This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 29, 2003 12:01 AM. The previous post in this blog was I thought the city was broke. The next post in this blog is What's in a name (or a mug shot). Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2003


Watching pro basketball these days gives me the blues.

The Great One, M.J., has bowed out, while some other, lesser icons, like John Stockton, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Arvydas Sabonis and Scottie Pippen, creak along on ancient wheels that are ready to come off, the Mick Jaggers of the sports world. The new stars are Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, whose game is lethal but just not fun to watch. Bringing up the rear behind them is a gang of thuggish second-tier players with some serious behavior problems off the court, along with a bunch of kids who skipped college for the pro ranks and would have dropped out of grammar school for the pro's if that were allowed. They all make millions. Most of them act like they could care less what decent fans think of them.

Adding to the buzz-kill is the NBA's relentless expansion of the schedule. The first round of the playoffs, which used to be a best-of-five format, is now the best of seven. So anemic teams, without a chance, get to drag their fans through an extra two or three games before succumbing to the obvious. We're still in the midst of the first round now, and already it's growing tiresome. Series are spread out, with as many as three days between games. At this rate they'll still be playing on Fourth of July.

Don't turn to the college game for relief from hardwood greed. College conferences have added a whole new layer of playoffs by squeezing in conference tournaments between their regular seasons and the NCAA national tournament. Now players in leagues like the Pac-10 play an extra handful of games after an already stretched-out schedule before heading off to "March madness." The added games are mostly played on weekday afternoons, which makes one wonder who's in class at the participating schools on game days. No one believes that the athletes actually go to school any more (just as no one seriously views them as amateurs), but it's depressing to see thousands of other students being encouraged to cut a week of classes for another road trip to watch still more basketball.

There are probably still some basketball programs of integrity in the high school ranks. But their days may be numbered due to the budget crises in the public schools. For example, if voters in Portland don't vote over the next few weeks to raise their state and local income tax rates from 9 percent to 10.25 percent, there may not be high school sports at all. And counting on Oregon voters to jack up their own taxes is a risky proposition indeed.

In any event, sad as the state of hoops is these days, I still watch the pro game. It's like slowing down to look at a wreck on the highway. But I don't root with passion any more, and whenever it warms up around here (rare so far this year), I get up and away from the screen.

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