Either Amy Lawrence is an idiot, or ESPN is really as liberal as I've long feared.
There is a case to be made for the latter, as many of the TV and radio "personalities" seem to espouse such views. But there certainly could be a case made for the former as well.
Last weekend, I caught some of Lawrence's act on our local ESPN affiliate, 1230 AM WXCO. She was prattling on about the NBA, so I was only half-listening anyway. But then I heard her opine on why she felt the NBA spiraled into such decline since the retirement of Michael Jordan. She described the thuggish perception that many folks have of the NBA as being embodied by an "aggressive" style that's "in your face." She was close, but she missed the bigger mark.
The NBA's ghetto culture.
As a white guy from northern Wisconsin, I probably know as much about the ghetto as I do, say, uranium enrichment. But what I do know is what's espoused and glorified on TV. The "hip hop culture," as Bill O'Reilly calls it, deifies materialism and misogyny. My guess is it's an effort to show how The Man ain't keeping you down. This entails a lack of respect for anything other than oneself, embodied in the "look at me" SportsCenter highlights from most basketball games. There's more glory in a dunk, it seems, than an assist.
And it's the tattoos and baggy drawers that, IMO, is turning White America away from the game.
It's possible - and likely - that Lawrence never would've gotten away with saying it was the NBA's ghetto culture that has turned away a largely white fan base. And I found myself thinking the NBA simply needs a white superstar to bridge that gap. But I realized that perennial MVP candidate Steve Nash, and '07 MVP Dirk Nowitzki, are the closest things to the next Larry Bird that we're likely to see for a long time. So the NBA has its stars; all it needs now is an audience.
Thoughts on how the NBA can generate fan interest
The NBA has seen its postseason ratings decline precipitously over the years, and it's not hard to see why. They stretch a seven-game series out to nearly two weeks, and that's after allowing half the league into the postseason.
Commissioner David Stern needs to take a page from two events in recent years that should've taught him something already: One, the lockout of 1998, which delayed the start of the NBA season to January and shortened the season to I think 54 games. Every game mattered a lot more, and it's a lot easier to relate to a sport when its season fall within one calendar year. (The NFL is an exception, as the vast majority of its seasons fall within one calendar year, and I think it makes a big difference when a season is referred to as 2007 vs. 2007-08.)
Two, the NBA needs to recognize how popularity March Madness is at the collegiate level and whittle its seven-game series (at least in the playoffs) to best-of-three. I understand why they wouldn't want to go with a single-elimination tournament after an 82-game season, but a best-of-three would put heightened emphasis on that first game. Suddenly, Game 2 is an elimination game. And the better team should still be able to shine through.
And I have to believe that the revenue the NBA would be sacrificing from its gates would be more than made up in TV ad revenue for these newly important - and relevant - games.
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