Pendulum Swings Coming In Accountability And Truth-Telling?

I am one of a chorus of voices that decries the lack of accountability for the personal actions of athletes and celebrities. So, allow me to hope that the level of accountability hung around the neck of Mike Nifong – the erstwhile prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse rape case – signals that the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction. Not only has he resigned from his position as Durham District Attorney, he has been disbarred from the practice of law in NC. That is a full measure of accountability.

Make no mistake; I am not even beginning to intimate that I think the penalty is too severe. I do not know what motivated him to do what he did; I can’t really come up with a motivation that would mitigate what he did to a sufficient degree that he might deserve leniency. But he has paid a huge price here and maybe that’s the start of something different when it comes to criminal behaviors by athletes/celebrities/public figures/elected officials. I sure hope so…

I am also one of a chorus of voices that decries the lack of truthfulness in public statements by lots of folks in the sports world. So, allow me to hope that the acknowledgement of reality by David Stern recently signals that the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction. Here is what David Stern had to say about the NBA Finals drawing the lowest TV ratings ever:

“We’ve had, shall I say, inelegant games, and the ratings show me that our fans are very discerning.”

That may not be the height of candor; but coming from a man whose middle name ought to be “Smug”, it is a huge step toward truth-telling. The NBA ran a long series of promotions showing great moments in the league history and then asking rhetorically, “Will you be watching when …?” Well, the viewing public answered that one with a resounding. “Hell no!!” With the Finals over and done with and a weekend to gain just a modicum of perspective, I still want to say that the Final Series was at least as bad as – and probably worse than – the humongous Super Bowl blowouts. And unless David Stern stifles his smugness and starts to listen to good ideas, there is a real potential for this to happen again for several years.

The flat fact is that the Western Conference is so superior to the Eastern Conference that the Finals are likely to be horrid next year and the year after that. Unless someone convinces David Stern to change the way teams get into the playoffs, that is. I proposed this before so let me say it again slowly:

      1. All six division champs get into the playoffs and are seeded 1 thru 6. That’s the prize for winning a division; that’s all.

      2. The other ten teams are seeded 7-16 on the basis of regular season record. If all ten are from the West, so be it.

      3. After every round of the playoffs, teams are reseeded based on their total record in the regular season plus the playoff record.

It is ludicrous to try to blame this ratings flop on Tim Duncan and his lack of charisma. The problem is that the games were awful – take a deep breath here, and think about this – the Cleveland Cavaliers were awful because LeBron James didn’t live up to 10% of the hype laid on us by the basketball “cognoscenti”. Every one of those ESPN and FOXSports “analysts” who took the time to compare LeBron to Michael Jordan – or in some cases went way around the bend and said that he was already better than Michael Jordan was – should have to spend a week in the stocks so fans can pelt them with rotten veggies. When the Nets were in the playoffs about three years ago, I thought that was the worst team that could possibly ever make it to the NBA Finals; now, I’m not so sure about that…

If David Stern is willing to listen to ideas for improvements to the NBA playoffs, maybe he’d also be willing to think about ways to improve the game so that more fans watch regular season games and get invested in the idea of following the playoffs? Here are a couple of ideas that are a lot more radical than my simple playoff improvements above:

      1. Put in place a “timed withdrawal plan” whereby the league contracts at least four teams – six would be even better. There are too many players on all the rosters who simply cannot play NBA caliber basketball. Ten guys, most of whom would not make a difference if they were seconded to the worst roster in the league, surround LeBron James. Getting rid of six teams would take 72 of these guys out of the league and make each team deeper and more talented by default.

      2. Instead of worrying about a dress code or having officials call technical fouls more readily, focus on teaching the referees to call the games such that teams don’t “goon-up” the games. It is not to the league’s advantage for games to be slow and boring and that’s what comes from “goon-ball” – the prototype for which was built by Pat Riley in NY. Get rid of that.

      3. If you want the game to be more elegant and have players with a fuller set of skills, think about making dunks only count one point.

One more thing for David Stern to think about doing is to sit down privately with the folks at ESPN – TNT gets a pass here – to tell them that promotion is good but excessive hype is not. Every NBA game is not critical to the furtherance of Western Civilization, but if you watch ESPN, you could get that idea quickly. Remember the fairy tale about the boy who cried wolf…

Nike has been pounding us with the promotion that “We are all witnesses…” Truth be told, we were witnesses to a horrible series and the exposure of their iconic figure as one with feet of clay. Not only is LeBron not Michael Jordan just yet, please recognize what happened in the Final Series:

    LeBron James averaged almost six turnovers a game.

    LeBron James shot 36% from the floor over the four games.

    The Cavs scored 322 points in the four games; that is the lowest total for four playoff games ever.

Finally, now that Robert Horry has his seventh championship ring, does that make him a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame? After all, MJ only has six…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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