What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
By J-Dub and Ryan Meehan
Editor’s Note: This article is a collaborative effort between J-Dub and Ryan Meehan from First Order Historians. Ryan also has his own blog, East End Philadelphia, which is featured in the Dubsism BlogRoll and it is well worth the read.
Every four years, the world governing body of soccer (FIFA) holds the pinnacle event in the sport; the World Cup. Just a few months back, we all saw what a spectacle it is; it is a global event second only to the Olympics. What many of you probably didn’t know is that basketball has a similar organization. The Fédération de Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) does the same for hoops as FIFA does for soccer. Similarly, FIBA also hosts a World Cup, which it is trying to make as large of an event as its soccer counterpart.
The trouble is this event has gone largely unnoticed in the country which is the king of basketball. The average American never even heard of the Basketball World Cup, until a few weeks ago when the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George did his best Barbaro impression during a Team USA scrimmage. The echo from his snapping leg bones hadn’t even stopped yet when the debate started. On one side, there is a school of thought in America which believes the basketball World Cup is incredibly pointless. On the opposite side is a group who see great value in international competition.
In this installment of Point – Counterpoint, Meehan takes up the cause of the “America First” crowd, which collides head-on with J-Dubs’ belief the growth potential of all sports, not just basketball, is in the global arena.
1) What Started All This: The Potential for Injuries
The first problem that I have with the FIBA World Cup is the injuries that could occur while playing it. The Paul George thing is just the tip of the iceberg – even with as much media coverage as that leg got, it could have been a lot worse. I personally don’t think George’s injury got enough media attention to begin with – Indiana’s a small market and you’d expect that it would have gotten much more dedicated airtime. It’s going to do serious damage to that franchise, which is a point I’ll get into in a bit.
Also, let’s not beat around the bush here…This is exactly why Kevin Durant bailed. I don’t give a shit what cornball reason he gave as to why he doesn’t want to play, he’s lying. Yep, that’s right…I am calling America’s basketball sweetheart a liar. That’s because anybody in their right mind would lie to get out of a situation that would leave them with a career-changing injury. Think about it: You work your whole life to become a star basketball player, and then you get injured in a game that doesn’t affect how many NBA Finals rings you have. Not to mention, like we already mentioned, most sports fans are completely unaware that it’s on television anyway.
Keep in mind the franchises that employ the services of some of these players. We already know what’s going to happen to Indiana because the Paul George “star player with career threatening injury” scenario isn’t hypothetical anymore. So let’s take the second player I brought up – Kevin Durant. Let’s say Durant decided to stick around for the remainder of this tourney and the same thing happened to him. Where does that leave Oklahoma City? In a dark place, because after getting so close to winning the NBA Finals, they would then be stuck with a post-injury Durant who might never be the same again.
The bottom line is this is a tremendous risk for NBA franchises and players alike.
If the argument is that we aren’t going to play games because people might get hurt, then why play anything at all? Let’s just cover everybody in bubble-wrap and generally take all the fun out of life so that everything becomes as safe as staying home nights and beating off to pictures of Taylor Swift. It doesn’t take the super-computers at NASA to figure out the “injury” argument is all just a knee-jerk reaction to the to the Paul George thing. Besides being incredibly reactionary, the “injury” argument is also disingenuous. what this is really all about is the typical American sports fan cares only about that which gives him the entertainment he is comfortable with, has faces familiar to him, and is on television when he expects it. The basketball World Cup as it exists now fails all three of those criteria.
What’s weird about that is Americans love events. Did you notice how many Americans were in Brazil a few months ago for the soccer World Cup? The average American knows as much about soccer as Mother Teresa knew about bukkake, but that didn’t stop them from painting their faces red, white, and blue and drinking their weight in caipirinhas. Not to mention, Americans will pretend to give a shit about even the most obscure sport if you hang an Olympic flag over it. We all know that guy who every four years suddenly knows every-fucking-thing there is to know about curling. So, when I start hearing a lot of bilge about how nobody cares about international sports, I have to keep 1-800-BULLSHIT on speed dial.
2) The United States Is the Best: Why Do We Need To Keep Proving That?
Even I will admit that we don’t win this thing every time. I also understand that our best players weren’t playing in this tournament every four years, and I can almost guarantee you that if they were, we’d win hands down every goddamn time.
That being said, didn’t we win in 2010? Oh, looky there…we did. By 17 points…over Turkey, who was hosting the event. Kobe wasn’t even on that roster, and neither was LeBron. I understand that some of these European countries are awesome at basketball, and I’m well aware how popular the sport is over there because Ian Hanavan* has been playing ball in Europe ever since we left high school. However as good as a lot of these squads are, there are also some that could be taken out by the cartoon version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Shit, if we had a bullet-proof Monte Carlo, we could cruise the schoolyards of South Chicago and find ballers with more apostrophes in their names than known parents who could have the entire Czech Republic bounced for non-sufficient funds with one crossover dribble.
I hate to get all super-patriotic and simplistic here, but the reason we are better than everyone at basketball is because…wait for it…we are better at basketball. That sounds like a big “duh” moment, but I just don’t see why we need to play more international tournaments between Olympics to prove we are. At the risk of sounding like Sean Hannity, there are just some things in this world where America is better than everyone else and basketball happens to be one of those things. Teen Pregnancy? Yeah, something tells me we’ve got Norway whooped when it comes to that. Ordering fifteen dollars worth of food only to throw half of it away with a pained expression on our face? I’m going to go out on a limb and say Ghana’s probably never going to catch us in that department. American Football? Well, funny I should mention that because it’s another great point.
The NFL is insanely popular, yet American Football isn’t a sport in the Olympics. Wanna know why? It’s because we would kill everybody. Imagine the NFC Pro Bowl team facing off against Belgium. We’d beat them so badly Saudi Arabia might start letting women vote. Although this isn’t a direct parallel to basketball, it’s worth mentioning because while other countries also do play the sport, their talent pools are incredibly weak when it comes to star power. Outside of Dirk Nowitzki, who is the last NBA superstar who was born outside of the United States? Don’t forget while Kobe Bryant lived overseas for some time, he was born in Philadelphia and hardly speaks in an Italian accent.
* You can always count on Moline, Illinois’ own Ryan Meehan to be your “one-stop shop” for all sobscure reference to the Quad Cities.
First of all, I must ask you all to forgive Meehan’s last question about NBA stars born outside the U.S. When he’s not blogging, he’s the head waiter at Bettendorf, Iowa’s’ premier Afghan restaurant. Since mid-westerners aren’t know for their love of Goat Face Stew, the tips he brings home means he can’t afford cable. That’s why he’s never heard of the San Antonio Spurs.
More importantly, while the U.S. may be the best of the basketball world now, it won’t always be that way. Everybody remembers the original Olympic basketball “Dream Team” back in 1992, but nobody remembers why we did that. America had a collective temper-tantrum over finishing behind the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and essentially black-mailed the International Olympic Committee into allowing professional players into the Summer Games.
Well, those two countries don’t exist anymore, and the same disappearing act is happening to the U.S. advantage in international basketball. Forget that a team that looks more like the U.N. just won the NBA Championship; look at what happened in the last Olympics. The “dominant” U.S. team damn near lost to Lithuania in pool play and had to score north of 110 points to barely beat Spain the gold medal game. In both cases, the “dominant” U.S. was seriously over-matched in the front-court, most notably in the Spain game.
The problem is that allowing NBA players into the Olympics had the same effect as Tiger Woods had on the PGA. Twenty years ago, the average golfer looked like a middle-aged insurance salesman with a beer gut and milky-white blood. Then Woods came along and proved you could still be a bomber off the tee and have a short game; the key was not being an amorphous blob.
The same happened in international basketball. At first, that meant the U.S. enjoyed 80-point fistings of Uganda and other generally hapless chum buckets for our basketball shark tank. But then international teams stopped fielding squads populated with Latka Gravas and Yakov Smirnoff and started producing legitimate NBA talent in order to be competitive.
More importantly, if you are ever at Casa de Roadside Bomb in beautiful downtown Bettendorf, tell Meehan that J-Dub sent you, and he’ll hook you up with the Goat Face Stew…with extra eyelid. Please tip him well so the man can see Tim Duncan at least once before one of them dies.
3) More International Basketball Dilutes the Olympics
Just like a non-aborted Kardashian pregnancy, the Olympics come around every four years. That means J-Dub and I get the chance to make fun of all the ridiculous events that pass for sports (both winter and summer) and it’s like shooting fish in a barrel when the water has been replaced with nipple clamps and the fish have been all been roofied. But rather than get into J-Dub’s collegiate sex life, it’s time to look at the fact we have all sorts of other sports having tourneys that occur in the spaces between the Olympic games, and personally, I don’t understand why.
To me, this takes away from the whole Olympic experience. The Olympics are where we absolutely have the best of the best playing, and FIBA is where we have some of the guys who are just on the cusp of getting to the other side of that shoe contract and this might be their ticket to do so. Don’t even try to convince me that Reebok is blowing up Kyle Korver’s phone if he doesn’t show up to this thing, it’s not happening. FIBA is essentially diluting the product of American Olympic basketball and they have to realize that’s what they’re doing.
Now as much as some purists dismiss the Olympics, I love watching us crack everybody’s skulls in basketball. I just don’t think it has to happen in the two-year intervals between each Summer Games. To give you an idea of what happens when we do put our best foot forward and everyone is playing, here are some fun Olympics facts about our men’s basketball teams over the years.
I guess my point here is this…Why add water to such quality product? There’s no need to do so, because there’s a ton of shit in the Olympics worth watching. Granted, there are too many events in the Olympics nobody watches (raise your hand, you rhythmic gymnastics fans??? Bueller…anyone???), so why would you want to ass-fuck the meaning of the events you actually watch ? It’s already bad enough I have to see these guys cry at the Olympic medal ceremonies; I don’t need to double the amount of that shit.
Do you know who doesn’t want to add water to the Olympics? The same guy who starts his morning by snorting a couple of lines of instant coffee crystals off the top of his toilet tank. If you think that is fucked up, the whole idea of diluting the Olympics is akin to dumping a trash-bag full of salt water in the Pacific Ocean. Meehan even admits this…
…raise your hand, you rhythmic gymnastics fans??? Bueller…anyone???…
I realize that block-quoting something from your very own post is “Blog-sturbation,” and I also realize we are over our quota on “beat-off” jokes, but the idea that you can make the Olympics less meaningful made me laugh so hard I shit blood and something that looked like Peyton Manning’s forehead until the blue flush water hit it.
Ignoring the fact the Olympics are pre-diluted (and worse yet Euro-centric) only makes Americans the first two Little Pigs, and the Big Bad Wolf is getting ready to blow your houses away faster than Lindsay Lohan doing the same to the staff at (insert rehab facility’s name here) for half a Vivarin.
The point is that it takes the third Little Pig (the one who got his master’s degree from Harvard College, and built his house with his architect knowledge) to build a house that will survive this kind of windbaggery. Essentially…the argument here is you can make the Olympics more watchable by ensuring the one sport a vast majority of Americans would watch stays on the same level as Mexican wrestling and the Canadian Football League <hits the speed dial button again>.
4) It Makes the NBA Regular Season Even More Unwatchable
Before I get started here, how many of you would agree the NBA regular season is too long?
Great…now that I know what everyone’s armpits smell like, let’s consider something for a second. When you look at the years that this tournament is played, you’d have to think that in a sport like basketball that is so cardiovascular, the guys who made the cut for this squad are still going to be a little bit wiped. Those same dudes have to suffer through preseason as well, so it would be hard to argue these guys wouldn’t be dragging ass for the first twenty games of the season; not that the first twenty games of the NBA season have actually been must-see TV as of late. It certainly isn’t what it used to be, and it’s very apparent quite early in the season that every NBA team is in one of the following three categories:
The injury thing comes into play again here: What if you have a player who previously had an injury and then aggravated it during the FIBA World Cup? If it’s somebody like Damian Lillard, that’s going to affect the way he plays in the first quarter of the season which in turn is going to have a huge effect on the way the season plays out for a team like the Portland Trail Blazers. If we could figure out a way to actually make the NBA season a little shorter maybe I’d be more open to the idea of FIBA. Even though this Silver character seems to have his head on straight, if he so much as brings up the idea of shortening the season, the owners will find a way to make sure it’s securely removed from his neck with a tire iron.
It’s funny Meehan mentions shortening the season, because that is precisely what has to happen. I’ve mentioned this idea before in my Write-in Campaign for Major League Baseball Commissioner. Be it baseball or basketball, the point is the same. The growth potential in any major sport is in the global arena, and if you are like Meehan and hadn’t noticed, basketball rosters themselves are getting a more foreign flair every day. It’s time to embrace that with more than just a few token games here and there.
The first thing that has to happen is to make a top priority out of developing the Basketball World Cup into a major event. This will help grow basketball in the overseas markets, and therefore increase the numbers of top-quality players these leagues produce. As I said with baseball, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to partner with the Little League people; they obviously understand what it takes to build an iconic global tournament.
This is the part that will make Meehan’s brain explode. It’s also time to take a page from the world soccer people…there needs to be more interaction between the American basketball at all levels and basketball in Latin America, Europe, and Asia. If the problem is the NBA regular season is too long, then we shorten it. But we also replace those NBA games with an international league; something akin to the UEFA Champions League.
By reducing the number of regular season NBA games, but keeping the season over the same calendar span, there would be plenty of time to keep players fresh and allow for the travel needed for international basketball.
I’m being a bit facetious when I bust Meehan’s balls about not having cable, but there is a real point to that. It’s no accident that the as the salaries in all sports have risen, so has your cable bill. The math works like this. With the sole exception of the Sunday afternoon package brought to you by ABC, if you are seeing the NBA, you are doing so on cable. That means that a big chunk of the revenue with which the NBA is paying salaries is coming right out of your cable bill. As the cost to carry the NBA has risen, so has what you fork out every month.
You could tell the exact moment this started; it happened about 15 years ago when cable went from pretty cheap to slightly rapey. At first, it was like getting “mo-ed” by your camp counselor; there was still a penis inside you that you didn’t really want inside you, but at least there was spooning and a trip to Chuck E. Cheese afterward. Then a few years back, it went up to “Frat-Boy Gang-Bang” level. Now, it’s at the shower scene from “American History X;” six guys have you pinned up against the wall while the tip of something the size of a cop flashlight is playing Mah-Jongg with your gall stones. And that’s just to get the Home Shopping Network.
In other words, the real advantage here is to let some of those other basketball-loving countries start paying some of the freight so we can all get Comcast’s flashlight out of our collective butt.. You let the World Cup increase the international appeal of the game on a nation-by-nation basis, and you use the Basketball Champions League to grow every day revenue. Imagine the television audience (and concomitantly the ad revenues) that could be drawn in Asia for a meaningful home-and-home series between a top-level NBA team and a Chinese League squad?
Just as I said for baseball, the possibilities are endless here, and they must be explored.
5) Players Really Don’t Want To Play More International Basketball
Ok, so we already know that Kevin Durant has left the team, and LeBron obviously has as much interest in the FIBA tourney as he does in the dunk contest. This means that two of the elite players in the league aren’t competing past the qualifying rounds, so when does this stop? When do players like Andre Drummond start to believe that they’re on the same level? What happens when they make that decision? You end up with a team full of Luke Babbitts that will never accurately represent what Americans are capable of when it comes to putting a killer basketball team together. I don’t care how much you love basketball, you’re not going to watch a team like that. Nobody wants to coach a team like that, either.
If you agree with the fact the FIBA product dilutes the Olympic product, then it’s almost undeniable that it would have the same suicidal effect on itself, for another undeniable fact. Let’s get real here – basketball is the most trendy of all professional sports. When players in the late 80’s traded in their nut-huggers for the baggier shorts, they did it because they had seen Jordan’s shorts get lower and lower with every passing year. When teams started to employ the triangle offense, they did so because Phil Jackson had so much success with it. When guys started tattooing their necks, they did it because Lil’ Wayne and Young Jeezy were sitting in the front row at Lakers games, and NBA basketball players have about as much taste as a fucking rice cake.
What does all this mean? As soon as a guy who most of the players have respect for says that all of this is “whack” or “so 2010,” this shit’s all over. We’re going to end up with so many jerseys no one will want to wear that the kids the who sew them together may actually end up wearing them.
Meehan’s absolutely right when he says NBA players are a bunch of little trend-mavens. But do you know what never-fucking-ever goes out of style? Money. The problem international basketball has right now is there no money in it strictly because nobody is capitalizing on it. The minute the LeBrons and the Durants of the NBA figure out they can pull in some hefty checks from selling Nikes to kids in South Korea, they will elbow the Luke Babbitts out of the way faster then they normally elbow the Luke Babbitts out of the way.
The Bottom Line:
As with anything in sports or entertainment, this comes down to one simple element: Will it sell? Look at it this way. According to Business Insider magazine, the Los Angeles Lakers are the most popular non-soccer sports team in the world based on the number of followers their Facebook page has. There are only three more in the top ten that aren’t soccer clubs, and two of them are NBA teams. The NFL doesn’t have an entry ranked higher than #12, which tells you this is truly a global list. That means there is no doubting the market is out there.
Obviously, this also means this is really just about marketing. Meehan is absolutely right when he says the NBA regular season sucks out loud, and J-Dub hit the nail on the head when he said you can make anything work with money. That just begs the question: How much money is there to be made here? On the one hand, the size of the markets involved are monstrous. If done properly, the NBA could use international basketball toget itself a ton of exposure in a market with about three billion people in it.
But on the other hand, the numbers could be an illusion; this could tank as there are no guarantees. That’s the point when somebody is going to stand up and point out that the NBA has more to lose than gain. The cost-benefit analysis will eclipse national pride, and then we will be left with the Olympics.
Jane…You ignorant slut.
Did you really think we were going to do a bit called “Point-Counterpoint” without saying that?