Monday, May 21, 2007

2007 NBA Playoffs = Day Six of 24

Sports Media Watch reports that Game One of the Western Conference Final drew a nice 3.8 rating share yesterday. In case you aren't a big Nielsen person, I will tell you that is not good. It is down 43% from last year and barely topped Fox's audience from the day before for a regular season baseball game between the Mets and Yankees. Subway Series or not, that is embarrassing. Oh, and it was likely the worst rating ever for a Conference Final game. Good times!

The plight of the NBA this spring reminds a lot of the nose dive that 24 has taken this year and both paragons of entertainment fell for the same reason: an absolute belief that the story trumps the actors.

In addition to being completely obsessed with building the NBA fan base in foreign markets (at great cost to millions of Americans who used to like professional basketball), David Stern seems to have a misplaced confidence that the NBA is a league that people will watch no matter what. He thinks he can take a hard line on an unfair rule and face no repercussions. Or that all the rule changes designed to improve the game can be thrown out the window and ignored in the playoffs with no issues. Wrong.

Stern didn't have to rig anything for the Suns to keep this ship afloat; all he had to do was parse some language (which he did quite favorably for Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen) in the interest of fairness. Instead, he decided to flex his great power, keep the corporate fat cats happy that the "brawl problem" is constantly "being addressed," and send the playoffs into a swan song. Stern's problem isn't that he "wants" the Spurs to win or anything like that, but rather that he exhibited such incredible hubris in believing that the NBA could bone over its most entertaining team in the most unfair, ludicrous, and public way possible and that fans somehow wouldn't mind. (Or even worse, Stern knew this would happen, but doesn't care, because he's too busy sitting around in his Yao jersey counting all that Chinese Television money.) It is funny, because usually sports feature conspiracies based on TV interests, yet the one time we needed a league to use ratings as part of a common sense ruling, they were too arrogant to consider the business ramifications. Oh, the irony!

We've seen similar arrogance on 24, as the show's creators made the fatal mistake of assuming that people loved the show primarily for the ticking clock and story lines, ignoring the value of the characters. The show was lucky - as nearly all good and successful TV shows are - to come up with a great initial cast featuring the noble Tony Almeda, the sinister Nina Myers, and the great David Palmer. Now they are dead, dead, and dead. Not only that, but good replacement characters like Michelle Dessler (dead), Curtis Manning (dead), Chase Edmonds (hand cut off, then moved away), Sherry Palmer (dead), and Charles Logan (likely dead, stabbed in the neck at the very least) were all dispatched with equal glee. They sacrificed one character after another in exchange for story, craving those big water cooler moments that put the show on the map. In killing off all the good characters, they assumed incorrectly that they could just replace them and keep churning along. Now the stories are tired, the format is old, and there aren't any supporting characters to care about.

I realize the two situations aren't exactly similar, but there is something of a power complex that ties them together. This strange hubris that comes from believing that you sit atop an unassailable product; one so fantastic that people will keep tuning in regardless of what drab "actors" you throw at them. Audiences are proving - with authority - that this is not true.

So next time Joel Surnow decides to kill off another character (are there any left?) or David Stern decides to patronize the whole world and show off his power while issuing a completely unfair ruling, they might want to consider just how deep their viewers' loyalties go. (Here's a hint: not nearly as far as they thought.)


Christina said...

All I can say is that I'm ecstatic that the NBA is suffering in its ratings. I truly hope that each game gets fewer viewers than the last, and maybe then they will realize what a huge mistake they made.

With any luck, they will finally start calling the proper fouls on San Antonio players when they are committed (ie, constantly) and maybe get a chance to screw the Spurs over in the playoffs. Hey, its karma!

jwilliams said...

While the ratings are poor, I dont think its due to the fan anger over the suspensions. It comes down to two things, fans perfer teams that play fast break basketball and if the teams in question dont they better be from big cities. Since the Jazz and Spurs are neither the ratings will stink.

Second even if the suspensions never happened it is still an even chance the Spurs would have won anyway. In the Nash era the Spurs were 6-4 in Phoenix. I doubt the ratings would be any different if the Spurs won wasnt "tainted."

Third, while you claim that the Stern should rig the league to ensure teams like the Spurs are eliminated, some of your post indicate otherwise. You vastly overstate the advantage the Spurs have with the refs, if it exists at all. You constantly call for rule changes to clean up contact on the perimter but ignore the violence of the post. While I dont think you want the league to rig games, I do think its fair to infer that you want the league to constantly change the rules to prevent the Spurs style of basketball from being succesful. Once the Spurs were eliminated under these rules I think your complaints would stop

Adam Hoff said...

I specifically say that Stern should not and did not have to rig anything. That would be incredibly lame. But the way he went about dealing with this situation indicated that he didn't care at all about TV ratings (which is weird, and overly confident) or about fairness (which is just wrong). The guy is an absolute egomaniac and needs to be stopped.

I don't "call" for anything or "ignore" anything. I don't care what rules they put in place as long as they enforce them. Hand checking on the perimeter was the BIG deal the last few years and is pretty much the reason Miami won the title last year and why guys are routinely scoring around (or over) 30 a game again. Organizations built their teams almost completely around this trend. You can go back and check all the offseason chatter - it was the driving force behind almost every deal. They kept calling it that way all year this season. Then ... in the playoffs ... it just stopped. What are teams supposed to to this offseason? Build their team based on how the regular season was called or the postseason? Is there a way to project whether the games will be called like the 06 playoffs or the 07 playoffs? It's madness.

I disagree that the ratings are this poor just because of the teams. The Jazz actually play pretty fast and were a solid draw against both Houston and GSW. Obviously their opponent was the bigger ratings horse in each series, but Utah is fairly appealing. I do think the NBA lost the casual fan with the way teams advanced. But I know of at least 15 "real" fans who are just fed up and aren't watching it anymore. (Just like with 24, I might add.)

At this point, it is just Utah, S.A., Cleveland, Detroit, a few hard core NBA obsessives (like me), and the handful of people who might turn in here and there to watch LeBron. That's it. I think they lost a sizable chunk of legit NBA fans with this trainwreck of a postseason.

Anonymous said...

"I don't care what rules they put in place as long as they enforce them."
I believe that is what Stern did.

And as far as Karma is concerned the, Spurs took a royal screw job in Game 4 from the Refs, so I think it balanced out. See your boy's Game 4 blog, he says so too.

It's odd the Suns style of play dosen't win, when it works so well for Hot Sauce and the One 1 crew.
I'm glad Stern won't compromise his integrity for a popular team full of whiners.

Keller said...

Dude, Spurs fans, let it go. You guys whine about the Suns whining more than the Suns whine. Wow, that was wordy.

Let it go! You guys won, get over it.

Anonymous said...

I have been an NBA fan since I was 12 years old. I am a fan of 3 NBA teams, for various reasons, the Suns, Celtics, and Jazz. I started watching the Celtics the year after their last championship in 1986. I watched one of the greatest players of all time deteriorate every year after 1987. And have been watching the Celtics “rebuild” ever since he left.

I have cheered for Stockton and Malone and watched year after year as they got closer to their ultimate goal, only to see Jordan take it from them, twice. But there were no “what ifs” about those series. The better team won, Jordan was Jordan. Since 1998 the Jazz have basically been rebuilding, even though Stockton and Malone stuck around for a few more years.

And in 1993 I moved to Phoenix and fell in love with the Suns, and watched another team gets crushed by Jordan. Shortly after that Barkley left, Kevin Johnson retired and the suns rebuilt, had a couple good years with Jason Kid running the show, but never close to a title run.

So finally, one of my teams, Phoenix is clearly starting their title run, a title run that has been in the making for the last 3 years. And this is how it ends, a cheap shot in game 4 that changed the whole series. Clearly the any idiot spurs fan can make the case that they would have won anyway. Fine, I can live with that, the Spurs are a great team and there was a good chance they would have won anyway. But we fans deserved to see who the better team was with all our players on the floor. Title runs don’t come often, they are rare, and so are the players that make it happen. Anyone want to take bets that Nash’s numbers are better or worse next year?

So for me, its not just about this one series, or the season. Its about 20 years of my time, energy, and passion for the game. Just to see some little man sputter and stammer, “Well, a rules a rule”, and shove any kind of justice to the wayside. Stern can take his rules and his league and shove them up his a**.

I am a Jazz fan. I didn’t watch the game on Sunday, and I won’t watch any games for the rest of the season, what’s the point?

Rick said...

The nba has had a bad year. Amazingly they are still perplexed about what ball to use next year. If you ask Stern about next years ball, he won't have a straight answer for you.

After all the misery they went through this year, the obvious answer is - We are sticking with the good ol leather ball for the next 100 years. But that isn't Stern's answer.

He still wants a better ball. If they can't figure out that the ball is just fine, how will they ever sort out anything else?

jk-1 said...

I heard a story that the Spurs didn't sell out Game 1. Anyone know if this is true?

Weird stuff. I guess I'd like to think it's because the fans thought it was tainted, but it probably has something more to do with a lack of passion.

Garry Shuck said...

The anonymous Suns/Celtic fan is spot on--people aren't pissed that the Suns lost. People are pissed at how the series played out. Yes, a rule is a rule, and you can argue that D. Stern did just as he should have. You can also argue that he could have exercised some judgement and let the Suns players off the hook.

The ratings were bound to drop if the Spurs moved on, but there are a lot of NBA fans (myself included) who continue to watch the entirety of the playoffs even when their favorite team has been knocked out. After the suspensions there was quite a bit of online-buzz to the effect of people saying "I'm not going to watch the rest now.", and you're seeng that play out.

And yes, it is true that the Spurs did not sell out a Sunday afternoon home game for the Western Conference Finals 2 days after they knocked off the team that was probably the greatest obstacle to them getting another title this year. That alone speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

The only defense that is offered up for the suspensions, whether it's from the Stu & Stern Show, or anyone in San Antonio, is "A rule's a rule."

The problem with that is that the NBA is the ultimate place where a rule really ISN'T a rule. Nobody believes that the superstars are called the same as everyone else. A rule is a rule - unless your name is Jordan, or Duncan, or Bryant. I'll never forget the spectacle of Bibby's nose fouling Kobe's elbow.

Everyone says the "leaving the bench" is a zero tolerance rule... I think it's probably the only one the NBA has. Everyone knows that, and it makes any zero tolerance action justification a mockery.

Anonymous said...

As a suns fan, I would lose interest in the suns and basketball if I thought the championship was being handed to my team on a silver platter. Could it be that deep down there are a few spurs fans that feel the NBA did the wrong thing with the recent suspensions? What other explanation is there to not sell out game one in the western conference championship? And I don’t buy the explanation that the Jazz aren’t a good team or that they are not fun to watch. Anyone who watched the Jazz/Golden State sereies knows that the Jazz can be just as fun and run and gun as GS or the Suns.

Anonymous said...

Stopy crying, seriously. Go read past posts and it nothing but bitching and moaning about why this happened, why Stern is the devil, why the Spurs are lucky and no one cares.

Reality: Mike D'Antonio and Nash screwed the Suns's fans.

Reason: Mike played Nash to much in Game 5. In fact, he should have watched all of his starters minutes. You know you are going to lose, why waste your team's legs?

Reason: Nash breaks down EVERY year around Game 93/94. Last year he did it against Dallas, this year he did it again. This is a trend that goes back to his Dallas days. In fact, one of my buddies in Dallas a Maverick's fan pointed it out after Nash signed with the Suns.

Ratings suck because everyone talks about how "boring" the Spurs are to watch.

Wake up.

Greg Anthony said it best after the win last Friday. Tony Parker and Manu Ginoboli are not boring.

Perhaps the ratings are down because ABC's telecast promotion is horrible?!

What were the ratings for last nights game? That was a boring game.

Anonymous said...

For sake of disclosure, I am a Suns fan. For the better part of 20 years I've watched Phoenix do well in the regular season and then get physically beat to hell in the post season.

So now along comes Nash and the current gang, the NBA announces with great fanfare and embellishments that they are cleaning up the game. Yes! I cry. Basketball and not hockey! Here we go!

Then the house of cards collapses…“no really, go ahead and beat the snot out of the best point guard in the game, we won’t call any fouls”

The Suns get screwed…the suspensions, and don’t give me any crap about rules are rules ‘cause if that were the case Duncan would have been suspended too

…and finally, I am left devoid of passion.

I give up on the NBA...and their sponsors.

It seems that this is the only way a consumer can effect change. I'm not watching. I'm not buying. These bastards aren’t going to get one penny of mine. I've written letters to the NBA & their sponsors saying so...and why. Maybe when it hits their pocketbook they'll get the message.

And here’s the response I received today by email from the NBA…

“Thank you for taking the time to contact us about the suspensions of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw of the Phoenix Suns. Although we probably will not change your mind, we wanted to share with you the rationale for the rule and the facts requiring our decision…blah, blah, blah”

But they did respond at least. As I told a good friend from Austin (yes, a damned Spurs fan (grin)), the Suns-Spurs series brought out everything that is bad about the NBA. Hopefully this will be a catalyst for change. When they change, I’ll come back…but not until then.

Creed said...

Reason: Mike played Nash to much in Game 5. In fact, he should have watched all of his starters minutes. You know you are going to lose, why waste your team's legs?

Did you actually watch that game?

D'Antoni probably planned to limit minutes. But then the Suns came out hot, and the Spurs stunk. Hard. If you had a chance to hold on to a game everyone thought you should lose, and avoid an elimination Game 6 on the road, wouldn't you?

This series was decided in Game 5. D'Antoni knew it, Nash knew it, and the rest of the team knew it. That's why they stayed in. They lost by 3, following an incredible SA run which included what, 5 three pointers?

Which are more valuable minutes - holding onto that 10 point lead, or a road game? I don't see the Suns winning Game 6 under any circumstances... They played hard and risky, and almost pulled it out.

Anonymous said...

If any of your boycotts and internet buzz amounted to crap, we wouldn't be stuck with George Bush as our President.
And the spurs did sellout game 1. That's a hoax.

j said...

"And the Spurs did sell out game 1!" [/pouting

Poor thing, are you smarting about something? Why don't Spurs fans just go enjoy their own team rather than spending all their time on the Internet talking about a team that's not even in the playoffs anymore? Can't you guys find some Jazz fans to pick on? Or does the current series not hold your interest?

Anonymous said...

And the spurs did sellout game 1. That's a hoax.

San Antonio playoff home game attendance, via Yahoo Sports:
v Denver, G1: 18,797
v Denver, G2: 18,797
v Denver, G5: 18,797
v Phoenix, G3: 18,797
v Phoenix, G4: 18,797
v Phoenix, G6: 18,797
v Utah, G1: 18,300
v Utah, G2: 18,797

I know the numbers are a bit large for a San Antonio fan, but one of these is not like the others...

Anonymous said...

Jazz fans aren't a bunch of whiners, so it's not as fun to pick on them.
They take their beating like men.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I'm glad I am not the only one who's noticed how the new rules on perimeter contact have gone completely out the window this postseason!

Obviously the Phoenix suspensions were horrible, but I think the allowance of hand-checking gave a consistent advantage to SA and Utah in the second round that was probably more significant. Not that the officiating was necessarily one-sided, but PHX and GS seem to have more of a "finesse" identity that lead most of them to avoid contact on D, while Utah lead the league in fouls during the regular season and the Spurs featured Bruce Bowen hitting Steve Nash 6 times per possession.

Rip Hamilton fouling LeBron 3 times on his last possession of game 2 is just the latest example. I am really disappointed that the league hasn't tried to bring the officiating back in line with the standards they used throughout the regular season. Why wouldn't they do that, considering it was their pet rule in the first place?