Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Spurs are Boring, And Why That Matters

It's not a debate outside of Texas - the Spurs may be great, but they're also boring. Independent of the merit of the opinion, there is also this... why does anyone care enough to venture the opinion?

Name the last boring Super Bowl champion. (Answer: the Baltimore Ravens of Trent Dilfer.) Or the last boring World Series champion. (Maybe the 2000-2001 Yankees, who went 8-1 against the Braves and Mets. Not a lot of drama in winning 8 out of 9.)

But for the most part, neither of these sports have to worry about a champion depressing the ratings. Only the Spurs -- and the NBA -- gets to worry about this.

And also, and this is telling, boxing.

The problem is this: boxing and basketball require both entities to bring something to the table to make for entertainment. When a football team blows another team out, it might not be great spectacle, but it is still spectacle. You remember the Fridge Perry Bears rolling over the Patriots. You watched it.

A baseball team that does this, you talk about the obvious Hall of Fame qualifications of their star players.

Basketball? Boxing? You reconsider the merits of the entire enterprise. The former must have too many foreigners, or underaged players, or expansion, or bad referees, or gangstas. The latter must have been killed by Don King and the fact that if Muhammad Ali were a young athlete today, he'd be playing tight end in the NFL.

Styles make fights. That's the old boxing cliche, and it's true here as well.

Spurs-Suns? Fascinating matchup of offense versus defense, threes against post scoring, penetration against shot blockers.

Spurs-Jazz? Same teams, more or less, only the first one is better at it. Predictable, dull, anticlimactic.

Spurs-Cavs? The only point of fascination is whether or not LeBron James can make this series into something it isn't. He won't, it isn't, and the sports world that doesn't care about baseball is already counting the days to NFL training camp. (Answer: five weeks.)

Is this fair to the dominant team of the era? No, of course not. They don't make the schedule. If their playoff run had been Cavs / Nuggets / Jazz / Suns, everyone would be watching the Finals. But as for the team itself, they get paid and probably don't much care. When the history is written, the ratings won't be mentioned that much. (If Spurs Fan really wants to feel aggrieved, at least be worried that your title will be more tarnished by SunsGate.)

Is it fair to their fans, to have the sports media crap all over their coronation? No, of course not, but they're going to have their trophy and that's all that matters. And if you don't believe me, ask the Miami Heat fans how much people complaining about Dwayne Wade's free throws took away from their championship.

Is it fair to the NBA? No. Living to a standard that no other major team sport has to live to, while already climbing the silent hill of racism (to wit, a hockey fight is fun, a baseball fight is silly, and a basketball fight is an free buffet with open bar to pundit moralists)... well, it's one of the reasons why I love this game, and I root for this game, and I even (kind of) like the Spurs.

No, seriously -- or, at least, more than any other similar dynasty in recent team sports. And Spurs Fan, if you're still wondering why the rest of the world doesn't love your team... well, some of us are bored, and some of us are seeing you as the new Yankees or Patriots. How loved are they outside of their region?

So, please, have the good grace to not ask to be loved, or admired, or even watched. In the long run, you won't remember or care -- because while basketball may be art, it also has a scoreboard. And the scoreboard is more important.

1 comment:

Call Me Coach said...

Mannnn, I understand why people see the Spurs as less exciting than, say, the Suns. But really, what about their playing style makes them boring? There is a great article in the NY Times today about the Spurs and how so much of their bad rep is a function of them playing in a small market. The argument is that if they were the New York Spurs, people would praise not only their collection of team players with winning attitudes, but also the fact that they play exciting, high efficiency basketball. And its true, this team is laden with exciting players, namely Tony Parker (a bigger, less talented, but smarter AI) and Manu Ginobli (Sprewell without the attitude). I also think part of the problem is that David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Pop created a team culture where winning, and only winning, matters. These aren't characterless people, they are players who don't care enough to throw their personalities in our faces. Lebron James cares about what we think, he and his PR guys have carefully created a personality that can sell products to the public. Its not that Tim Duncan doesn't have a personality, its that he doesn't care that WE KNOW he has one. These are the reasons people call the Spurs boring, it has nothing to do with the product on the court.

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