Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sports Saturday: 5/15/10

In today's issue: a discussion of why I don't like the NBA, followed by the usual hockey, baseball, and auto racing banter.

NBA - You may have noticed that I never talk about the NBA here. Why not? Because, quite simply, I'm not a fan. It's my least favorite of all popular sports, and I generally try to ignore it as much as possible.

Here's why I don't like the NBA:

1) The games are boring. I enjoy college basketball, but professional basketball is completely different. It's much more player-oriented than team-oriented. There's a lot of standing around watching the guy with the ball. NBA players don't give as much effort as college players. The atmosphere at a college basketball game is 10 times better. (When you have to pump in music during the play to get the crowd riled up, as you do in an NBA arena, something's wrong.) At times, professional basketball feels more like entertainment than an actual sport. The same could be said for NASCAR, but at least NASCAR is fun to watch. The NBA is not. Just my opinion.

2) NBA games start too late, take too long, and have too many commercials. Stanley Cup Final games start at 8 PM Eastern and are over by 11; NBA Finals games start at 9 PM Eastern and are over around midnight. That's just one example; NBA games generally start later overall. There is no way I am going to stay up until midnight to watch an NBA game, especially given how meaningless the first half is. Other than a spectacular dunk (which looks cool but has just as much impact on the game as two free throws), the only time something exciting ever happens in an NBA game is in the fourth quarter. College basketball games are shorter and have a longer shot clock, which means the first half of a college basketball game carries more weight. The first half of an NBA game? Worthless. Again, the same could be said for NASCAR, but at least NASCAR races exclusively on weekends. (I'm finding a lot of similarities between the NBA and NASCAR here. Uh oh...) By the time an NBA game gets interesting, I'm in bed.

On top of that, there are the commercials. Not counting intermissions/halftimes, NHL games have a total of 9 commercial breaks during the game. An NBA game has 14 commercial breaks. And on top of that, each NBA commercial break is about a minute longer than its NHL counterpart. Add to that all those timeouts and intentional fouls towards the end of a basketball game, and....zzzz....oh, what? Sorry, lost my train of thought. The NBA takes so many long breaks during its games, it's hard to stay focused and motivated. And before you point out that the NHL has twice as many intermissions, let me say this: I'm fine with intermissions. Fifteen minutes is a long enough time for me to get up and do something else, like take a shower or something. If the NBA would consolidate those extra commercial breaks into a second full intermission, I'd like that.

3) The referees have too much influence. How often does the NBA have a controversy involving the referees? Quite often. Every sport has referee controversies, but the NBA seems to have more of them. And due to the frequency of foul calls in basketball and the subjective nature of fouls in general, referees have more influence on the outcome of an NBA game than in other sports. That's not good. It also bugs me that NBA referees don't really enforce the rules as they're written. Rule enforcement in the NBA is fuzzy at best. Traveling, anyone? Again, the NBA is entertainment, not a sport.

4) If you live in the Triangle and have DirecTV or DISH, you can't watch the local team. If you live within 75 miles of Charlotte, then you can watch Charlotte Bobcats games on cable or satellite. But if you live more than 75 miles from Charlotte - as I do - Bobcats games are blacked out on satellite. The team has never reached an agreement with either satellite company to air its games more than 75 miles away from Charlotte. Even if you pay up for NBA League Pass, no Bobcats games for you. Time Warner Cable customers in Raleigh do get to see the Bobcats, but only half of the games. Hard to be a fan when you can't watch. The Bobcats ownership obviously doesn't care if us Triangle folk give a crap about their stupid basketball team.

5) The NBA and the NHL are enemies. You can't like both. Their seasons directly overlap, and the two sports are in direct competition with each other from beginning to end. I think it's pretty much impossible to be a fan of both. You can be a casual fan of both, but you can't be a serious fan of both. I'm a serious fan of the NHL, which means I can't follow the NBA. Any attention I give the NBA takes away from the NHL. It also helps prop up the NBA, which is also bad for hockey. The better the NBA does, the worse off the NHL is. I don't like that the NBA has significantly more fan interest in the United States than the NHL does. (Canada, on the other hand...) I think the NHL would be held in higher regard in this country if it were its own thing with a direct competitor, as opposed to always leaving itself vulnerable to comparisons of television ratings against the NBA. So, as a devoted hockey fan, I can't possibly sport the NBA. Down with professional basketball!

All that said...on Thursday night, there was nothing else on, and there was a lot of buzz surrounding Game 6 of the Cavaliers/Celtics series, so I gave it a shot. It lasted about 45 minutes, and that was it. I couldn't get into it, especially since I never planned on staying awake until the end. The first half is just too boring. An NHL or NFL game can keep my interest for the entire game - a goal or a touchdown is an exciting moment that can happen at any point in the game. In the NBA, you can only score two or three at a time. No excitement.

I know I'm in the minority here - a very high percentage of the people I follow on Twitter were talking about that game on Thursday night - but I just can't get into the NBA. It would probably be different if I lived in a city like Orlando with an NBA team and nothing else, or if I stayed up until midnight every night, or knew a lot of people who followed the NBA, but I don't. So, I apologize to all of my friends who happen to be NBA fans. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with liking the NBA - the fact that I like NASCAR pretty much prohibits me from criticizing anyone for liking any sport - it's just not my thing.

NHL - Alrighty! Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

We're down to two teams! But as of press time, I only know who one of those two teams are. Amber and I went out on Friday night, so I recorded Game 7 of the Bruins/Flyers series, and I haven't watched the whole thing yet. As of now, I'm at the second intermission, with the score tied 3-3. I'm hoping for overtime, because the only thing more exciting than an NHL Game 7 is an NHL Game 7 that goes into overtime. Either way, this has already been a better game than the Penguins/Canadiens Game 7 was. Also, I had a dream last night that the Flyers scored with 8:05 to go in the 3rd period and won 4-3 (true story), and it would be pretty cool of something close to that actually happened in the actual game. (UPDATE: The Flyers scored with 7:08 to go in the 3rd period and won 4-3. Not sure if the goal in my dream was on the power play, though. Partial credit?)

I am glad to see at least one Canadian team still alive. I'm pulling for them the rest of the way. The Americans have won enough Stanley Cups; it's Canada's turn to return to the top. Go Habs Go!

Unfortunately, I think whoever wins the Western Conference will breeze through the Stanley Cup Final. But I also thought the Penguins would sweep the Canadiens (true story), so what do I know?

Sun 3:00p: Chicago at San Jose (Game 1), NBC
Sun 7:00p: Montréal at Philadelphia winner (Game 1), Versus

Auto racing - NASCAR is at Dover this week, which...meh. Just another race that either Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing will probably win.

I think part of the reason my interest in NASCAR fades from time to time is because we've been stuck with pretty much the same drivers for the last five years. There has been very little turnover at the top. Let's look at the drivers who won races five seasons ago: of the 36 races in 2005, 33 were won by drivers that are currently in the top 20 in points five years later (Stewart, Biffle, Edwards, Martin, Johnson, Newman, Kenseth, both Busch brothers, Gordon, Harvick, Earnhardt Jr). Include Kasey Kahne, who is currently 22nd in points but just signed a deal to drive for Hendrick in 2012 (meaning his career is far from over), and you have 34 of the 36 wins from five years ago accounted for. I think NASCAR is in desperate need of some turnover. I'm getting tired of the same old drivers. I think a lot of the fanbase is, too. When are some of these guys going to go away? A few drivers have been able to break in since 2005 (most notably Hamlin, and to a lesser extent, Montoya and Bowyer), but I'd like more change than that. Yes we can!

Meanwhile, Formula One races at Monaco this weekend. Monaco is Formula One's most famous venue and its biggest race (so I'm told). The Monaco track isn't great for racing, and there will be even less passing on Sunday than in your average Formula One race...but that's okay as long as you know that going in, right?

Sat 2:30p: NASCAR Nationwide at Dover, ABC
Sun 8:00a: Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco, SPEED
Sat 1:00p: NASCAR Sprint Cup at Dover, FOX


MLB - Nothing to say this week. Let's go Nats!

Sat 4:00p - Philadelphia at Milwaukee, FOX (regional)
Sat 7:00p - Cleveland at Baltimore, MASN
Sat 7:00p - Chicago White Sox at Kansas City, WGN America
Sat 7:00p - St. Louis at Cincinnati, MLB Network
Sat 8:00p - Washington at Colorado, MASN2
Sun 1:00p - Minnesota at NY Yankees, TBS
Sun 1:30p - Cleveland at Baltimore, MASN
Sun 2:00p - Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs, WGN America
Sun 3:00p - Washington at Colorado, MASN2
Sun 8:00p - Philadelphia at Milwaukee, ESPN


Horse Racing - I don't really care a whole lot about the Preakness Stakes. But watching the race is, like, a five minute commitment, so why the hell not?

Sat 6:00p - Preakness Stakes, NBC

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