Postgame Spread
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The NBA: It's Crock-Of-Shit-Tastic!    

Henry Abbott summed up my feelings better than I can.  Must-read link.  But I'll do it anyway.

Thrilled as I am that the Suns fought back against the Spurs to win Game 4, I'm even more thrilled that they fought back against the Spurs literally.  This may be a game or two late, but I'm just about done respecting San Antonio on any level.  My tolerance of Bruce Bowen has shot way past rock bottom, obviously, but the crap that Robert Horry pulled on Steve Nash is the just last nail in the coffin.  One guy called it "chickenshit," which I think is the perfect word for it.  People think they're tough or gritty or whatever, but I think they're the exact opposite: a bunch of gutless cowards.

It makes me wonder... why do we refuse to punish people for cheating on the court the same way we do when they cheat off the court?  Look at how steroid-based cheating is a goddamn federal case, while blatant, documented, VISUAL evidence of cheating is "the mark of a champion" or something.  That's some ol' bullshit.  If we're taking away Barry Bonds's records for steroid-based cheating, and taking away Final Four appearances for finance-based cheating, why do we not take away championships for just plain-old cheating?

I recognize that putting asterisks next to teams' titles for general cheating opens up a can of worms.  Very few championship teams won without gamesmanship on some level.  As a Patriots fan, I know all about the bargain with the devil.  But I'm talking about punishing the poster children.  The very worst of the very worst.  Bonds is the poster child for steroids, and has thus been made an example.  San Antonio is the poster child for cheating on defense and intentionally trying to injure players.  Why can we not make them an example?  I think there's a pretty goddamn fabulous case to be made.

Dreams aside, let's return to the real focus of my bile: Bruce Bowen.  How much more of his dirty, evil, talentless, and above all else unpunished shit does America have to endure before someone DOES something about it?

The guy is a joke.  He's not talented enough to compete, so he cheats.  He is the physical embodiment of "getting away with it."  He's O.J, he's Ray Lewis, he's Kobe Bryant, but only on the court.  Within the context of a basketball game, he represents everything that we teach our children to not be.  There should be no place for a despicable, immoral person like him in sports.

But he'll never be punished properly.  Never.  The NBA has set up a lovely Catch-22: they won't punish the perpetrators, but they will gladly punish the vigilantes.

1) The NBA refuses to suspend the perpetrators of cheating and intentionally dirty play.
If someone gets caught trying to rob a bank, or blow up an airplane, do the police let him go?  No.  That guy's in jail for a long, long time.

If Bruce Bowen gets caught trying to tear Amare Stoudemire's Achilles tendon, does the NBA let him go?  Yes.  No foul, no fine, no suspension.  I guess he didn't do anything wrong!

I mean, it's not like there's no evidence.  There's video of the play.  The intent is there.  He did it.  How can that go completely unpunished?!?

Here's what kills me...

David Stern takes pleasure in handing out arbitrary, fascist suspensions.  It's what gets him up in the morning.  Just ask Jermaine O'Neal.  Hell, ask Kobe Bryant.  And when Stern does drop the hammer, he's bulletproof.  Appeal denied!!!

So if David Stern were to kick Bowen out for the rest of the playoffs, for conduct unbecoming of an adult let alone an NBA player, there ain't a goddamn thing anyone could do about it.

Who's gonna beat the commissioner?  The Spurs?  They made Bowen what he is, so they ought to be made to feel some pain.  The players' union?  They're the Washington Generals to Der Fuhrer's Harlem Globetrotters.  They're puppets.  Bowen's agent?  Ha!  Not likely.  Stern could do this.  He could send a message.  He could put the fear of an arbitrary, crazy God in the hearts of anyone who might fit the description of a dirty player.  But he doesn't.

Why?  Because he's convinced that dirty play on the court does not adversely affect the league's image.  Bowen's transgressions are limited to the basketball court.  He's not waving a gun outside a nightclub.  He's not violating the league's dress code.  He's not talking back to referees.  So the league doesn't care.  (Way to have your priorities straight.  Trying to paralyze someone on purpose is okay, as long as you wear a suit and shut up.)

Therefore, NBA referees and league officials will allow Bowen to continue his path of destruction until a superstar like LeBron or D-Wade gets seriously, seriously hurt by this guy.  Of course, then it'll be too late.

This all seems to rule out the NBA governing itself, which leaves it up to the players themselves.  However:

2) The NBA is more likely to punish the response to a cheap shot than the cheap shot itself.
Not only has the league failed to address their own problem, but they've set up rules such that players who so much as think about addressing the problem themselves get automatic suspensions.  The NBA has set precedents for fighting so severe that the consequences are too dire to allow for proper retribution.  We're not going to do anything about it... but don't you be a vigilante, either.

For example, watch what happens today in the aftermath of the fight.  Amare Stoudemire will draw a suspension for the biggest game of his life, because he stood up and took exception to yet another cheap-shot from the Spurs.  Didn't throw a punch, didn't hurt anyone.  He just had a reaction.  How much more of this crap can they be expected to take without doing anything about it?

And why do players continue to have that reaction, despite the threat of a "leaving the bench" suspension?  Because they have ZERO trust in the refs and the league to handle things themselves.  If just and appropriate punishments were EVER handed out, maybe you'd see players stay right on the bench where they belong.  It's a snap-judgment, an instinctive thing to begin with; the lack of faith in the powers that be exacerbates it.  If your teammate gets elbowed in the chops on purpose, and your choices are "sitting back, knowing nothing will be done" and "I get suspended, but at least I fixed shit," odds are that most people take option #2.

(Somewhat off-topic, but I would like someone to tell me why one's response to cheating is a test of one's cool, but not the act of cheating itself.  Isn't it an implicit admission of inferiority if you resort to illegal play?  A sign of weakness?  If a player better than me is just owning me, and my lack of ability leaves me no choice but to resort to cheap-ass elbowing and oil-checking maneuvers, have I not also lost my cool?  Why does the collective pressure lie on the victim?  Explain THAT.)

The reason this stuff drives me so nuts is that the "new NBA" is so much better than the Rileyball era... but the league's refusal to discourage thug-ball will kill that trend before it even gets rolling.  We desperately need one of these "new/exciting" teams (Mavs, Suns, et al) to win a championship and get it done against the thug-ballers.  But the refs do not (and maybe cannot) prevent thug-ball from being so effective.  Thugs like Bowen have no fear of significant retribution.  They think they won't be punished if they can slip it past the refs.  If dirty players knew that they could dodge a foul from the ref, but not a suspension from the league, watch how quickly they'd start behaving.

If the league continues to sit on its hands, teams will revert right back to Rileyball.  Other than the Van Gundy brothers, nobody wants that.  The NBA could stop it, but they won't.  I wish they would.

Anyway, Game 5 should be a goddamn classic.  Let's hope half the players aren't suspended.

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  • Another revelation is the deleterious effect things like this have on a city's fanbase. I know judging fans based on their most obnoxious online commenters it the definition of ridiculous, but I have rarely been so infuriated by a group of dumbasses as by San Antonio fans this week.

    It's like how Lehr being a Yankee fan magically turned him into a Duke fan even though it doesn't fit the rest of his personality and should be totally humilliating. He can't help it; he's been engineered to root for the douchebags of the world. I bet Spurs fans are busy working up loyalties to all of the nastiest, most horrible franchises as we speak... er, write. Or they're just Cowboys and Rangers fans, which isn't quite the same thing but is close enough to my mind.

    By Blogger Jesse, at 2:44 PM  

  • That is to say, "is the definition of ridiculous."

    By Blogger Jesse, at 3:08 PM  

  • No, it's not about that. It's about rationalizing.

    The Spurs are basically the Patriots, so I have some experience with this.

    For example, I have to be pleased by Rodney Harrison on some level, because he's a key member of my team. He's basically Bruce Bowen... far more talented, but still the dirtiest, cheapest player in football. He should probably be banned for life. But I wouldn't be all that happy if that happened... certainly not as happy as I'd be if he'd played for the Jets or something. I've rationalized Harrison's presence on the Pats to myself.

    This is why you haven't seen me rant about Harrison being a scourge on society or anything. Because he's on my team. That's not fair of me, but that's what happens. It's a natural byproduct of fandom. You end up defending your own guys, and taking on their characteristics and whatnot. I can try to stay bipartisan, and own up as much as I can, but if it leads to wins I'm probably not going to care.

    Nor is anybody else, by the way.

    That said, the important point is that fans reflect the teams they root for; it's not necessarily an inherent thing. Even Yankee fans, the basest and most vile beings known to walk the earth, are little more than a byproduct of the condescension, entitlement, and general full-of-shitness (?) of the team they love. If the Yankees were more self-deprecating, or goofier, or less full of themselves, as a franchise, I bet you'd see Yankee fans follow suit. It's not as if New Yorkers can't pity themselves. Look at the friggin Knicks.

    Basically, I think if anyone's to blame, it's the team. The Spurs franchise tolerates and encourages this horseshit, so lay it all at their doorstep.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 4:00 PM  

  • On a totally separate topic, my mind is officially blown... I actually enjoyed a Steve Kerr article:

    In the past, Jackson and David Stern have held firm on the rule, punishing players for merely walking onto the floor a couple of steps away from the bench. There has been no flexibility. But would the league really feel like it was doing the right thing by suspending all of those players for basically doing nothing? I understand the reason for the rule – to avoid dangerous, bench-clearing brawls – but in both of the events in Game 4, no fights were involved. There were only altercations that never amounted to anything.

    Jackson and Stern should take into account that not everything is black and white. They should be subjective in their ruling on this one, but again, they haven't been before.

    Well said. Nobody can tell me those four guys should be suspended. Any of them, really.

    But there's no way they'll all get off scot-free. If Der Fuhrer only suspends Suns, he affects the outcome. No way he skews the suspensions towards the Spurs. If he nails everyone equally, you take Duncan off the floor, which invites total chaos thanks to a technicality.

    The only fair thing to do is let 'em all play. But, as the wise Steve Kerr says, fat chance.

    I can always keep my fingers crossed, though... eternal optimism and all...

    By Blogger Jeff, at 4:27 PM  

  • And here's yet another must-read take.

    (It's a shame that Bethlehem got slaughtered by those retards in the comment section. Anyone who thinks blog commenting should be anonymous and unmoderated should be forced to read those illiterate Fanhouse commenters 16 hours a day for the rest of time, lol)

    By Blogger Jeff, at 4:45 PM  

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