking The Basketball Haterade

Tomorrow is the beginning of the annual NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Americans everywhere are filling out brackets and bloggers are running rampant with previews.

I have also filled out of bracket but unlike most folks, I will be hard pressed to get too excited about things. Oh sure, I hope I win the pool I'm in. But it's not out of any sort of desire to watch basketball games. It's born out of desire to win some money. Nothing less, nothing more.

You see, I really could not give less of a crap about basketball. I'm done with it. It's why, other than Towson, you won't find any hoops stories on Hangar 39. Truth be told, you can go elsewhere and find that shite. Me and basketball don't really speak anymore. It's nothing personal. I really have nothing against basketball as a sport. This isn't one of those Biggie/Tupac, "Fuck Bad Boy Records as a label, set and an organization"-type of vendettas. No, with me and basketball, it was just never a good match to begin with. Basketball is the good-looking girl with a lot of really annoying personality traits- like talking about herself all the time or stealing the remote and forcing me to watch Lifetime movies all day. I do not object to the sport of basketball. I object to the way the sport is shoved down my throat by the mainstream media and ESPN, I am looking directly at you.
I'm not sure when I just gave up on basketball. After all, I have some very fond memories of games I have been to. There was the game me, my dad and my ex-hockey coach went to in Philadelphia when Temple product Eddie Jones dunked on the human poster machine Shawn Bradley. I remember the time going to a Wizards-Warriors game and a Jody Watley concert broke out. Going to a Lakers game and seeing Jack Nicholson walk in was a real treat. And of course, one of the last games I ever went to was a match between the Clippers and Spurs where Brent Barry morphed into Larry Bird in the 1986 3-point shootout.

But now, I'm apathetic to the game. ESPN helped kill it for me to the point of actively disliking it. Every morning on "SportsCenter" is an "Eyes Wide Shut"-style orgy of basketball highlights. College, pros, you name it, the show is about 45 minutes of basketball clips. And much of it at the expense of a game I love: hockey. Save the ratings arguments for someone who gives a crap. The bottom line is, there's one reason and one reason only for so much basketball: because ESPN has the rights to the college and pro game and wants to promote their product. Fine, I get that. But shouldn't SportsCenter be the one show on the network that is above such things? Isn't "The Big Show" supposed to be about reporting the news of the day in sports, not engaging in shameless self-promotion? It's stuff like this that has made ESPN the new MTV. Hockey highlights on SC are of a "blink and you'll miss it" variety. To the best I can ascertain, they usually show one hockey highlight a night, typically around the 40 minute mark of the show. It involves, more often than not, only the Caps (which I don't mind) and the Penguins. If something spectacular or record-breaking happens (like Alex Ovechkin's goal vs Montreal or Martin Brodeur's 552nd win) it might get into the first 15 minutes.

Now I can hear some of you now, "Well just change the channel." I do. Right to Comcast Sportsnet where I know I can get some hockey stuff. See, CSN does it the right way. Yes, its local but at least there is generally balance between all sports. You get your Caps, you get your Wizznuts, you get your college hoops, your Redskins and Ravens, maybe some golf and you're done.

And here's another reason I've decided to turn heel on basketball: this perception that basketball is this great game while hockey is continually subject to ridicule from national media outlets. I feel like Drago's wife in "Rocky IV," "How come your system is so very good while ours is so very bad?" I don't see hockey having to borrow a line of credit to keep 15 franchises afloat. You don't see hockey guys Twittering on the sidelines. Does hockey have its problems? Absolutely. But how did basketball become this favored game that can do no wrong? It pisses me off that people like Bill Simmons are allowed to mock hockey as some dead on arrival sport that isn't even worth mentioning (without supporting evidence, mind you) but then turning around and jumping on the bandwagon whenever the sport gets hot. It's like Chino Moreno said in "Rock Superstar" - "Got a lot of chameleons out there/ Trying to change up."

So, as is my American right, I've tuned out on basketball. It's nothing to me these days. It's like tattoos. Everybody else has one, so I'm not going to get one, lest I be like every other asshole. I am proud to say I have not watched a full 60 minutes of pro basketball all year. I have a fantasy basketball team that I haven't checked in 3 months. I'm not likely to watch a whole lot of March Madness. And you know, I really don't feel like I'm missing anything.

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