Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Like a Piston, rising from the ashes

I’m going to delve into something that I mentioned last post: the curious groundswell of people unabashedly rooting for the Phoenix Suns to win the NBA title this year, a faction of "fans" who are even going so far as to say that a Suns title run would send the league into "a new direction, a better direction."

So ... apparently, when everyone said last summer that the Pistons were saving the NBA, with their team-oriented, sacrifice-the-one-for-the-good-of-the-whole approach throttling the Lakers’ "throw 4 hall-of-famers in a room and let Phil Jackson coast to another title" philosophy, everyone was lying."Team-oriented" isn’t enough. It’s gotta be FAST! It’s gotta be glitzy! Defense is POINTLESS and ANNOYING TO WATCH! Um, where the hell am I? Last summer, didn’t Larry Brown’s "play the right way" mantra penetrate the consciousness of the average basketball fan? Why is everyone so anti-Pistons and so pro-Suns?

Is it because people always root against the current champion? No, this is the media we’re talking about - Mr. Casual Fan most certainly hates to see one team dominate for any appreciable stretch of time, but sports journalists absolutely love "dynasties," a classic case of laziness hidden under the guise of "wanting to see greatness."

Is it because the Pistons’ style, though a celebration of the team over individual success, is brutally thuggish and ugly, akin to that of Pat Riley’s early-90s Knicks teams? No: the Pistons don’t flagrantly foul people, they move the ball on offense, and they’re averaging 99 points per game thus far in the playoffs (and 94 in the regular season). So what the hell is going on here?

Why are Suns apparently a paragon of everything that is true and beautiful about basketball, while the Pistons are a representation of a "style of basketball that was threatening to destroy the league"? Did I miss something? Do the Pistons stand around on offense and resort to isolation plays and 1-on-1s? Wasn’t "unselfishness" the very reason people celebrated the Pistons’ vanquishing of L.A. last year? What the hell is going on here? Why is the Suns’ style more "fan-friendly"? Just because they score more points? Are people really that shallow?

Well, after careful consideration of the question, I have come to the conclusion that yes, people are precisely that shallow. These are probably the same people who said "Yeah, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and the rest of them are all on steroids, but so what? I just want to see ‘em hit the ball a long ways." These people, the ones who perpetuate the "defense is boring" and "steroids saved baseball" philosophies, in the simplest terms possible, just have no soul, no backbone.

People who love the Suns talk about how Phoenix reminds them of the "glory days" of the NBA, when Magic and Larry and the Doctor were flying around, running up and down the court, passing the ball all over the place, and scoring 115 points a game. Well, let me tell you something: I’ve seen those games. I have ESPN Classic. Those teams played NO defense. Sure, on any given offensive possession there’d be five guys all standing directly between the basket and the five offensive guys, ostensibly "guarding" them. But there always seemed to be a tacit understanding that "If you bother to put forth the effort to drive by me, I mean, I ain’t gonna stop you." Teams simply couldn’t be bothered to play defense; games back then became score-a-thons because absolutely no one took any pride whatsoever in that facet of the game. I ask you: Does that really comport with the essence of competition? You’re priding yourself on the most glamorous portion of your task, and ignoring the grit. You’re essentially putting forth no effort and exhibiting no pride in half of the job you do. That is what I mean by shallow. That is what I mean by no backbone. That is what I mean by no soul.

But hey, that kind of style and attitude really seems to do the trick with a lot of people. With our core of loyal readers being Big Ten and Ohio State fans, we should all be familiar with the tendency of people around this nation to prefer glitz over guts, and glamour over gumption. We saw that preference exhibited weekly in the fall of 2002. And, like the 2002 Buckeyes and the 2004 Pistons, I expect the 2005 Pistons to keep on rolling. Because, no matter how much the media wants to deny it, defense does win championships. Toughness beats out glamour. The soul triumphs over all. Bring it, fuckers.


At 5:29 PM, May 11, 2005, Anonymous torgonator said...

Your first mistake was talking about the NBA. Your second? Talking about the NBA. Your third? Talking about all 4 NBA fans in generalities. Bill, Steve, you, and Jim Bob Cooter all have very different ideas of "fun basketball".

But I wanted to touch upon a topic in your last post. You mentioned that there is a segment of the media that takes a controversial and "devil's advocate" position simply to get air time on ESPN. Just last night, as I was holed up in Boston for work, I was watching ESPN. They presented me with a series I hadn't seen yet in any form. It was a show titled "5 Reasons Why You Can't Blame..." or something along those lines. And this particular episode, "5 Reasons Why You Can't Blame Art Modell", focused on the move of the Browns to Baltimore. I contemplated about how I'm so annoyed when people come up with "devil's advocate" arguments simply for the purpose of doing something different. It's a gimmick just like any other gimmick. Irriated with the concept and annoyed with the topic, I watched with cautious pessimism.

The reasons included the following (not necessarily in order) reasons, and let the records show that I was drunk when I watched it:

1.) John Elway. ?? The logic being that Elway didn't want to sign with Baltimore when he got drafted, so he ended up in Denver and, coincidentally, the Colts soon left Baltimore - leaving a black hole of professional football. So naturally, they think that if Elway had stayed that the team may have done well enough to drum up interest from the town, which would have kept the Colts in Baltimore and therefore the Browns would have nowhere to go. Wow. A speculative argument that is, I guess, within the realm of possibility... but is a flimsy argument at best. And this totally ignores the possibility that Art could have found another city to move the Browns to if Baltimore hadn't taken him up on his offer. All in all, a weak, purely speculative argument. Next.

2.) The success of the Indians. Okay, the Indians grew into a decent team in 1993, got better in 1994, and then had a great year in 1995. The logic of this "reason" was that Cleveland had fallen in love with the Indians during this time and Art felt the Browns were "neglected". But really, as good as the Indians were and as much as Cleveland was excited about them, everyone still knew that Cleveland is and always will be a football town. Yes, Art was hurt that the Indians got a new stadium and he didn't... but the Browns continued to sell out every game. And everyone knew they would continue to sell out every game. And they still do, even when the worst Browns teams ever assembled have been on the field the last 5 years - even that playoff team sucked ass. So, shut up. Weak argument.

3.) Al Lerner. Al allegedly talked to Art and convinced him that he could move the team. And then Lerner later funded the birth of the new Browns in Cleveland after the move (the placenta was sauteed mushrooms). Okay, I suppose it seems fishy that Lerner told him he could move and then stepped in later as the "savior" of Cleveland football. But there are two things here: 1.) If Lerner orchestrated this all to stroke his ego (off) by having an entire city fellate him, he failed considerably. Al was never in the spotlight and didn't speak much with the media. He was basically a checkbook. And, whether he wanted it or not, the city of Cleveland didn't really care that much about him. Sure, they were thankful he brought football back to Cleveland and his death was somewhat upsetting, but the city, on the whole, just didn't care that much about him. 2.) The argument, when boiled down, amounts to "someone told him to do it, so he did". Maybe it's a factor in Art's decision, but it's a lousy excuse. Give me a break.

4.) Finances. Easily the strongest argument here. Art managed to sell out game after game after game and still not make money in the process. I think he may have had a pretty crappy lease deal with the Browns, but I'm not sure. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he was a great businessman (which he wasn't) and that there was no way that he could have made money in Cleveland. They say that if he had sold the Browns that he would have broken even and that the only way he could have made money would have been to move the team elsewhere. Let's assume that that is the case. It doesn't matter. Want to know why? Because he promised to the city of Cleveland that he would NEVER move the team. And he never gave the city (at least publicly) an ultimatum that a stadium had to be built or he would move the team. Sure, he griped and complained that we wouldn't build him one, but there was never an explicit ultimatum. If you promise to never move the team and you feel you might have to reneg on that promise, you at least owe the city a chance to make a counter-offer. Bastard.

5.) Rock-n-Roll. Okay, I was drunk, irritated, and on the phone during the explanation of this reason. So I don't know the real reason, which was listed as #1 on their list - so it was presumably the most compelling argument. BUT... I did see them flash pictures of the Rock Hall of Fame while I was on the phone. What?? I really hope they came up with a better argument than the fact that the city funded the Rock Hall and didn't fund a new football stadium. If anyone saw the episode and knows what the logic is here, I'd appreciate knowing (I think).

In summation, after watching this Torgs was bruised and in no ways juicy. When the show first started and I saw the topic, I had that same feeling I get when I see that damn Broncos logo with that fucking horse leaping out of that fucking "D". (God, I'm getting angry just picturing it. I might go on a Cave-like rampage.) After the show I was irritated, annoyed, angry, and nauseous. I was more than ready for the regular puke (what?). I know this comment is entirely self-indulgent, but I needed this. Thanks, guys! xoxo *snuggles*

At 6:42 PM, May 11, 2005, Blogger Jack Fu said...

Torgs, the MWB functions perfectly well as a venting place for our friends. If I didn't want you to be able to do things like this, my tyrannical delete button would take care of things nicely. But sometimes peoples just gots to get things (i.e., spunk) off their collective chests (i.e., Todd's). I'm glad you came and did this.

And I may have been speaking in generalities, but I was describing the VAST majority of people who talk about the NBA. Shit, even after the post, while I was at lunch, I heard Tim Legler on the radio talking about how fantastic the Suns were for basketball, and how they could "save the NBA" because Washington, Seattle, and Denver are all, to varying degrees, mimicking what the Suns do. Of course, the first thought that came into my head was "And look at what that style of play is getting them: 1 first-round loss and 2 second-round blowout losses...

At 11:37 PM, May 11, 2005, Anonymous torgonator said...

Yeah, you're probably right about the NBA. I honestly have no idea. I was just giving you a hard (penis) time.

On a side note, I saw the Boston Red Sox as they entered Logan Airport today. Johnny Damon's beard looks even cooler in person. And I found the response from the people in the airport odd. There was one guy who sort of half-assed yelled a couple players' names as they passed (only "Kevin [Millar]" and "Jason [Varitek]") and another guy who clapped once every 20 seconds or so. It was weird. I almost started clapping to get rid of the awkwardness, but I felt that applauding a team that I don't really root for would be dishonest... or something. Maybe that seems stupid. I don't know. I just felt almost... bad?... that the defending world champs of baseball weren't even getting a warm reception in their own airport. If nothing else, it was weird. All I know is that if the Indians had walked in at that moment, I would have clapped my ass off.

Scrubs DVD May 17th. Cuervo!

At 10:31 AM, May 12, 2005, Blogger Jack Fu said...

I’m so excited I can barely think. Just the “friend zone” episode and the first Brendan Fraser episode alone would make the set worth buying. I’m gonna watch the whole goddamn thing over one weekend.


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