Football season is over. Finally. Americans are weirdly obsessed with this inferior sport.
A professional football team has 53 players on the roster. Each one of them specializes in one position, either offense of defense. Violence is paramount; hundreds of players get concussions each year. A successful football team has a line of freakishly oversized human beings whose main job is to smash into each other. Surrounded by these giants, a few players specialize in certain skills– running or catching. One important offensive player runs the show, making decisions and throwing the ball. Often times, the entire game comes down to a little soccer player kicking the ball through an upright post.
Basketball is far more graceful. Five players on the court, without pads, each of whom plays both offense and defense. Agility is paramount. It helps to be freakishly oversized, but without a versatile skill set, there’s nowhere to hide. A professional team averages 100 possessions per game, scoring two points every other time down the court.
Editor’s note: I wrote the above paragraphs before watching Super Bowl 51, one of the most dramatic sporting events of all time. In my defense, NFL overtime rules are really dumb. The losing team never even got to play offense in overtime. An Arizona Cardinals game this year ended in a tie. A TIE! Ridiculous.
To each their own. But I’ll take hoops over pigskin every day.
Unfortunately, so far this season I’ve only watched a few NBA games and bits and pieces of some college games. A sacrifice of living without a television set.
Another downer: my hometown Phoenix Suns have settled on a strategy of perpetual tanking. Each managerial decision seems to make things worse. The emotional pain intensified watching Isaiah Thomas, a player the Suns let go two years ago, rocket into superstardom. A bonafide MVP candidate this season, Thomas and his Celtics are contending for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
So my main interest now is rooting against LeBron James. That sounds petty. LeBron is the greatest player of his generation, arguably a top five all-time player. I just can’t stand how he acts like God’s gift to humanity.
Michael Jordan was the best of his generation, the best to ever play. Everyone knew it. He knew it. And he acted like it. But he carried himself with a confident style that was cool, not conceited. He expected to make highlight plays. His celebrations were determined fist pumps and shoulder shrugs. He barked at the refs and intimidated his opponents.
LeBron takes a highlight play and turns it into a touchdown dance. He turns to the crowd with a peacock expression that says, Oh my gosh, did I just do that? How am I this good? He whines to the refs and flops, weakly exaggerating contact like a soccer player to get foul calls. In these last few weeks, his team has struggled. In true entitled form he took to the airways to complain about team management, and how they should be signing better players.
Despite his whining, LeBron’s Cavaliers will probably make the NBA Finals again, most likely facing the Golden State Warriors for the third straight year.
The Warriors play basketball as it’s meant to be played. Poetry in motion. Their players are always moving, passing, pushing the tempo. The ball finds the open man, the hot hand. Their superstars, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, play with swagger yet strike humble personal tones. Draymond Green, love him or hate him, brings an edgy toughness to the squad.
Some say the league is too top heavy. Two super teams, with everyone else eating scraps. But the talent pool is deep, and there are other serious challengers. The San Antonio Spurs are perennial contenders, headed by Coach Gregg Popovich, one of the most successful coaches in history, who has lately taken a political stance by using interviews to excoriate Donald Trump. In the East, the Celtics brag not only Isaiah Thomas, but coaching guru Brad Stevens, who was the college basketball mastermind who led a mid-sized school to multiple runs at the championship.
Springtime is hoops time.
First in the spotlight, college basketball culminates with March Madness, a 64-team single elimination tournament which costs the American economy billions of dollars in lost productivity due to employees watching games and checking their brackets.
Then it’s all NBA. Teams will be jockeying for playoff position these next few months. The champs are crowned in June.
Will the Warriors avenge last year’s loss? Will Kevin Durant win his first ring? Will LeBron James make the Finals for the 7th straight year? Will Gregg Popovich win his 6th title, earning an invitation to visit the White House?
Can’t wait to find out.