You've probably heard this one before. What is the difference between an optimistic child and a pessimistic child? If you toss a pessimistic child
into a room two feet deep in horse-bleep, he'll just sit there, mope and hold his nose to keep the smell out. But an optimistic child will
immediately begin to dig around in the horse-bleep on the assumption that with all that mess, there has to be a pony in there somewhere. I think that
David Stern spent time in his youth digging through a lot of horse-bleep because that's what he does now on a daily basis and he shows great skill as
he does it. I wonder if he ever found that pony...
The NBA is becoming more and more like horse-bleep every time a page turns on the calendar. But David Stern keeps on smiling and keeps on telling
everyone how the league has never been better and how the NBA is 'Fan-tastic'. He might have even convinced himself that all of that horse-bleep is
true, but it isn't. Let me start with the NBA incident that has received lots of attention in the past couple of days - Fan Appreciation Night in
Philly. The Sixers were out of playoff contention and had been mediocre at best all season long; nonetheless more than 19,000 tix were sold and those
fans showed up for the final game of the year. Allen Iverson and Chris Webber had minor injuries and were not going to play because the game was
meaningless. Both of them arrived in the Wachovia Center less than ten minutes before tip-off; neither one dressed out; neither sat on the bench with
the team; neither stayed until the game was over. So much for 'Fan Appreciation'.
Remember when the season began and David Stern told us how the league was going to be more fan friendly and how the image of the league had to be
improved? His idea was to impose and enforce a dress code. He did that and if you want to give him credit for that, I won't object. I will
strenuously object if you then try to tell me that his dress code matters a whit when it comes to players' attitudes. It doesn't. Allen Iverson and
Chris Webber demonstrated unambiguously that no matter what clothes they wore on the outside, on the inside, they don't give a rat's patootie about
the fans. But that's the problem with David Stern and people of his ilk; all he concerns himself with is external appearance; and when he does that,
he opens himself to situations like this one that are glaring contradictions of the image he tries to portray. I had a boss once who told me never to
waste a lot of time trying to polish a turd - - because no matter how much time you spend on it, the shine will not last.
David Stern also loves telling everyone about the solid financials for the NBA and how he and his minions are 'growing the brand'. Sounds good but
maybe reality isn't so good. Consider that the Portland TrailBlazers are on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. And they are owned by Paul Allen whom
Fortune magazine says is one of the ten richest people in the world. The Blazers once had a string of 814 consecutive sellouts over an almost 20-year
period in Portland; this year the average attendance (based on tickets sold) is less than 15,000 and there were no sellouts. One estimate in The
Oregonian set the actual attendance at less than 11,000 per game. At the moment, former Blazers' guard, Terry Porter, is trying to round up a group
of investors to buy the team from Allen and to try to keep it in Portland. Even if he does that, one problem that will not go away is a
less-than-fully-cooperative ownership of the arena in which the Blazers play their games. Allen says that he has lost about $100M on the Blazers in
the past six years. So much for 'growing the brand'.
If you head out of Portland and drive north on Interstate 5 for a while, you will arrive in Seattle. I love Seattle; I have friends who live there; I
go there to visit them and watch the Mariners play baseball. I'm sure David Stern enjoys being in Seattle too, but probably not because of the Sonics
these days. The team is playing in an arena that Stern has said is no longer up to the standard of NBA venues. The team ownership and the Governor
of Washington have tried to rectify the situation, but now even David Stern has gotten to the point where he has had to admit that things don't look
good. He actually said recently that the folks who run the show in Seattle are 'not interested in having the NBA there.' Stern is trying to find a
way to keep the team in the 'greater Seattle vicinity' and continues to work with the governor to try to find a new venue for the Sonics. Bellevue, a
suburb of Seattle, is the current focus of his efforts. But if things don't work out there, the Sonics could be leaving town.
If the Sonics and the Blazers both pull up stakes for parts unknown, the footprint of the NBA in the Pacific Northwest will be Sacramento and Golden
State. I wasn't a geography major, but that isn't gonna work for long and even David Stern is going to have a hard time spinning that story fast
enough to make it marginally credible. And David Stern is a spinner of such a proportion that he could be a White House spokesthing in a heartbeat.
Consider this tidbit from a recent press interaction.
An Australian reporter asked Stern about Andrew Bogut and whether or not Bogut had 'lived up to expectations' after his rookie year and after being
the overall #1 pick in the draft. Before we get to Stern's answer, here are the numbers: 28 minutes per game, 9 points per game, 2 assists per game,
7 rebounds per game, 0.8 blocks per game, 0.6 steals per game, 1.5 turnovers per game. You and I would say that was a bit disappointing for an
overall first pick in the draft that played in every game of the season so there were no major injury issues to mitigate the numbers. Here is David
'I think he's living up to those expectations and doing actually better than a lot of people thought he would do, the so-called basketball experts. I
think his rebounding turned out to be stronger than some folks projected.'
Memo to David Stern:
If those stats are 'better' than expected for an overall first pick in the draft, then the NBA draft is less than
meaningless. And oh, by the way, some of those 'so-called basketball experts' are the people employed by the Milwaukee Bucks who took him first and
can now look at Chris Paul who will be the consensus Rookie of the Year.
The NBA is too easy a target to beat them up over their stupidly constructed playoff rules that created the situation where, in the final game of the
year for the Clippers and the Grizzlies, it was advantageous for both teams to lose that game. It's not as if it would have taken Stephen Hawking to
do the math to show that this was a possibility on the day they created this system. It was clear for several weeks before the game happened that it
was a possibility, but the NBA did nothing - until the embarrassment passed. Do I blame the teams for trying to lose that game? Of course not. The
objective of every team is to do whatever it can to be in the best position to win a championship. In this case, the geniuses who run the NBA created
a situation where a team was better off tanking a game than it was winning that same game. Fans paid full price to watch two teams whose best
interest was to lose the game. Yep, that's what I call 'Fan-tastic'!!
I was listening to ESPN Radio and one of the guys who reads the sports updates referred yesterday to the 'hapless Kansas City Royals' when he gave the
results of their most recent losing effort. They are 2-12 at the moment and 0-9 on the road. My problem is that someone at ESPN wrote that phrase
for this guy to read on the air - unless he wrote it himself. These folks portray themselves as journalists; and as journalists, they are nominally
in command of the language. So, just to be clear about this, the Royals are not hapless. Hapless means unfortunate or without luck. The Royals are
much closer to helpless. Helpless means incompetent or without power. These two words are not - repeat NOT - synonyms.
Over in the NFL, the word is that free agent wide receiver, Az-Zahir Hakim, had talks with the Cardinals about playing there next year but there seems
to be no deal in the works. That's really too bad. Who better to play for the Cardinals in Phoenix, AZ than a guy named Az?
Finally, a comment from Marv Levy on the subject of making decisions that are in the best long-term interest of the franchise:
'When you say you're building for the future, you're building for the future coach and general manager.'
But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...