February 17, 2008

All-Star Game Focus: Basketball Is Not a Sport

WITH THE NBA All-Star Game on tap for Sunday evening, this seems like as good a time as any to declare a theory I've been mulling for some time now. Although it may infuriate some of my readers and appall others, I am going to throw down my gauntlet and openly declare: basketball is not a sport.

Now, I understand many Loyal Rant Readers may be shaking their heads and saying, "But Bennnnnnnnnn. Basketball is one of the nation's most popular ... uh, competitive activities! How could you say such a thing? Besides, look at the athleticism it requires!" As a result, allow me to address this point before I lay out my case against the game of basketball.

There is no denying basketball requires considerable athleticism. After all, most of the game involves running down a 92 foot court, stopping for a bit, and then running back up the court. This continues for 48 minutes and is not fun. Also, one must be adept at throwing the ball into the hoop, which is not easy. I know it is not easy because I played basketball for one year as a boy, and during this time managed to score all of one basket. So I do not mean to disparage the athleticism of those playing the game.

That said, basketball's still not a frickin' sport. Here's why:

Item. It was invented by a Canadian. As such, its claim of being a real sport is suspect. True, this Canadian invented the game while in Massachusetts, but the way the Canadians talk up Naismith's accomplishment, you would think he walked over the Detroit River with a halo and glowing basketball. Thus, if we all got together and declared basketball wasn't a sport, it could deflate Canada's giant smugness reserve -- at least until the loonie becomes worth more than the dollar again.

Item. One of basketball's major influences, Amos Alonzo Stagg -- yes, that Amos Alonzo Stagg -- decided to focus most of his life's energies upon American football, the greatest sport in the history of man. This, I would suggest, says a lot about the respective games of football and basketball, as well as for my theory. It is one thing to argue with me, but arguing with Amos Alonzo Stagg? Good luck with that.

Item. Unlike football, which has clear and concise rules for everyone that are easily understood and uniformly enforced, basketball's rules are murky, opaque, and byzantine. The rules are also enforced in an arbitrary and capricious manner, said manner depending on factors such as whether the referee is in a bad mood, has selective vision, or is trying to throw the game for syndicate men.

Item. Along these lines, consider the frequent occurrence in basketball of rule violations, known as "fouls." There are approximately 625,000 fouls that everyone -- ranging from players to coaches to hot-dog vendors -- can commit. However, unlike in football -- where a false start is a false start -- fouls in basketball are apparently a subjective thing. Major stars can break certain rules (e.g. travelling), while other players can get fouled for having the audacity to get run over by a charging forward. Also, there are apparently times when it's OK to call fouls, and not OK to call them.

As an example of this, I would note a recent college basketball game I watched between Georgetown University and Villanova University, two long-time powerhouses of the game. At the close of this game, which was remarkable due to both sides' ineptitude at actually playing basketball, the score was tied at 53-53. Villanova had the ball in the final seconds and tried to score, but failed. Georgetown recovered the ball with just a couple of seconds to go and was turning down the court when a Villanova player brushed a Georgetown player. A foul was called with one-tenth of a second remaining. Georgetown took two foul shots, made them, and won, 55-53.

This pathetic call, which decided the game instead of forcing the matter to an overtime period, was upheld despite several instances earlier in the game where clear misconduct went unpunished. This, and innumerable instances like it, does not aid basketball's reputation as a sport.

Item. The commission of fouls, something which is avoided in real sports, is actively encouraged during the waning moments of a basketball game as a strategic ploy and time-management tool. Aside from unnecessarily dragging the game out, this tactic allows bad teams to scheme their way towards victory, as opposed to actually beating their opponents like men.

Item. The National Basketball Association's season is 82 games long. As a result, no one really cares about the NBA until its playoffs commence, some six months after the regular season has begun.

Item. 16 NBA teams make it to the playoffs each year. There are only 30 teams in the league. This works out to a playoff acceptance rate of 53 pc. Compare this to baseball, where eight out of 30 teams (27 pc) make it into the playoffs, and football, where 12 out of 32 teams (37 pc) make it into the playoffs.

Finally, the proof that basketball isn't a real sport is borne out in public opinion surveys, which show basketball's popularity is on the wane. No less an authority than the Harris Poll -- whose unimpeachable authority I note here -- notes that just 8 pc of the American public consider basketball (either professional or collegiate) as their favorite sport. (That's down from 19 pc ten years ago).

This compares to 42 pc for pro and college football, 15 pc for baseball, and 10 pc for auto racing. AUTO RACING. Auto racing may be competitive, but it sure as hell isn't a sport. And perhaps an even more damning finding is that, when one breaks apart pro and college basketball, each sub-group is less popular than ice hockey. Ice hockey -- the red-headed stepchild of American sport! What does it say about the NBA that the NHL -- which kicked its fans in the teeth for an entire year and then laughed in their faces -- has a more enthusiastic following?

In conclusion, I think I've made a powerful case that basketball is not a real sport, and that Loyal Rant Readers should instead follow real sports, like American football, or baseball, or even ice hockey. Unless, of course, basketball is the only thing on television. Or it's March Madness and you can root for the underdogs in the tourney. I'm rooting again for Gonzaga this year.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at February 17, 2008 12:01 AM | TrackBack

Basketball does suck for the most part, in comparison to the other "major" sports. I won't make a longwinded argument here, but I can assure you hockey, yes, hockey is the greatest game, followed by soccer, yes, soccer, then american football a solid third. If the French had invented baseball, we'd call it a lazy, pointless, nagging game with an inept strategy and 162 game marathon of a season, full of seemingly meaningless small victories of style over substance. Instead, the US of A did, so it's our pasttime, a glorious ode to all things American. This is truly a multi-tiered ironic statement. Pro basketball is circling the drain, though we both know if the Pistons are in the NBA Finals, we'll see the light something fierce. The college game (actually the women's college game) is the best true basketball still out there. Thus spake Simon.

Posted by: simon from jersey at February 17, 2008 10:18 AM

Hi Simon,

Although I would naturally take issue with your argument that hockey is the greatest sport on earth, I must say your assessment of soccer as the world's second greatest sport is not unjustified. Right now, I'm watching Hannover v. Bayern Munich on Gol TV; it's not a bad match.

Although I like American football more than I do European football, soccer has one big thing going for it: its promotion and relegation system. Many people who disparage soccer either unfairly discount it or don't know about it, but it's a beautiful thing. Hopefully, US football will get to the point where we can have such a system, if only because it makes games between bad teams really interesting.

For instance, take the game last year between the Chiefs and the Bengals. Both teams sucked, and both played badly during the game. Since they were both having awful seasons, the game was meaningless. But the threat of relegation would have really made that game interesting.

Of course, you need a LOT of teams to make that possible, so a system would only work if you had a large second division. Maybe the growth of non-NFL football leagues will eventually make that a possibility.

As for baseball: agree completely. As for pro basketball: agree completely, although I would love it if the Clippers made it into the NBA Finals (not this year!) And I'd give hockey a solid third on the Greatness of Sport list.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at February 17, 2008 12:17 PM

I have two quotes that, in the context of their respective films, sum my thoughts up best...

With regard to hockey vs football:

"Agree to disagree"....Ron Burgundy, Anchorman.

With regard to relegation and its probable damnation of my beloved Detroit Lions....

"An interesting point".....Jules, Pulp Fiction (on foot massages).

Thanks for the quote of the day. You left out the multi-tiered irony part....wink wink.

Posted by: simon from jersey at February 18, 2008 12:31 PM


Especially when the one over the Colorado Avalanches' goal lights up. Yeah.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at February 18, 2008 11:50 PM

Heck, while we're on it....scrubbest year of the 20th century.....1938! (1919, 1950, 1974, 1998 get honorable mentions).

Posted by: simon from jersey at February 20, 2008 03:09 PM

Dude, I never thought I'd disagree on scrubness, but I think 1938 -- although arguably a scrub year, due to the exploits of people like "Wrong Way" Corrigan -- was not THE most scrub year of the 20th century. I mean, we had several powerful contenders, including: 1909, 1926, 1935, 1948, 1975, 1978 -- ESPECIALLY 1978 -- and 1982, which I think is a strong second.

For my money, 1978 is the winner, even though the Steelers won the Super Bowl that year and produced one of the best football teams of all time. Because let's face it, nothing else happened in 1978, yet everything about it -- except the Steelers -- sucked.

Also, nothing happened in 1909, except for the fasct the Rosicrucians were founded. Scrub.

Nothing also happened in 1926. Scrub by default.

In 1935 you had the Dust Bowl AND Social Security get signed into law. Scrub.

In 1982, the Cincinnati Bengals lost the Super Bowl, you had the Falkland Islands War and Braniff airlines went under. SCRUB.

Gotta agree on 1919 (Spanish flu!) and 1950, though. Clearly scrub years.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at February 20, 2008 08:40 PM

Hey asshole, are you fucking kidding me???? You are probably some fat son of a bitch who sits on the couch and probably plays baseball and football becasue thats the only sport your fat ass can play because "you dont have too move as much." Your a fucking joke to America you lazy faggot. No wonder your not good at the fucking sport, maybe becasue you played it one year when you were a fucking kid....have you heard of anything called practice???? Do you think NBA players are as good as they are becasue they sit on the couch and watch soap operas all day like your yourself??? No they worked their ass off every day of their life........So please dont even disrespect the sport of fucking basketball or question its integrity. If anything its the best sport. It requires you to be in good condition, you have to have great mental toughness and have good hand eye cordination.....something your fat ass doesnt have. And your saying wow basketball has 82 games and no one cares for other than the playoffs......well buddy baseball has 162 regular season games, and quite frankly i couldnt give a shit for either one of them......BASEBALL IS TOO FUCKING SLOW so dont complain about always having to be moving.....but oh wait i forgot your fat, slow, and lazy. Yeah so dont even say basketball isnt a sport just becasue you suck at it, thats a pretty arrogant thing to say.....maybe if your athletic you'd be at least halfway decent at every sport.

Posted by: Tommy at April 22, 2008 08:30 AM

Tommy: if that doesn't earn you a guest-host spot on "The Fan," I don't know what will!

All best,

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at April 22, 2008 10:01 PM

Did this fine gentleman even READ what you wrote???

I wish he had taken one second, beyond learning the difference between "you're" and "your", to actually defend why he thinks your (haha) wrong.

I mean, honestly...is this what the average American's breadth of personal expression has come to? I happen to agree that the NBA has gone downhill while the actual game of basketball is fine and well...the pros just don't play it.

BTW, I went to the Spurs Suns 2OT game 1 and it was excellent. Pistons Spurs in the Finals!

Posted by: simon from jersey at April 23, 2008 10:51 PM

Apparently Tommy's apostrophe key broke off, most likely because he hit his head repeatedly against it while trying to watch a "TOO FUCKING SLOW" baseball game.

That was seriously an amazingly awesome comment. Kudos, Mr. Kepple! Keep 'em coming!

Posted by: Matt at April 25, 2008 09:53 PM
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