Fair-weather Fan? Or, Do I Just Hate Basketball?

I am very indifferent when it comes to the NBA. This was not always the case. There was a time when I really seemed to enjoy basketball. When I was in seventh grade I was the “team manager” on the St. Andrews in Park Ridge boys basketball team. This basically meant I shared this duty with two others and, at times, all I did was bring water to players and stand around. At other times I kept a kind of official record of the players to help the coach keep track of who was in foul trouble and what-not. Considering we were a suburban team in a mostly white neighborhood, this wasn’t the greatest basketball ever played, but it was fun.

I never really followed the Chicago Bulls except to find out what Michael Jordan was up to. Yes, Michael owes a lot of his moves and his talent and his inspiration to Dr. J. but Michael is still, for my money, the greatest basketball player ever. I even got to see him play live but this was shortly after he joined the team and back when he still had hair so this shows you how long ago this was. I believe the San Diego Chicken was also at that game, so you know what the biggest selling point probably was.

During the Bulls fantastic first three-consecutive championship run I became a basketball fan again. It was so great and it became and annual ritual among my friends to gather and someone’s house and watch those playoff games. We would scream and yell. We would applaud every basket. I got to watch Jordan make that shot against the Lakers where he went up for a dunk and then seemed to think better of it in mid-air, switch hands in mid-flight and lay it up into the basket with his left hand. Pretty cool stuff. There was Pippen and Jordan and Horace Grant and John Paxson. It was just awesome to watch and so much fun. Then Jordan retired for that first time and the Bulls made it back to the playoffs that one year afterwards and already, things just weren’t as much fun.

Then they came back. This time there was only the big three. There was Jordan and there was Pippen and there was that maniac Dennis Rodman. Rodman is a man who has clearly gone off the deep end but he was a dynamic player to watch. He really was a great rebounder and capable of getting to a loose ball, you just have to look past the hair and the metal stuck in his face to remember that. I was living in St. Louis for this run so I didn’t get together with my friends this time around but I was watching those games or listening to them on the radio and I was right there with that team. I even wore a Chicago Bulls jacket all over the place all winter for a while.

What happened? How did the NBA lose me? It is something I really don’t have an answer for. Even though the Bulls have made it to the post-season the last couple of years I have not felt compelled to watch a single game. I find I don’t care. Is it the lack of personalities or the lack of personalities that seem to have some kind of class? For all of the respective faults of Jordan (gambling), Pippen (reportedly a bit of a jerk and twice busted for carrying a weapon in his car) and Rodman (you name it), they appeared relatively classy on the court. They never strangled their coach like a certain NBA player once did. Somehow the inflated egos and inflated salaries has robbed the NBA of any class and any dignity, I feel.

Could it be the diluted talent pool? Every few years you hear about the “next Michael Jordan.” I remember when Kobe was supposed to be. There seems to be another coming along every few years. I’m sorry, but there was only one Michael. There was only one Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem, Wilt and Bill Russell. Therefore, there cannot be another one. Even though a lot of MJ’s moves looked a little like Dr. J’s there was still only one Dr. J.

I just don’t like any of the players out there. Not a one of them. I have never liked Shaq. I think he’s like Frankenstein in a basketball uniform and have always thought so.

This dislike of basketball for me extends into the NCAA tournament. Every year I marvel at how people get all worked up about this thing. Every year some sport commentator will talk about it being the greatest event in sports. I never watch a game, never have an interest in watching a game and always find myself monumentally bored with the whole thing. Even when I have participated in office pools I can’t get worked up about this thing. I never went to these schools. They do not represent me in anyway. Therefore, I could care less.

Conversely, I find myself doing the opposite when it comes to college football. I love college football. I love watching the USC games with my friend Jason. I love watching the Northwestern Wildcats. When I was living in St. Louis Mizzou had a great year one year and it was so much fun to watch them on a Saturday. The college I went to didn’t even have a football team, and yet I love college football.

So, the NBA finals are raging right now. I am kind of hoping the Mavericks win because I like their owner, Mark Cuban, even if he often behaves like a knucklehead. He, almost single-handedly and by force of will, turned a losing franchise into a team poised to win the championship. I like the story of a losing team turning it around and winning. I still will care less when it’s over.

Will I watch a game? No, I have yet to watch any of it. Will I feel anything when one team wins? Not a bit.

The NBA finals to me are right there with the World Cup and Stanley Cup finals. Tell me when it’s over. I have a White Sox game to watch tonight and it’s nowhere near baseball’s playoffs.

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