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NBA games fail to excite

Please believe me when I say I tried really hard. I really did. I just can’t do it.

I just can’t watch the NBA playoffs without falling asleep. Frankly, I find that my hour-long Freecell marathons provide more thrills than the NBA.

I’m sure that the playoffs will excite the handful of you who religiously follow a team, but for the casual observer, watching the NBA is more painful than being dead last in The Chronicle Fantasy Baseball League.

A sport has to provide one of four things if it wants to pique my interest for more than five minutes.

  1. Mind games.

These can take place between teams, like in football, or between individuals, like a batter versus a pitcher. Both kinds of intellectual battles encourage the viewer to anticipate what comes next, thereby keeping him involved in the game.

The NBA is not a very complicated game. Sure there are set plays and strategies involved, but in the end, execution is a much more important factor than genius, and most of the time, the real chess match doesn’t begin until the very end.

Very rarely do you find yourself watching a basketball game in the second quarter thinking, “If George Karl was really smart he would set up a double-backdoor cut for Carmelo Anthony and have him take the baseline jumper.”

  1. Violence, violence, violence.

Unfortunately, Ron Artest can’t play in every single NBA game. Although plenty of bodies get jostled, bumped and knocked down over the course of 48 minutes, it just seems as if all this contact lacks the malicious intent a good hockey or football hit provides.

  1. Rivalries.

The NBA used to have great rivalries—Celtics vs. Lakers, Pistons vs. Everybody, Michael Jordan vs. the Knicks, Reggie Miller vs. the Knicks, Jeff Van Gundy vs. Alonzo Mourning’s leg, to name a few.

Obviously I’m a little nostalgic for the glory days of New York, but stay with me here. The only true rivalry left in the NBA is Shaq vs. Kobe, and that only comes twice a year.

College sports has the nation’s greatest rivalries—not because the teams hate each other, but because the fans hate each other. Whether it’s Ohio State playing Michigan, Texas playing Oklahoma, Harvard playing Yale or Anchorage Tech playing Juneau A&M, I’m watching. Why? Because I know how good it feels to have Chris Duhon dribble the length of the court, sink a reverse layup and make your rival look silly on national television.

  1. A Dynasty.

Dynasties are good for sports because America loves to see champions fail. Anyone who has ever rooted against the Yankees, Lakers, Bulls, Michael Schumacher, or Duke knows how good it feels to see the almighty get taken off its throne.

Who wasn’t rooting against Illinois when it went on its unbeaten streak this season? Did you see the way those Ohio State kids went crazy after they beat them? That’s because THEY were the ones who had finally stuck it to The Man.

So what about the NBA’s tremendous feats of individual athletic prowess, you might ask? Isn’t that enough to merit your attention?

I don’t think so. Competitive tree climbers perform tremendous feats, that doesn’t mean I’m going to watch them. Plus I can count on SportsCenter to give me a tidy 60-minute program that is chock-full of these accomplishments.

Until the NBA can offer me a more compelling product, I won’t be watching.

Unless, that is, the Knicks get better. But that might take a while.


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