David Stern is ruining my life. Not directly or purposefully or anything like that, but slowly and surely his influence is crippling me in ways that will undoubtedly make life much more difficult than it needs to be. And that, my friends, is wrong. Maybe he’ll see this and change his ways. Or maybe he’ll blow it off like he does the hundreds of other inconsequential things that he finds on his desk every day. I’ll make my case all the same. Someone will read this and identify with my struggle and then, perhaps, we can work together to right the ship that is my life and get me in a better position. Maybe I’ll even be able to get a hug.
I’ve been a basketball junkie for as long as I can remember. I don’t know what started it or when it started, but I do have memories of reading the newspaper and analyzing box scores before I stopped being afraid of the dark. I’d check out books from the library and read up on everything NBA that I could find. There’d be games at the basketball court in my family’s backyard where I’d pretend to be any number of players, depending on what I was trying to do, what game I’d seen that day or who I’d just read up on. Looking back on it now, it was fairly ridiculous how a child could be that obsessed with a game that he wasn’t even that good at. I mean, I didn’t suck that bad, but I certainly didn’t end up in the league or anything. By the by, I wanted to play pro ball until high school athletics taught me better and I had never given any thought to doing anything else. It made choosing a career a very difficult thing. But I digress.
The point I’m trying to make here is that I simply can’t envision myself ever living a life that isn’t heavily dependent on hoops. It’s just been a part of my life for so long that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t coming home three or four times a week and looking to see who was playing and structuring my evening around a televised game. Coming home and turning to TNT on Thursdays, ESPN on Wednesdays and Fridays and NBATV any other day to see if there’s anything I’m missing. Herein lies the problem: all of the stations found above are found on cable television.
For many people, the extra channels and entertainment that are provided by cable TV (or satellite, whatever your preference) are an extravagance that they cannot afford, don’t have available or simply don’t want. Which means that there are millions of folks who haven’t had the chance to witness the excitement of the young 2005-06 season and won’t have the opportunity to do so until Christmas Day. Even then they’ll only see a game on ABC around once a week. For the casual fan this might work out fine, but I would be miserable. Which is why I must live with my parents until further notice.
You see, while under my parents’ roof I have access to enough basketball coverage to keep me sane. I go to sleep to NBATV and wake up to SportsCenter. Once the college season starts I’ll have even more things to do with my time, but the NBA will always take precedence over any other forms of basketball. Moving out means that I’d have to pay more bills. I have my own set already, but those do not include electricity, water, rent, or cable. As far as I’m concerned, all of those are necessities. Necessities that I can’t afford working part time and going to school the other part of the time. Sure, moving out means I could act like a regular 23-year-old guy. I’m quite sure that there are oats that could be sown and maturity and life experience to be gained, but I’m not sure it’s worth not being able to satiate my basketball jones without spending every night at a sports bar.
One thing could make life much easier: if basketball returned to the airwaves that you don’t have to pay for. I’m aware of the contracts that the networks have with the League and I know how much money is tied up into them. I’m also aware that the number households without a way to watch those networks is dwindling quickly. But what is it that’s really important here? Is it about the rich getting richer? Is it about finding the best and most convenient outlet for your sport to thrive? Or is it about love? Isn’t preserving the love affair between the game and the fans the most important thing here? Surely Stern, if no one else, could understand this. He’s nurtured the league for twenty years or so now. He’s had a tremendous amount of influence in making basketball a global sport. Surely he’s thought about the tot in Timbuktu who yearns to be like Tim Duncan one day and wishes to chronicle as much of his life as possible. I know he’s considered the kid in Kazakhstan whose lone desire is to be like Kobe Bryant when he’s not in Colorado. He’s lamenting the lad in Laos who could be the next LeBron if only he didn’t have to have $45.95 a month so that he could know the King, isn’t he?
Of course he isn’t. The NBA is a business and Stern likely doesn’t give a newborn’s nuts about me or anyone else not living in a city with a team who wants their basketball slotted between Seinfeld reruns and their late local news. The numbers are such that he’s still getting paid and that his employees are likely the highest paid in the world regardless of how many people miss out on Premiere Week or whatever the running gimmick is. All of those people get to wait until the tail end of the season and for the Finals so they can get brought up to speed about what’s happened in the preceding months of the season. Which, to me, is a shame.