Friday, June 24, 2005

Basketball Crazy 

You can call me crazy if you want.

I dragged myself out of bed at 4am this morning, despite being so exhausted I could only keep one eyelid open at a time. If that was all we were talking about, I'd agree, it's crazy. But I had a good reason: here in Israel, 4am was the starting time for the basketball game I wanted to watch, so that's not crazy. Especially since it was the 7th game of the NBA Finals, the pinnacle of hoops hype. All the more so, it made perfect sense because my friend was ringing my phone using his cell as he stood at my front door, patiently waiting for me to come down and let him in.

So you could call me crazy, but I would still disagree. That's not crazy, except for one little thing: the Lakers weren't even playing. Without the Lakers, I'm hard-pressed to explain my sitting in the dark, watching two teams I despise vie for the honor of being NBA Champs. Maybe I am just a little crazy.

Where was the excitement, the soap opera, the drama that is Lakers Championship Basketball? Has it really come to this? Will I spend the next few years watching the San Antonio Drones establish the world's most boring dynasty while I mark off squares on my calendar, waiting for Draft Day? I hope not.

But for now, my Lakers have no answer for the Duncan-Droid, whose theme song during his slow-mo highlight replays is the Rocky III soundtrack song "Visual Input Device of the Tiger".

The only thing this game had going for a Laker fan was Robert Horry, and his (successful) quest for a 6th championship ring. Otherwise, it was pretty tough to find a viewing angle. It was hard to decide whether I wanted to see the Pistons win, thus giving them back-to-back championships and a chance at stepping up to the level of the Bulls and Lakers recent championship runs, or the Spurs, thus giving them three championships in seven years, with the potential for even more in the future.

Frankly, I wanted them both to lose, but since that isn't possible, I've decided to take the high road:

Congratulations Spurs

The part of the game I found most interesting was after it was over.

David Stern stepped up to the microphone to present the trophies and the San Antonio crowd booed the ever-popular commissioner. Then rather than simply laud the new champions, he chose to use the Spurs' internationally flavored roster as a nutty sequitor to the promotion of his pet project: his vision of the NBA as an international game. But as he was extolling the game's international future, the camera caught Manu Ginobilli, the Spurs' popular Argentinian import, ruefully shaking his head. I assume he, like me, is a Stern skeptic.

David Stern can talk all he wants about trying to popularize the game internationally. All I know is that last year, here in Israel we had an NBA package of one live game each day for a few bucks a month. This year we had nothing as the Commissioner priced the package out of the reach of Israeli cable company budgets. Apparently Commissioner Stern feels that we, the international audience he craves, will be more likely to fall in love with his product if we can't actually watch it. And if Spurs vs. Pistons is the best he can do, he might be right.

So I'll close with a double wish: that the Lakers soon regain their rightful and entertaining position atop the NBA, and that David Stern gives us internationals our NBA cable channel back again so we can get up at 4 in the morning more often. Crazy, I know.
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