Do Fans Really Care?

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?

Marcus Thompson

  • dareedle

    The Donaghy situation is sad because it sucks to think that the mob is influencing games and results. Most refs already have some form of bias (against rookies, against complainers (see Stephen Jackson get hacked in the Utah series), against superstars (Kobe and his suspensions), against Shaq because he it too big … etc. The league has enough problems with Stern as the commissioner than to worry about egomaniac gambling refs. The problems with the NBA is that is not a very good product or entertaining product. If every series had the fireworks of GS vs Mavs or the entertainment value of the Suns, the NBA would have watchable playoffs. There is a fine line between a Mark Cuban (I love this game) and a David Stern (I love the money and power of the game). Like the Star Wars trilogy, fans know when a director/commisioner has sold out for the old mighty dollar. What makes the NBA fun for fans is the drama … its beating up David Robinson with a rag tag TMC team, its number 8 seed beating the vaunted Mavs and billionaire Cuban, its Kobe hating Shaq, its BD transforming his career from underacheiving coach killing cancer to NBA superstar with Jessica Alba as his personal entourage.

  • stern is a dictator

    i’m with you to an extent. all i want is to be entertained so all the off-field stuff doesnt bother me one bit but this is different. it just makes you wonder about the fairness of each game.. whether it’s because of mob ties or plain personal vendetta, NBA refs in particular can easily sway the outcome of the game.

    in a way, i’m happy that stern is forced to deal with this controversy. after all his suppression of the “hip-hop generation” that half his league is part of (dress codes,etc.), it’ll put him in place and force him to deal with the real issues.

    anyway, free mike vick. he’s entertaining.

  • I agree, I do not think that this incident will hurt the league much. In my opinion the ones that will get hurt by this is the gambling corporations and bookies. I wouldnt touch an NBA line with a 10′ pole now. Not that I gambled much before, but when in Vegas or Reno, why not throw a few dollars on a game? I won’t do that anymore. I will still watch the games for the excitement of the plays and outcomes. Much like professional wrestling, the outcomes may or may not be predetermined, but its the excitement of everything leading up to the end that keeps me coming back for more.

  • Jaysohn

    I’m with you, all this doomsday hype I think is being way way overdone by the media. Yes it’s terrible that a ref had some influence on some games but I don’t think anything this ref did changed dramatically the outcome of this season. The media keeps giving the impression that fixing games meant he decided wins and losses. I doubt that took place much if at all. I believe he had more of an influence on over/unders and points spreads. I’m definitely not going to stop watching basketball because of it. Just like no one has stopped watching baseball because of steriods. If anything there are more people watching because of what McGwire, Sosa and Bonds did by making the game more entertaining to watch. Pro sports are about entertainment, its a business. If a sport and a league is entertaining to watch it will succeed. Just like with politics we get over scandals pretty quickly in this country because there is always a new one around the corner.

  • itsagreattimeout

    I don’t really care. I think it was just an isolated incident that has been overblown by the media. The guy had problems. Big deal. Yeah what he did was wrong and he should suffer the consequences- but this whole crisis and panic mode seems silly.

  • JustPuked

    Bump in the road. Moving on…