Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Five Reasons Why the NBA's Ratings Are Up

Through the first third of the sprint season, the NBA's regular season ratings are up... which kind of confounds the league's (inter-minable, never-ending, tiresome) critics. You see, the public was supposed to get well and truly turned off by these 1% athletes, who were arguing over money at a time when I'd finish the rest of this sentence but it's very difficult to write when you nod off and your eyes roll up from credulity. In any event, millionaire black men in starring roles has never been a great sale to the American public, especially when they play a game that doesn't serve up a side order of brain injury, so when the league missed Halloween to Christmas, no one cared and a pox on anything that isn't the NFL. (A league which had its own lockout, not that anyone remembers. But moving on.)

Then the league started, with a big Christmas Day launch, and in the 5+ weeks since, it hasn't slowed down at all... despite the fact that points are down, play is ragged, injuries are up and everyone was supposed to be angry angry angry at these people. So what happened?

Well, the simple answer is that the shorter season means more games, and that the 2 missed months created pent-up demand. But neither makes a whole lot of sense, since more doesn't usually lead to higher ratings, and the Association had sunk so beneath the waves of the NFL regular season that no one seemed to notice. Rather, try these on for size.

1) The old powers are down, but not out.

It will take more than a weak 20 games for Celtic Fan and Laker Fan to stop watching ball. So the middling .500-esque records of both teams is no real problem for the league's ratings or standing. And since those wins come at the benefit of having more non-traditional teams on the rise, it's all to the best.

2) No one cares about labor negotiations.

And I do mean nobody. There hasn't been a peep from blogs or fans, attendance figures or television ratings, etc., etc. As a matter of fact, the whole thing seems to have been a net plus for the league, since the short season has helped to shake things up and scare some teams into pricing the seats down.

3) People like competitive more than pretty.

Yes, the play has been ragged, and when you see games played on the tail end of back-to-back-to-back nights, you are going to see a lot of bad ball and suspiciously timed injuries... but there's also been a lot of competitive ball, and a relative lack of blowouts. Five fewer points a game may hurt the artistry and fantasy values, but the fans in the stands don't care a whit about that. And defensive intensity is, in and of itself, something to see... and there's been no shortage of that. There's few players in the Association that have let their physical condition go to pot in the layoff.

4) You can watch this league on a great number of platforms... and almost completely avoid idiots while you do it.

I can't tell you how much this last part appeals to me. From where I sit in central New Jersey, I can catch Sixers, Nets and Knicks games, in addition to the TNT, NBA.TV and ESPN/ABC games. With the exception of the prime ABC games with the persistent squeal of Jeff van Gundy, there isn't a bad announcing crew in the mix.

I thought long and hard about even biting on League Pass this year... but the $169 just seemed a bit too much for a league that well and truly cheesed me off with the lockout, and the money timing wasn't great, either. And with three "local" teams, and the East in the ascent, it's really not a hardship.

But the key point remains this... when I watch NFL games, the announcing makes me angry in its stupidity, venality, cronyism and pandering. I get none of those feelings from watching an NBA game. So I'm watching an increasing number of them.

5) It's a pretty great league.

You might hate the Miami Heat... but you want to watch them. You might think Kobe Bryant is an awful human being who deserves nothing but score and hardship... but the fact that he's playing through freaking broken wrist tendons is still all kinds of ballsy. You may despise the Celtics for their fans and their style of play, but they will play hard, and have meaningful games in spring. And there is just so much to like from watching the play of young, athletic, selfless teams like Denver, Philadelphia, Portland, Indiana, Memphis, the Clippers...

Are there problems in the league? Of course; there are problems in every league. There are weak franchises that play terrible ball, cities that have no hope, arenas that are listless and lifeless and devoid of hope. (See Washington, New Jersey, Sacramento, New Orleans, Toronto, etc.)

But there's also a great sense now that movement is possible, that maybe you don't need to win the lottery in the right year and live in a plus market to see quality play, and that you can enjoy the game on your own terms, on your own platform. In a way that's got more concentration of game to hype, and with more purity to the love of game than you might think possible in 2012.

That's why the ratings are up. Because the game matters, and nothing else. And the games are just that good.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule