By Marcus Thompson
Tuesday, July 24th, 2007 at 11:30 am in Uncategorized.
Everybody has been saying that this is a major blow to the NBA, that the NBA may never get over this. But I wonder about that. I wonder if fans will really abandon the NBA because of this. In fact, I think the controversy might draw more fans.
The fact is, the sports world isn’t the huge billion-dollar entity it is because of the die-hard fan, the one that values purity of the sport and integrity of the game. The mega nature of leagues like the NBA and NFL and MLB is a product of the casual fan, the one that merely wants a few hours of entertainment and are not true lovers of the sport. The puritans are looking at this Tim Donaghy situation as a dispicable act and a monumental step back for the league. But puritans don’t run the league. The dollars of the puritans isn’t what make the NBA the NBA.
Aren’t we seeing that with the steroid controversy? Fans have almost unanimously downplayed the steroid era by its continued support, nevermind the media’s never-ending doomsday predictions and dramatic coverage. Barry Bonds still sells out AT&T. Tickets are still being sold at ridiculous rates.
As sports grows into pop culture, the emphasis on integrity and the pure love of the sport has become less important. Back in the day, when the Black Sox scandal hit, and when college hoops was damaged with the point shaving and game fixing of the 50s and 60s, the sports world was dominated by puritans and die-hard fans. Not any more. Casual fans dominate the scene now. Bandwagoners and thrill seekers and drama lovers elevated sports to another level. Ask any NBA executive and they will tell you selling the good seats isn’t hard, it’s the upper levels that’s hardest to sell. If puritans and die-hard basketball enthusiasts were enough, who would need all the extra that goes on at sports events now? It’s all about drawing the casual fan.
That’s why the deterioration of pitching hasn’t damaged the popularity of baseball. That’s why the lack of fundamentals hasn’t limited the global explosion of basketball. That’s why celebratory antics and hot-dogging doesn’t bother football.
I think, no matter what, people are going to go the games, people are going to follow the NBA, and people are going to spend money on the league. As long as the NBA continues to run the dynamic talents and personalities like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James on the floor, people will flock. Because the emphasis is on entertainment, not integrity. The desire is for drama and thrill, not purity and poetry.
Sports is too intertwined into our culture and our love of celebrity, especially the NBA. One cheating referee won’t come close to changing that.
That’s my opinion anyway. What’s yours?