Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why Basketball Sucks (Redux)

Three years ago I wrote why I don't like to watch the game of basketball in a provokingly titled article, Why Basketball Sucks. (This happens to be the predecessor to my more recent, exaggerated, and deliberately polarizing post, Why the NFL Sucks. Also: Why Soccer Sucks.)

Notice I said that I don't like to watch basketball—I didn't say anything about playing it, which I did up until middle school. In fact, I happen to be the 1992-93 champion of my hometown's Pass, Dribble & Shoot contest. To this day I'm still not sure how I miraculously placed first in these competitions in consecutive years, since I was just decent at basketball and ended up finishing ahead of guys who went on to play for my high school team. It's been years since I've hit the hardwood, but it was always fun to play.

Now, every sport is better to watch in person, basketball included. But there are two reasons why I dislike watching basketball in particular:
  1. Too much scoring. The back-and-forth nature of the sport and the frequent amount of scoring is the big killer for me. One of the reasons that makes football or hockey more interesting to watch is that a goal or a touchdown isn't scored on every single possession. So when those things do occur, they're meaningful.
  2. Survival through infractions. When your team is trailing in the final minutes of a basketball game, desperate measures sink to a new low. With a remote chance (at best) of victory, the only way to climb out of the hole is to foul the hell out of your opponent—which almost always just puts you in your grave. Not only does this disrupt the flow and make games very frustrating to watch, but it exposes an inherent flaw in the sport: survival through infractions. There should be a rule that prevents teams from doing this in the final two minutes if they're trailing by more than 10 points—something to prevent the prolonging, end the futility, and put lame-duck teams out of their misery.

    When it comes to last-ditch efforts, survival through infractions is easily the worst late-game strategy in all of sports, and the only one where penalty-taking is encouraged. Think about it. In football, teams have the hurry-up offense, the onside kick, and the Hail Mary at their disposal. In soccer and hockey, teams can pull their goalie for an extra attacker. In baseball, well, you just have to figure a way to actually beat your opponent without resorting to gimmicks.

    Toward the end of a close game in all of these sports, you won't see a defensive lineman deliberately jumping offside, a hockey forward taking an avoidable roughing penalty, or a slugger leaning into a pitch to get on first base.
My basketball article is one of a few I put on in the hopes of making a few dollars here and there. Well, the best part about posting those in a more public forum certainly wasn't the money, but the comments (16 and counting, toward the bottom) that I continue to get to this day are just as valuable. With a title like "Why Basketball Sucks", I instantly set people up to either love or hate me, which I've found really amusing. Below are my favorite selections:
  • Basketball owns all sports, man why do u diss basketball, ohh because u aint knowing shit about the sport
  • Ha! this article is a joke. Hockey and soccer are snooze-fests which is why no one watches them. Considering the ball/puck size to goal/net ratio and the lack of scoring, it's hard to even call them athletes. Everyone just flails around, hardly controlling the puck/ball, like a bunch of idiot barbarians with no strategy. You couldn't pay me to sit through a boring hockey game. It may be fun for you playing since you dont have any real athletic skill, but as a spectator (girl) your sport puts me to sleep.
  • Basketball does suck...nothing makes me laugh more than when ESPN or some other sports network gives a basketball score in the 1st or 2nd quarter.....Rockets are up on the Bulls "10 - 8" ......oh,like that's score's not gonna change a million Why give the damn score???? who cares!!! Hockey rules!!
  • THE WORLD is watching tv during the FIFA WORLDCUP! dont be so american, it sucks as much as basketball
  • Basketball offers no fun or excitement... It's like cloning sheep.
If you read my original post, you'll notice that toward the end, I do credit basketball for its skill and athleticism. And despite what my enemies at think, I don't think it's a bad game. I just think it's got some issues.

One thing basketball's got right is March Madness, which is really a beautiful thing. In what other sport can I ignore the entire season and somehow come out near the top in office pools year after year?

But it's more than that. Actually, it's kind of like the Olympics—it doesn't matter if you've never followed international snowboarding—you want to see what happens because it's the Olympics. March Madness has that same kind of magnetism that pulls you in, even just casually, because you know everyone's attention is on it.'s Michael Rosenberg is with me in his most recent article, Why the NCAA tournament is best sporting event in America:
"The NCAA tournament starts around St. Patrick's Day and encourages you to watch a different TV with each eyeball while taking no-look sips from your pint...wait, that's not what I meant to say. What I meant is that if you're old enough to drink, you have sat through enough lousy Super Bowls and boring World Series games and monotonous NBA Finals to appreciate how reliably awesome the NCAA tournament is. There are two reasons for this:

1. It's never overhyped.
2. It never disappoints.

This is the rare sporting event that is riveting if you know everything there is to know about it or nothing at all... Thanks to its universal gambling appeal, the NCAA tournament brings people together."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Big Leagues

First it was Electronic Gaming Monthly. Then it was Stuff. Now, years later, it's Rolling Stone:

I wrote this letter to the editor in response to writer Rob Sheffield's commentary on Lost from two issues prior. What appears in print is a condensed version of what I originally submitted, but I'll be sure to express the omitted thoughts when the series concludes in a few months.

An added bonus: having my name grace the same space as journalist Matt Taibbi, a fearless political writer who delivers hard-hitting analyses "written as if during the middle of a bar fight."