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