The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

The UnStory

Man, I love the NBA and all, but there are times when it gets as bad as the NFL was that year they fined Phil Simms for having his socks too high. As a league they produce three varieties of UnStory just as the NFL frequently does. Observe:

Type 1: this is a story where every single person in the world who follows the NBA knows what is happening, why it’s happening, when it’s happening, how it’s happening and could all but do the reporting and write the stories themselves… yet somehow the story gets daily minute-by-minute coverage anyway for God knows what reason. Only counts for relatively minor issues; the LeBron story is big enough to just be a running theme. Example: did you hear that Big Z is going back to Cleveland? Did you hear yesterday when he and the Wiz began talking about a buyout, and today when they agreed on a buy out, and tomorrow when they executed a buy out, and the day after when Z will deny that it’s a done deal that he’s going back to Cleveland (just like a week ago when his agents put out the word that he might sign elsewhere), and in 30 days when he’s inevitably going to re-sign in Cleveland? No? Well you’ll have your chance in the future as this story is going to be reported over, and over, and over again until everyone is sick of it. It’s like watching a formula horror movie- you know how it ends and you know the movie knows how it ends, but everyone pretends otherwise. This one is basically a media-driven UnStory.

Type 2: The pointless bad PR story. Today’s version is NBA bans Caron Butler from chewing straws during games which really is up there with Simms’ socks for pointlessness. Butler and his straws have zero effect on anything: they don’t hurt the league’s image, they don’t hurt ticket sales or TV ratings, they don’t represent a competitive advantage, and he’s apparently been doing this forever- why on earth should the league care? There’s the obvious fuck-with-the-Mavs-whenever-they-can explanation which may even be true, and the potential let’s-show-the-players-who’s-really-in-charge motive heading into collective bargaining soon, but why create a pointless PR hit which makes them look ridiculously obsessive to do so? This one is an entirely league-created UnStory.

Type 3: this one is more arguable, and arises from the odd relationship of the NBA’s regular season to its playoffs. The reality is that the NBA regular season is semi-pointless: it eliminates fewer than half the teams from contention (30 total, 16 playoff slots) and leads to one of the most upset-proof playoff systems around. Basically, if you pick the top 4 teams and a title winner a month before the start of a season, you have a greater chance of being right for the NBA than for nearly any other sporting league world-wide. So how to fill the hours between game 1 of the regular and the finals? Since the NBA-specific media isn’t yet too dedicated to statistical analysis at the mainstream level, the result is that you get several months of intermittent “team in crisis!!!” stories about teams which are not in crisis, have not been in crisis in years, and will not be in any form of legitimate crisis for months or perhaps years to come. It’s most obvious when the Lakers or Cavs lose two games in a row, but you can get it about any number of teams. You also periodically get the inverse- Sudden Contender Syndrome for teams like utah who no one really bought as contenders during most of the season and who have made no meaningful changes which would suggest that they’ve actually changed for the better, as opposed to just having a short term hot streak. As best as I can tell, this one is actually a fan-driven UnStory.

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February 25, 2010 - Posted by | Other NBA

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