Neal Pollack and Paul Shirley Shoot the Breeze
Maybe an hour ago I recommended in today's bullets that you go and read the interesting conversation on Slate between author/basketball player Paul Shirley (chatting right now, as it happens) and author/basketball fan Neal Pollack, author of "Alternadad."
(By the way, they are both die-hard Suns fans, even though that squad cut Shirley twice.)
But then I thought to myself: I bet you're not going to just take my word for it and go read the whole thing. Right? You didn't, did you? After all, you're at work, you're busy, this thing is long, and you don't really know all that much about either of the people involved.
Well, OK then, I can handle that. I can get you to read it anyway. Here's a tasting menu of what you are missing (in addition to some colorful language -- not grave, but consider yourself warned):
Pollack: "Basically, the NBA gives off the impression of an old white guy (like, I don't know, David Stern) trying to be street."
Shirley: "I learned that live Internet coverage of a basketball game while ideologically solid falls far short of its potential. I was left to wonder why no one has upped the ante of the medium. We can build video games that take into account user input, but no one can put together a good animated simulator for live games? Tell me you wouldn't watch an NBA game shown in the format of the Nintendo nonclassic Double Dribble. Or better yet, in the style of NBA Jam."
Shirley: "The NFL can trace some of its success to loyalty to particular teams. That league made the correct decision when it tied its marketing campaigns to teams and not individuals. Most people agree that the NBA came into its own during the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era. The NBA screwed up, however, in thinking that Bird and Magic were the league's saviors; in fact, the NBA blossomed because of the rivalry of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. But then, along came this dude named Michael Jordan. He transcended the concept of team and had a unique combination of ability, class, and aloofness that inspired kids everywhere to tug at their middle-class parents' Dockers until they shelled out $120 for the latest version of the Air Jordan. No dummies, those in charge of the NBA noted how much easier it was to market one man. When Jordan was gone, they tried with others Penny Hardaway, Shawn Kemp, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O'Neal. But it's never been the same."
Shirley: "Six percent of the NBA is white Americans. We're like endangered gorillas, left to scratch our simple, blocky heads while our jungle is slashed and burned to make room for logging trails. It's hard not to feel sympathy for the gorillas. Especially if you're one of them."
Pollack: "Fire David Stern; don't allow Jeff Van Gundy to get another coaching job; and don't let any more middle-aged men do silly dance routines between quarters. Also, stronger t-shirt cannons would be nice. And I think the league might benefit by shedding a couple of its weaker franchises. I seem to remember contractionlike movements made by the NBA before Magic and Bird arrived. Cut 30 roster spots, and suddenly all the other teams improve. Even the D-League improves."
I am totally on board with the call for stronger t-shirt cannons. How strong? We will know we are there when the shirts are bouncing off the back wall.
UPDATE: Excellent news from ESPN's Chris Sheridan: "In Chicago, they have at-shirt gun that can reach the highest luxury boxes at the top of the upper level. The thing is like a bazooka."