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Friday, October 23, 2009

Apathy Draining NBA Fan Base?

Dear NBA:

We're just not that into you.

Perhaps it's a by-product of the technology age where you have a million different distractions fighting for your attention; games, internet, twitter, facebook, guitar hero. Or is it simply a league in decline? Either way the NBA is experiencing an erosion of it's core fan base. Will it return? Is it the game, the league or the fans?

It's been a long time since the NBA's dominance. When Jordan ruled the league and the league ruled all of sports. Can anyone remember one name so dominant? Then came Bird, Magic, Barkley, Malone, Payton. Suddenly we woke up to a league that was alive and flourishing with talent motivated by their competitive spirit; motivated to win titles, not endorsement contracts and Old Spice commercials. Success allowed that to happen, but it was that win-first mentality that drove it, not the other way around.
The influx of endless tv money drove the league to new heights. It was a new threshold for sports. Maybe even the pinnacle.

You can argue we have Kobe vs. LaBron, but it's not the same. Not even close. Great players, for sure, but not rivals. I cannot even think of a great NBA rivalry anymore. Sure, the propoganda machine will be in full force this season trying to hype it up, but it'll ring hollow for most of us.

With the Sonics gone I have no appetite for the NBA. I live in L.A where it'd be easy to jump on the Laker bandwagon, but that idea is laughable. I will never be a Laker fan. Too many bad memories of Lakers-over-the-Sonics highlight (or lowlights) for that to happen. I respect the hell out of the organization because they are constant champions, but I am a Sonic fan at heart, and they are gone.

I thought this apathy was driven from bitterness of the loss of the Sonics, but I was wrong. It goes deeper, and it's not just me. I've discussed the NBA with several friends as the season approaches and they echo my sentiment. "I'm just not that into it anymore" was what they were telling me. These are fans with childhood teams (Houston, Phoenix, Portland) and a long history of support. The luster is gone and the game is boring. Before this season starts we know the Lakers will likely repeat and the top story all season will be King James rumors about his imminent move to New York.

I also plan to stoke the fires with the imminent move of the NBA OUT of OKC, which I fully expect to happen within five years. I also expect the folding or outright relocation of teams. This league has too many and not all will survive the recession. The natural balance will be achieved. Does Memphis really need a team? What about Charlotte and OKC? They survive because of NBA revenue sharing and other welfare programs that merely stave off the obvious: too many teams, too few real men playing the game because they love it, and not enough appetite for either of them. Apathy is spreading throughout this league's fanbase.

Sorry NBA, we're just not that into you.

Warm regards,

The Fans

P.S. I am now seeing NCAA Football pretty seriously, so stop calling me.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Husky Mid-season Report Card

What a difference a coaching staff makes. Half way through the Sark Administration's first season at the helm the Dawgs are a surprising 3-3. They could easily be 4-2 or 2-4. 3-3 is a vast improvement over the disaster that was Willingham. He could not glean one win from this same core group in 12 tries last season? He should be punished for the damage he did to the program and the kids.

Overall grad for this team at the mid-season point: C+/B-. Huge improvements, but there is work to be done to get this program back to its place among the football elite.

Coaching Staff: B. Sark and Holt have done a solid job of getting these kids to play hard for four quarters and have instilled a swagger and confidence that went MIA under the previous regime. The defense has been slow to make adjustments at times. The Husky defense had no answer for the Arizona offense which moved the ball at will. Adjustmetns were non-existant. Not until the final 30 seconds did they pressure Foles. UW played safe and conservative, albiet expectedly. Against ND they could not stop Tate who had a career day. Sark has remade this team's image. He has missed some strategic opportunities (goal line offense vs. ND) to prove he can excel with lesser talent. USC is loaded - UW is not. Over all a very impressive turnaround with a team that is not talent-laden - but there is work to be done as we discover this team and its' coaches learning curve. UW has gone from a laughingstock to a respectable and formidable unit that is clearly on the rise. Expect a monster recruiting class next year, a by-product of the turnaround. This staff’s stock is soaring as this team ascends.

Defense: C+. This is not an overly talented unit. They rely on emotion and momentum and play their best when backed up against the wall. They give up yardage but are feisty when it counts. The linebackers are strong and the secondary, led by Trufant and hero du jour Mason Foster, is maturing rapidly but has a ways to go. The line needs to find ways to get pressure inside (aggressive scheming will help) and become more stout against the run. This unit is improving and is taking on Holt's fiery persona - thankfully. They compete for four quarters as seen in all six games.

Offense: B. Locker is improving as a pocket passer and remains a threat on the ground to be reckoned with. He needs to improve accuracy but that will come with time and under the proper coaching, which he is getting. The running game is a work in progress and needs to improve it's consistency to keep pressure off Locker so he can flourish. The O-line is playing above its head despite injuries and often being outmatched. They play hard and do a pretty good job of pass protection, but it needs to improve, and it will.

The major problem on offense is a receiving corp (C-)that continues to drop passes they need to catch. For as many quality catches this group makes, just as many fall incomplete. These are opportunities that need to be taken advantage of if this team is to reach its offensive potential.

Special teams: C-. Another area of concern. Kickoff coverage is poor. Stanford opened with a return for a TD. Bad coverage and poor strategy - why kick it to their most dangerous threat? Bad planning and worse execution. This unit consistently gives up long returns which set up opponents with strong field position. Happened every time against Arizona - giving an offense they could not stop an extra advantage. This area needs to improve quickly. Punting game is good as is the place-kicking team.

Based on last year's F grade, this team has shown vast improvements. With the next Husky win you can start the "Sark for PAC-10 Coach of the Year" hype machine. If they get to a bowl game we're talking National Coach of the Year. Locker is on pace to be the PAC-10's Offensive Player of the Year.

Overall this team and staff are a C+/B- and are likely to only improve as the system takes hold, players naturally improve, confidence soars and they expect to win. This is a a huge improvement in all areas from last year. Purple Pride is back!

6-0 gets all A grades. 0-6 gets F's.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Blunder Notch First Loss!

The OKC Blunder stormed out of the preseason gates on Wednesday and promptly lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, 99-91. The Blunder picked up where they left off last season: losing! According to future ex-Blunder Kevin Durant "I think [the game] was a step forward." He probably means a step closer to the day he leaves the dust bowl in his rear view mirror. No one loses to the Grizzlies and uses it as a 'step forward'. Durant had 17 points in the losing effort.

Byron Mullins led the Blunder lowlights with one point while top draft pick James Harden went 1-6 from three-point land.

As part of Daid Stern's 'get tough' negotiating policy with the refs, Michael Henderson, was called back as a replacement official during the current lockout and was part of Wednesday's officiating crew. Henderson was fired by the league in 2005.

Stay classy, David Stern!

Preseason record: 0-1
Next loss: Saturday at New Orleans.
Season outlook: dusty

More corndogs! More Losses! More Blunder!