Friday, February 5, 2010

Deleted Scenes from "Enjoy the Show"

When writing “Enjoy the Show” for this month’s Norman Einstein’s, I reached out to a few individuals who elaborated a bit more on their appreciation for the NBA’s All-Star gala. We’ll see it live within two weeks and a few of you may be lucky enough to see it in person. Yet, here’s the full text of what the contributors had to say.

Once again, I send my most sincere thanks to Andrew Bucholtz, Patrick Truby, Jason Rawlins and Tamara Curl-Green for such on the fly, but great responses.

Jason Rawlins: The NBA does the best job with their all star weekend because basketball is the only team sport that permits for individuals to showcase their extreme talents within the flow of the game. The nature of basketball alone makes it more exciting in the all star format. We get the opportunity to see (Harlem) Globetrotteresque dishes, arcade classic NBA jam type slams, and the occasional brilliant block. All of the essentials that make the game are displayed at their highest level (minus defense) which allows for viewers to fully grasp how physically gifted these athletes are.

Can we really grasp how great an All-Star left fielder is if he gets no balls hit his way? Can we fully understand how hard a Pro Bowl running back runs if he's stopped close to the line of scrimmage for the majority of his carries? It’s only in the NBA all star game where any player who touches the ball has the opportunity to showcase their superior skills, whether with a killer crossover, low block post move footwork, or long distance shooting. As difficult as it is to hit a baseball or make a diving catch at SS, I'd rather see an easy layup pinned to the backboard or a gravity defying alley-oop. A Pro Bowl QB can have a great day connecting with a rival receiver, but since the game is at the end of the season, I couldn’t care less about AFC/NFC bragging rights. It’s only in the game of basketball where we have the chance to see every player potentially show us something that makes us think, "I wish I could do that."

Tamara Curl-Green: I'm not much of a hockey fan so I won't comment on their game. I do think that the NBA All-Star Game is more of an exhibition but I think it's unfair to discount the MLB and NFL games. In all sports, fans are much more inclined to ooh and awe over good offense. The NBA is the only league where players aren't invited for being exceptional defenders. It's the nature of pro football and also MLB that defensive players will also stand out and be selected because of their performance on defense. In that sense, it's much easier for the NBA to make it an exhibition game. On the other hand, if home court advantage was on the line, like home-field is in baseball, you'd probably see much more defense in the NBA.

That all being said, I just think it's easier for the NBA to put on an exhibition because of the nature of the game. And with that, it's easier to draw celebrities as well as fans to the weekend and get them excited because we are all sure that we're going to see a great exhibition game.

I do enjoy watching MLB All-Star events as well. Especially since the league has made an attempt to expand the weekend.

Andrew Bucholtz: For me, it's a few things that elevate the NBA All-Star Weekend above the rest. First of all, the NBA All-Star Game itself seems more faithful to the regular season than either the Pro Bowl or the NHL All-Star Game; the Pro Bowl features barely any effort and as little hitting as possible, while no one throws body checks or plays defence in the NHL game, causing 11-10 scores to be the norm. By contrast, the NBA game is reasonably similar to a regular basketball game. It still has all the traditional elements, just with more talent and a bit of a higher score than usual.

Another thing that makes the NBA game special to me is dramatically improving a player's teammates the way you do in an All-Star Game seems to have more of an impact in basketball than in the other North American sports. In baseball, so much of the game is individual that it doesn't matter all that much to your play who you're with. In hockey, stars are usually playing on the top lines, so they're generally around a fair bit of talent anyway. Significantly changing your teammates can make a big difference in football, but the lack of effort in the Pro Bowl means we don't really see the full effect of, say, Peyton Manning throwing to Andre Johnson. By comparison, the NBA's salary cap means each team is pretty much limited to one superstar and a bunch of supporting players. Having ten superstars on the floor at once isn't something we get to see apart from the All-Star Game, and it can lead to some incredible moments. NBA players also seem to care more about putting on a show in the all-star game than their counterparts in other leagues, which generally leads to a better game.

Finally, the NBA has a better lineup over the rest of the weekend than any other sport, featuring some really cool events like the dunk contest, the three-point contest, H-O-R-S-E and the rookie-sophomore game. It's not about finding out who's actually the best at basketball skills, which is the mistake the NHL's made with its skills competition. Instead, the NBA focuses on putting on an entertaining show, and that makes for a much more watchable product. There's a reason SI can put together a top-10 list like this of NBA all-star weekend moments and have the top-10 actually be memorable; I think I'd be hard-pressed to even come up with 10 things I remember from any other league's all-star weekend.

Patrick Truby: Regarding the all star games: I think the NBA has the most entertaining All Star because of how the game is played. It can function and entertain even when there is nothing at stake. Football is just dangerous, and any precautions taken to slow the game down or make it safer takes away what makes those NFL players great. Who wants to see a great pass rusher come off a block only to stop short of sacking the quarterback?

Major League Baseball is okay because, despite determining which league gets home field advantage in the World Series, the players still have a lot of fun, especially during the Home Run Derby when they all bring out their cameras and joke with each other the whole time. But the rhythm of baseball, with its stopping and starting between pitches, outs, and innings, especially without a real rivalry for fans to have a rooting interest in the game, does not make for great television. (I think MLB also lacks the personalities that made great moments like John Kruk's backward helmet possible).

The NBA All-Star Game emphasizes the more entertaining parts of the regular game that fans love, like amazing shots, fast breaks, dunks and alley-oops. Also, the players seem to have just as much fun playing as audience does watching.


Patrick said...

Looks like most of us agreed with each other as far as the NBA. However, I will say this in defense of the MLB: when someone comes through with a stellar performance in the All Star Game, it stands out so much more. I'm thinking specifically of Pedro Martinez's performance in the 1999 ASG. I think it takes a pitcher to assert that kind of dominance in a game of baseball though.

Jason Clinkscales said...

That's the one thing about baseball's exhibition that gets me going; when certain players are on a record-breaking path, watching them perform in this stage is must-see TV. In the 90s, I made a point to watch Pedro and Greg Maddux on the mound, if only for an inning.

I was in Dallas when the ASG was here in New York in '08 and attended the last Rangers game before the break. They slugged it out with the White Sox and there was a palpable buzz afterwards from the fans about seeing Josh Hamilton. Little did anyone know of the show he'd put on. Watching it from my hotel room the next night turned me into a ten-year old again.