Without too much of a struggle, our readers can surely see the similarities between this project and the one ESPN’s Bill Simmons spearheads, Grantland. They both have attempted to satisfy readers’ dueling obsessions with both sports and pop culture.
In the coming weeks, Grantland will devote many of its considerable resources — it is funded by ESPN, after all — toward covering, analyzing and dissecting the NBA playoffs in every possible way. Simmons in particular will devote 98 percent of his 47,589 words in the next two months to the NBA and the NBA alone. The other two percent will be split between his fanboy relationship with the Red Sox, a celebration of halter-top day and perhaps some mundane writings about the stock market. OK, the last one isn’t going to happen.
In the coming weeks, I will devote none of my nonexistent resources — do you see any ads on this page? — toward the NBA playoffs in any possible way. I will devote a few words here to the NBA. The rest of my time will continue to be split between Sports Night references, watching 24 from day one through day eight in totality and enjoying the idiosyncrasies of sports. (Before I continue, I should be sure to note: By no means do I see myself as The Basement’s version of Bill Simmons. I don’t care enough about pop culture to be anywhere near deserving of that distinction. If anyone, it is Co-Editor-in-Chief Eric Prister, though he cannot stand Tim Tebow, while Simmons loves Tebow.)
The dichotomy between these two approaches does not inherently stem from Simmons’ obsession with all things related to the NBA. Nor does it arise from my general indifference, though I will enjoy the competitive nature of the playoffs. Rather, it exists thanks to what is known as a dead period. Specifically, the current dead period.
These past few weeks, and those upcoming, have been a sports fan’s least favorite of the year. Applying the word “favorite” to them, even with a diminishing adjective, doesn’t seem appropriate. They have lacked inspiration, suspense and drama — you know, the holy trinity of a sports writer’s adjectives. Instead, they have abounded with routine, pointlessness and characters who will someday be very rewarding answers on “Jeopardy.”
Many disagree with me. They cite baseball’s Opening Day, the Masters and the Final Four as reasons to embrace sports in April’s first fortnight. Do not misinterpret, I am a fan of each event, but hardly.
Opening Day is more a ceremonial occasion then anything. It marks the return of the most geometrically and arithmetically perfect sport. It inspires every baseball fan that this could be their year, even those fools of Cubs fans. It makes spring feel like summer. Yet all Opening Day tangibly brings is injured stars, disappointing starts and misleading winning streaks.
The Masters is one of the most historic sporting events, and no one can claim Augusta isn’t beautiful. But … it’s golf. I mean, really, it’s golf. Even a sudden death playoff fails to excite me.
And the Final Four this year was simply disappointing. Many college basketball coaches cite reaching a Final Four as their career goal. They do not necessarily dream of winning the title, because they realize the final weekend of the season can swing on the greatest fluke of bounces. That said, there were no such bounces this year. Kentucky came, Kentucky saw, Kentucky conquered, Kentucky declared for the draft. No surprises there.
No, these last two weeks have been dull. After the lull, with no football to entice America, the NBA playoffs suffice. They give Grantland material for a few months. They fill ESPN’s highlight reels, slam dunk after slam dunk after two-handed slam dunk. They even sometimes trot out inspiration, suspense and drama.
So thank you David Stern, LeBron James and the rest of the NBA. Thank you for scheduling your playoffs for the one time of year where sports fans had the chance to break from their addiction. You are the nicotine to the cigar which is the sporting world. Red Auerbach would be proud.
Speaking of drama … Dwight Howard embarks on his Dark Superman era.
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