Here we are, a few days into the second round of the NBA postseason, and already I'm pining for the first round. And I don't just mean Boston-Chicago. Even Atlanta-Miami would do.
As protracted as those eight initial series were -- shorter than most recessions, longer than some pregnancies -- we could have used a best-of-15 format to really develop some budding storylines of raw, human emotion, actual dislike and even unadulterated hatred, without which we're at risk of rooting for mere calisthenics.
Just when the Celtics and the Bulls were getting truly sick of each other after seven bitterly fought games and seven overtime periods, the darn thing ended. No sooner did we see
At least Celtics guard
It's a proven theory of physics -- from the McHale-Rambis school, I believe -- that friction equals time plus force plus rate, multiplied by an overall fatigue from seeing the other guys' same ugly mugs night after night. Throw some really high stakes into the mix and the natural propensity for extreme competitors to bend rules right to the point of breaking and, usually, NBA playoff viewers can count on some hard fouls, angry glares, semi-skirmishes and overhead camera shots tracking exactly which players did, and which players didn't, leave the bench area during the brouhaha. Then we all get to play acting commish, prending to dole out the next day's suspensions.
Look, for the record, I'm not a hater. I suppose I am a little bit of a hater-lover, though. I love it when opponents comport themselves like combatants. I love it when they take the court for tip-off the way heavyweights take to the ring for title bouts, entering from opposite sides of the arena, they and them vs. you and yours, then stand nose-to-nose with death stares before the opening bell. I love it that those guys, within the boundaries of criminal law, see each other as obstacles to be knocked down, predators trying to swipe food from each other's table.
I'd love the NBA a little more at this time of year, too, if LeBron, Kobe, Dwight, Chauncey, Dirk, Josh, Paul and even Ron -- what the heck, let's go with first names since we're all pals here, pledged to a great multibillion dollar fraternity -- acted instead like eight dogs, one bone.
A big part of the problem is the who. There's no
The NBA hierarchy prides itself on wringing out any NHL fisticuffs or MLB grab-and-hold field dances from its sport, and it largely has succeeded. The lack of pads and helmets, the proximity of fans and the in-our-laps vantage points courtesy of HDTV pretty much requires heavy filtering of the mayhem. Time was, even the brightest stars --
Now we can't even expect pushing, shoving or vitriol when it's
Just for your fans, too, and the sense that something big and coveted is at stake. And worth all the hours and dollars and emotions we invest in it.
The competition of the NBA postseason is legit. The skill level, breathtaking. The drama played out on the scoreboard and the game clocks, compelling. But the great thing about a genuine dislike in a long series or, better yet, through the renewal of irritations, slights, bruises and rivalries that develop and fester over years, is that they add zest to all of the above, for the participants and the viewers alike.
If it wasn't for bad blood, a bluesman would say, the NBA playoffs might not have no blood at all.