Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kobe Takes Down Manu; I Ponder Sports

Kobe Bryant getting suspended for jacking Manu Ginobili in the face raised more than a few issues, in my mind, at least.

First, he definitely did it on purpose. KB24 has arguably the most gorgeous follow-through on the planet; there is no earthly reason why his arm would suddenly spasm out to the side like he was Tayshaun Prince. Manu dropped like a sack of rocks which was the first time I've seen him go down where he was actually touched. I think all the blood makes up for the countless times he's hit the hardwood completely of his own accord.

And I actually agreed with Skip Bayless (There are more than a few reasons not to like Skip - like his flawless irrationality - but why is he so angry? The tiniest things make him so, so mad. Why the squinty face, Skip?): I think Kobe thought it was Bruce Bowen, and he just couldn't resist getting a shot in on him. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Bowen is the dirtiest, chintziest player in the NBA, and it isn't even close. Add Kobe to the ever-growing list of players who hate him (Francis, Steve; Allen, Ray; Carter, Vince...I'm forgetting someone here, I think). It is kind of interesting that Bowen can get under Kobe's skin like that, though, and Raja Bell famously pissed him off, too. Whether thats good, bad or irrelevant I don't know, but it does make me feel a little better than certain defenders used to infuriate me to no end back in the day.

But he certainly did make a "non-basketball act" - that's a pretty clever and succinct definition, I think, although hitting Bruce Bowen in the face should be made to fall under that category - and he did so above the neck - again, that phrasing was designed to describe a punch, but this certainly falls under that category, too - but did he deserve a one-game suspension? No, I don't think so, but the NBA is scared to death of any bad pub involving fights, and Kobe clearly did break the rule, if not the spirit of it, then certainly the letter of it.

Now, Kobe was suspended for the Lakers only appearance at Madison Square Garden, and since he was a few blocks from Stern HQ, he offered to swing by the office for an instant appeal. Stern & Co. quickly declined so as not to show a superstar preferential treatment - which seems to be the only area in which the NBA doesn't rush to separate its superstars from the everyday player; something tells me Dwyane Wade would have been in that office - which I suppose is fair if not altogether consistent.

What I don't understand is why he just didn't hand in his appeal and then play that night against the Knicks. Maybe I just don't understand the NBA's rules on appeals, but can't you play until your appeal is heard, or am I confusing the NBA with MLB? If that isn't the case, what, then, is the point of an appeal exactly? Just to get your money back? Maybe the Lakers thought they could beat the Knicks without Kobe - I mean, really, if you are going to miss a game, who better to miss it against than the Knicks (oh, the Celtics) - so why chance missing him for a more important conference or division game down the road. I don't think the Lakers are winning too many games with the Kobester in street clothes, though; I would have done everything in my power to get him on the court. Phil Jackson's threat to intentionally sit Kobe against Cleveland in a week in retaliation was genius if not empty; only Phil's coming up with that one.

There was a sentiment from the media, though, summed up if not the best, then at least the most bluntly, by Mitch Lawrence from the NY Daily News that professional hoops is entertainment and that they should keep that in mind when they sit down their best entertainer on their biggest stage. He asks, "Doesn't anyone over at the NBA remember that it's in the entertainment business, first and foremost?"

Is it really entertainment, though? If it was entertainment, wouldn't every game be more like an All-Star game, with players trying to be as impressive as possible? Would the league allow certain franchises to turn putrid, who no chance of every entertaining anybody? It is all debatable, and it is unarguable that the trappings of the entertainment industry aren't all over the NBA, but is itsn't purely entertainment. And that, I think, is the reason why I love sports so much. Not just hoops, but all sports. As much as people want to compare it to other aspects of life, it just can't convincingly be done.

Sports is entertainment. Sports is a business. Sports are pure athletic competition. Sports is all about winning. Sports is an escape from the real world. Sports can help rebuild a city. None of these are true, but all of these are true. Sports is a completely unique situation comparable to nothing else in life. It takes aspects of nearly everything from the "real world," which is why it can be used as a metaphor for basically everything, but there is nothing completely like it.

Is sports entertainment? Sure it is. But a lot of times the best way to be successful are the least entertaining - think banking home the fifteen-footer instead of driving into traffic, kicking the field goal on 4th and 1, hitting the sac fly to move over the runner, laying up instead of going for the green - perhaps "purists" can derive some pleasure from that, but it is by no means entertaining.

Is sports a business? Sure it is. But would a real business actively and repeatedly hire employees who were by no means ready for the job in which they were hired? Would they agree to let the worst business in their market have the best new employee in a given year? Is there another business sector in the world where employees are forbidden from making over a certain amount of money? There might be, but I can't think of it, and yet teams routinely draft players who won't be ready to help thier team for three years, lousy teams are given the best players through drafts and most sports have some form of a salary cap. That doesn't seem to reflect the real world to me.

Are sports about competition? Sure they are. But teams and players routinely tank games, they leave venues in which winning is a better possibility for worse situations in which they are paid more and teams throw games and seasons to improve playoff position or draft order.

I don't know what my point is exactly, but it is just all incredibly interesting to me. There really isn't anything else you can compare it to in which the analogy works 100%. It doesn't fall under any one category. Any "breaking news" that takes place in the sporting world could probably be reclassified in another section of the newspaper - Business, Life, Arts, News - it really covers all the spectrums.

If anyone can compare sports to anything else in life, I would love to hear it. I don't think you can, though, and that is a huge reason why sports is so appealing to me.

1 comments so far. Might as well add your own.:

3BSaver said...

Sports can be compared to a marriage. At first the team seems great and works well together. It looks like they will be great forever. Then they hit a rough spot and things keep going wrong. Then a new player comes along that looks better. The team has to choose between the old and new. Some will stay and others will go and the cycle starts all over again. Remember the days when players used to stay with a team for most of their career. What happened to that? NFL drives me crazy; hmm let’s see who’s on the team this year? Must be why I like college sports better then professional at least the players stick around for awhile.