Come with me for a second to fantasy land. Let’s pretend that the parity problem is somehow resolved. Teams of superstars are not battling each other every year for the title. Dynasties become as tough to establish as those in hockey. Everyone is paid properly. The NBA is making as much as the NFL. Guess what? It’s still 9/10ths boring because it has a dead-end it cannot conquer.
Some say that basketball is not exciting until the final minutes/the playoffs, but they don’t bother to ask why. How can this sport, which was dull for forty minutes, become a thrill for the final eight? Fundamentally, they’re still playing the same game. Soccer haters aren’t likely to find the game any more exciting in extra time. Those bored by football (I’m assuming one person of this type exists) don’t cheer for a slant route in the fourth quarter.
The obstacle that basketball will never conquer for converting its non-fans is expected scoring. It’s not boring how they score, it’s that they will score a certain amount. Imagine you didn’t see this year’s Super Bowl. You’re all set to watch it. Then I tell you that the Giants beat the Patriots again. That’s what it feels like to watch basketball as a lukewarm fan. The ending is somewhat ruined before it begins.
I am assured that each team will probably score between 75-100 points in a game. Falling above or below that line will warrant some serious ire from the former ball players on SportsCenter – mainly because that means one offense or defense played like garbage. So, let me take you through the process of watching a game if the love of balling doesn’t pump through your veins:
1st quarter: Lawson hits a 3. 3/85
Kobe nails a jumper. 2/90
Layup by Harrington. 5/85
And so on. How on earth can I go nuts when a player hits a three? 3 out of an expected 85 points. Big effing deal. See, my mind is not different from any other mind. From birth, it’s not conditioned to think of a day as 24 hours. It’s conditioned to think of 24 hours as x amount of time divided by how long I’ve already lived. This is why old people complain about time flying by. It literally is. Their conception of time is shortened because of simple math. But whereas they might see their days being numbered and have an increased respect for life, basketball is devalued. The announcer might as well be yelling “LeBron James for 3… percent of his team’s score tonight… and it’s good!”
I love football, hockey, and soccer (if the name of the site didn’t give that away already). I like going to baseball games. In all of these sports, I have no idea how many points, goals, and runs will be scored. Maybe a touchdown is all it will take for a team to win the game. It’s a possibility, and so touchdowns are always a thrill. Maybe the game ends 1-0 or in penalty kicks. But I cannot, for all my effort, convince my brain to think a jump shot in the first, second, or third quarter is crucial. Maybe it swings the momentum or stops the other team who was on a run. Look at the Spurs 24-point comeback. Am I supposed to think there is such a thing as a do-or-die shot before the fourth quarter?
The funny thing is that golf should have the same problem as basketball. The leaders will probably shoot 65-70 and the rest will shoot 71-75. But how? Will they hit it into the drink? Will they fly it into the woods? Will they blast out of the bunker for an eagle? What are the conditions like? What’s the difficulty of the course? For basketball, the answers to the last two are room-temperature and N/A. Golf holds the unique joy of being a battle against the elements – elements, mind you, that man devised against himself as a challenge. A terrific shot at the 17th on TPC Sawgrass is more than just good form. It’s a response to the gauntlet being thrown down. “Tiny island in the middle of a lake, huh? Well, I’m six inches from the hole. Good try.” Until basketball has a Sawgrass Scenario, color me unenthused.