One of the drawbacks of being a columnist is occasionally having to write insane, rambling, borderline incoherent insane ramblings and then try to justify these random words and phrases as a cogent thought you squeezed out of your very own mind grapes. For example:
Sigh. Excuse me while I go all Fire Joe Morgan on what is sure to be quite the tone poem, after the jump.
Over the next couple of weeks you’ll hear lots of theories about why TV ratings are surging for the NBA playoffs.
Hmm, well, there may be lots of theories, but the correct ones will be the ones that mention (A) the fact that this season has been repeatedly noted by the press as being one of the most exciting ones in recent memory, and (2) that the NBA has trotted out some pretty great advertising campaigns this year, including these rather awesome split-screen TV spots. Also, with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers now in the Finals, two of most popular franchises ever have been playing their asses off.
Of course it helps that large TV markets with storied franchises (Boston and Los Angeles) are still alive and favorites to make the NBA Finals. And, yes, it helps that the league’s two most successful franchises over the last five years (San Antonio and Detroit) are competing against the Lakers and the Celtics.
Hey, that’s almost like what I said!
But there’s one issue driving improved ratings that likely won’t be touched by all the NBA talking heads on TNT and ESPN.
I’ll mention here that Jason Whitlock is, at times, one of the better sports writers in America — or, at the very least, one of the most fearless. He speaks to bloggers more frequently than most other mainstream media personalities; he takes controversial positions on race relations, but seldom backs down and is always ready to defend himself. Also, along the way, he gained the fabulous nickname, “Big Sexy.” All of this is to say, I like Jason Whitlock, and if he claims there’s another important issue at stake here, I’m willing to listen.
Tattoos. Or rather the lack of tattoos in the conference finals.
Part of the reason more people are watching these playoffs is because the average fan isn’t constantly repulsed by the appearance of most of the players on the court.
Maybe I’m bad at being a basketball fan, but I’m usually more concerned with the incredible feats of strength and agility being performed on a basketball court than the barbed-wire some guy has on his bicep.
Most of the key players left in the playoffs don’t look like recent prison parolees.
Neither do most of the players who have been eliminated, but hey. You’re the nationally respected sportswriter, I guess.
The only accurate way to describe Garnett, Pierce, Duncan, Allen, Manu, Parker and even Kobe is “clean cut.” Yeah, there are a couple of tattoos in that group — Duncan has something on his back, Kobe still has his post-rape-allegation tat — but the Lakers, Spurs and Celtics have far less ink on average than your typical NBA franchise.
For those keeping score at home: Tim Duncan’s tattoo is the exact same as the metaphorical tattoo Kobe Bryant wears in the form of residual shame after being accused of raping a woman. If you have trouble understanding this equation, please see Dr. Whitlock to pick up your crazy-pills.
Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony have more tats on their hands than the entire Spurs roster.
Also, they’re incredibly talented players and often seen as being far more interesting as human beings than the robotic Spurs, who are renowned for lacking anything resembling human qualities.
I know many of you probably think the number of tattoos doesn’t influence viewing habits.
*shakes hand wildly*
*starts pounding head on desk with hand in the air*
You’re wrong. Like everything else televised, appearances matter. There’s a reason you don’t see nude scenes in movies with fat people. Trust me, fat people have sex. It’s just no one wants to see it. Not even fat people.
And take it from Whitlock, a bona fide fat dude! Anyway, of course appearances matter, but we’re talking about a professional sport where the average height is like eight feet. People watching the NBA should be used to seeing humans who look slightly different than the average person.
No one wants to watch Delonte West or Larry Hughes play basketball. It’s uncomfortable and disconcerting. You don’t want your kids to see it.
True story: West and Hughes are bad at playing basketball. Especially Hughes. Terrible form for your kids to take after. Makes me kind of sick just thinking about it, actually.
You don’t want your kids to think they should decorate their neck, arms, hands, chest and legs in paint. You don’t want to waste time explaining to your kids that some millionaire athletes have so little genuine self-confidence that they find it necessary to cover themselves in tattoos as a way to mask their insecurities.
Oh … you meant because they’re tattooed. Right. Well, I mean, Allen Iverson seems about as self-assured as professional athletes come: when his Nuggets were about to face Kobe and the Lakers, he made several comments saying that Kobe — this season’s MVP — is still not as good as he is. Maybe he just likes tattoos?
You just want to watch basketball and feel like you’re watching people you can relate to a little bit, people you somewhat respect.
Like I said, you’re watching eleven-foot-tall supermen who make no less than $275,000 a year. I’m sure many of them are very nice guys, but on what level are you relating to them? Sure, Gilbert Arenas likes to hang out at home and play video games, but his home is a castle the size of your street and his plasma screen is made out of the actual plasma of endangered leopards.
We finally have that again on the NBA’s biggest stage, and everyone can see it because the league’s substance isn’t covered in a barrel of tattoo ink.
OH BECAUSE OTHERWISE WE COULDN’T SEE BECAUSE OF ALL THE INK LOL
It’s a television show. Pleasant smiles, non-threatening people sell products better than menacing, tattooed brutes.
Like Signal to Noise mentioned, the latest issue of Sports Illustrated features a cover story on Josh Hamilton, the heavily tattooed center fielder of the Texas Rangers who happens to be one of the best players in baseball this season. I mean, considering I don’t know what the fuck Sports Illustrated is and can only assume they’re a brand new “sports” “blog” or something or other that was only created in order to fail miserably, it would stand to reason that they would put this totally unmarketable, tattooed freak on their cover. Fucking idiots. I bet he doesn’t even have a winning smile.
If I was David Stern, I’d commission Nike and/or Under Armor to create a basketball jersey with long sleeves, all the way down to the wrists. I’d make Iverson wear a turtleneck jersey with sleeves. I’d cover the tats.
Good idea. Luckily, David Stern isn’t a moron and would have you forcibly removed from his office before you could even finish making this suggestion. You know, the Nazis had turtlenecks they made the Jews wear.
Do you think Sports Illustrated would let its swimsuit models cover themselves in tattoos? Models are paid to look good.
Also, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models are very frequently airbrushed with colorful designs that may as well be tattoos. And, hey, they still look good! Admittedly, though, I do mean good enough for this so-called Sports Illustrated thing that neither I nor anyone else has ever even heard of.
Athletes are no different from models.
They’re actually completely different, aside from the general lack of body fat.
It’s unfortunate that too many young athletes are too unenlightened to approach the game like a business. They resist almost all ideas that would put more money in their pockets. They have to be forced to do the little things that would help them make more money.
You know, I’d argue the more unfortunate trend is that young athletes are encouraged to be all about the business end of things. Not to say that they shouldn’t be coached and expected to be as professional as possible, but treating the game strictly like a business leads to athletes with no real personalities of their own — just soulless shills for their sponsors, driven by the desire to squeeze a few more dollars rather than enjoying themselves and their status as some of the best athletes in the world in one of the most physically taxing sports leagues in the world. Isn’t there a certain purity in a player who would rebuff sponsors and, instead, get all tattooed and kick ass on his own terms?
Growing NBA ratings is what’s best for the players in the long term. Adopting a non-prison-ready appearance would help everyone in the league earn more money. But no one will talk about it.
Ratings were high all season long, even when these miscreants and ruffians were still in action. Also, the idea that, “no one will talk about it” is as absurd as it is incorrect: just a few seasons ago, NBA commissioner David Stern instituted a new policy that required all players not playing on a particular day to follow a fairly strict dress code and to not wear “street clothes,” which is kind of the same thing, right?
Maybe Stern (correctly) assumed that, considering how many of the league’s elite players have tattoos — I would wager it’s somewhere around 99% — it would be idiotic to tell them to, you know, not get them? Or to punish the ones that do? Wouldn’t that be worse for business — to water down the talent pool to just the ink-free — than letting these goddamn thugs and circus freaks just play basketball?