From the Pressbox: The NBA is back (yawn)

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Opinion and Insight

Tuesday was Game 1 in the 2016 World Series, a championship series featuring the Cubs and Indians, to boot. National interest in the Fall Classic has not been this high in decades.

Everywhere, that is, except at ESPN. Yes, Cleveland’s 6-0 win was given lead coverage, but the network could clearly not wait to get to that other Cleveland news — the Cavaliers (re: LeBron James) receiving their championship blings on opening day.


ESPN would be smothering us with all things Cubs vs. Indians were they telecasting the games, but that distinction belongs to competitor FoxSports, and so, as soon as they felt they could, the Bad Boys of Bristol (Connecticut) went to the Tats and Swagger show.

FoxSports is no delight for baseball fans. The shockingly mediocre Joe Buck — on his best day not 1/100th the sportscaster his father was — is nearly impossible to listen to, especially as he can barely contain his anti-Chicago bias.

The post game show has drug cheat Alex Rodriguez, gambler, liar and King of Self-Promotion Pete Rose and Frank “when did you do it when it mattered?” Thomas. I tried, twice, during the NLCS to watch this trio for more than five minutes without reaching for the Tylenol, but failed both times.

So the TV was switched to ESPN shortly after Tuesday’s game. Within 20 minutes of the end of the game, it was time for SportsCenter, and while that meant a continuation of World Series coverage, the network went to the NBYech as quickly as they felt they could.

The NBA has destroyed college basketball by accepting players after one year in school. I remember as a boy and a teen watching the Fighting Illini and also DePaul hoops throughout the season. You knew the lineup, knew the next five guys on the bench, and you knew them for years. Now? They transfer or leave after a season or two, and the NBA is to blame.

The NBA could, as a private league, simply say “No one under 21 may be granted a player’s contract” and that would be that. Fat chance.

What makes me so dislike the NBA is the brand of basketball now being played. Gone is any pretense of defense as possessions become clear-outs and one-on-one breakdowns. Big Men are noticeably absent. Marketing and self-promotion, while always a big part of the sport, is now so present it is smothering.

I never liked Charles Barkley when he played, and don’t particularly care for him now, but I am always reminded of something he said roughly 10 years ago that got him in a lot of trouble with some players. Barkley warned that the game must not become “ghetto ball” that (his words) “white folks buy the tickets” and that off-the-court criminal acts, rampant tattooing, long and baggy shorts and what he called “punk attitudes” would begin to strangle the golden goose.

He may have a point. I quit watching because the game became, to me, too tedious to enjoy. And while the hip-hop culture has drawn in millions of fans, it has evicted just as many. The social activism of some players also rubs many in the public wrong, something the NFL is currently discovering.

I loved the ABA, loved the 80s and 90s NBA and could have cared less what the racial makeup of the Bulls was — I just wanted them to win. It hurts to no longer even care.

I miss the NBA, but cannot remember the last time I watched five minutes of any game. Now I find myself grabbing the clicker lickety-split the moment anything NBA-related comes on the screen. For that, I blame the NBA.

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