I grew up in what most people would consider a small media market. As of September 2012, my hometown of Indianapolis was ranked 26th in the country in the number of households with a television. In all sports, but especially in professional basketball, this is said to be a very important aspect of a franchise’s ability to position itself as a consistent winner.
About a month ago—when the weather was nice enough for me to foolishly believe, in spite of six years’ worth of contrary evidence, that summer might come early this year—I found myself drafted into a game of adult kickball.
The scheduling of the NBA playoffs makes no sense to me. I could probably write an entire column about how foolish it is that the Western Conference Finals began Sunday afternoon while the Eastern Conference Finals don’t begin until tomorrow evening, three long days later, even though the matchups have been set since Saturday. What this means is that the West champion may be crowned and resting up to a week before the East champion is decided.
I have dearly missed Derrick Rose in this year’s NBA playoffs, and I think he should be playing. Rose sat out the entire regular season recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament tear he sustained more than one calendar year ago. He has been medically cleared to return to play for about two months now, and he has been participating in full-contact scrimmages for much of that time.
We are finally ready to start Round 2 of the NBA playoffs. Which is fine, because Round 2 is where the playoffs really start, anyway. Every playoff pretender (basically everyone in the East who lost in Round 1) is out of the way. We can begin to think seriously about the teams remaining as title contenders. Here’s a look at what’s great about the matchups in Round 2.
I’m a semi-defender of the NBA’s predictability. I understand that the conglomeration of superstars onto a few teams means that only a handful of them have any real chance of winning a championship. The seven-game playoff format further fuels this determinism; to beat a team four out of seven times, you really just have to be better than them, and that distinction is fairly easy to spot.
After a week like the one we just endured, I’m at a bit of a loss as to where sports fit in. Tragedy has a way of leveling the playing field for a society—there’s a sports analogy for you, if you like. It exposes our capacity for senseless violence, punctures our collective sense of security and shines a light on the overwhelming majority of good, loving people who are more than willing to cast aside any and all differences in times of dire need.
This could be the perfect way for the final chapter of Kobe Bryant’s career to unfold. In light of the Achilles injury that will sideline Bryant for the next six to nine months, I’m sure he and most of his die-hard fans would disagree. They likely view it as a tragedy, a final insult at the end of a long, bitter season, and a yanking of the rug out from underneath one of the greatest careers in sports history.
I’ve written a number of times in this column about the misplaced moral outrage of sports journalism. About the grandstanding, the faux sincerity and the self-righteousness that so often seems to accompany serious examinations of sports in our culture. So it’s only fair to applaud the media when they collectively get it right.
When I sit down to write this column, knowing full well that I am going to criticize March Madness and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, I wonder if I’m just an idiot. Or, if not an idiot, then at least someone who is no fun at all, someone whose feelings about athletics are perhaps closer to hate than love.
There has been a lot of discussion about the future of the NFL as our understanding of concussions and their long-term effects has improved. There has been serious talk that the game might not even exist in 30 years. But I have never once heard anyone talk about the long-term viability of NASCAR, one of the most wasteful, unsafe and environmentally irresponsible pastimes in the world.