Sports IS Life

Hypocrisy Abounds in the NBA

So let me get this straight.  Last year, David Stern, the commisioner of the NBA, suspends both Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudemire in a pivotal playoff series between the Spurs and Suns for leaving the bench.  Why?  It's black and white, if you leave the bench, you get a game (or more).  Personally, I didn't like it because I'm a fan, but I understand the rule.  Then we see a scuffle in the Hawks/Celtics series where we witness a darling of the NBA (Kevin Garnett) illegally, as the rule is black and white, contact an official.  We also have during that same incident two players from opposing teams admit in the media that they stepped on the court (Marvin Williams and Kendrick Perkins).  Yet despite those actions, no suspensions.  Darius Songaila got a game for contacting Lebron James' face.  David West, DeShawn Stevenson, and even the retaliation to Songaila's blow, Zyndrunas Ilgauskas, all contact the face of an opposing player, yet no games are missed.  Am I missing something?  Do we not suspend David West because the Hornets, led by MVP candidate Chris Paul have become somewhat of the darlings of the NBA?  Do we not suspend DeShawn Stevenson because all he does is enrage Lebron James causing his performance to be elevated and the ratings to soar?  Do we not suspend Zyndrunas Ilgauskas because Lebron doesn't have enough support as it is and he desparately needs that inside presence to secure better ratings for the NBA in round two?  Can we really suspend Kevin Garnett when the Celtics appear to be struggling with the lowly Atlanta Hawks? 

Is this upside-down world or backwards day?  Those are a lot of questions, but I think they are worthy of discussion.  As I was growing up in my elementary school days I was an avid follower of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, Ravishing Rick Rude and Macho Man Randy Savage and for a brief time, I actually thought the events were real.  I thought Hulk Hogan was a very tan man, but worked out religiously, said his prayers and took his vitamins.  I have grown since then and become much more cynical.  I watch wrestling at this point and laugh, it's nothing but comic relief at this point in my life.  I grew up to understand "vitamins" were the same "vitamins" that were tainted and being injected into pro athletes in all sports, and they didn't have the traditional names like thiamin or niacin or b-6, but instead were called Stanzolol and EPO.  So why the wrestling nostalgia?  Because NBA and WWE are not that far apart.  I am not saying that the results are scripted by any means.  I don't think the Spurs go into a series and say, "Don't Panic, remember Timmy's hitting the 3 at the buzzer for another OT."  It's not to the point of scripting.  However, I do believe more and more that the outcomes are becoming more easily manipulated.  With more judgement placed in the hands of officials, there is more room for human error, including the error of greed and corruption, as evidenced by Tim Donaghy.  A critical second foul in the first quarter of an NBA game on a valuable player changes the game.  The player sits for a while, becomes more out of his/her normal rhythm, is less aggressive when re-entering the game or plays "tight" when back on the playing surface.  Is this happening in the NBA?  Ratings have dropped in recent history, especially for the marquee NBA Finals, which could cost the business millions or even billions.

In an era when the NBA needed a superstar, a super athlete came along.  Michael Jordan was the best there was.  How do we know?  Because the first question asked about a rising superstar is always "Is he the NEXT Michael Jordan?"  Jordan was the best because of his abilities, but along the way, slowly, he had his own rules and he was more protected.  Is this the revision of the Jordan rules?  Is this the protection of the "Next" generation of stars?  Kevin Garnett, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant all get a little help.  Rookies, also, in general don't get the respect.  Is this becoming more evident?

With all the questions posed previously, there is one more I ask, the penultimate question that can only be asked of and answered by the man in charge of the NBA, David Stern.  So Commish, are there different rules for different players in different situations, interpreted by determining what is best for the bottom line of the NBA?  It truly is a simple question, because regardless of the answer, money and profit will flow.  Wrestling finally spilled it's truth and became more popular and profitable than ever.  The same will happen with the NBA.  Sports are a drug for the masses to which I am firmly addicted.  Just once, as a favor to the addicts, just tell us the truth.


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