645 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10222
BCC: David Stern
FROM: Commissioner Adam Silver
SUBJECT: The recent NFL unpleasantness
Gentlepeople / Dolan,
Before I adjourn for the day to go watch Roger Goodell’s office continue its material dissolution into the death ether, I wanted to share some thoughts about what football’s current crisis means for our humble league. Please excuse any typos, as my schadenfreude joy tears have rendered this keyboard rather slippery.
In the eight years since Commissioner Goodell assumed the NFL reins, his “nonprofit organization” has amassed quite the PR rap sheet. They’ve given less money to breast cancer research than JaMarcus Russell has spent on cough syrup chalices. They scheduled a Super Bowl halftime show featuring the Black Eyed Peas. One of their teams has cheated more chronically than a Tammany Hall ballot-counter. They’ve witnessed a disturbing torrent of domestic violence cases (including one in which initially received a two-game suspension for—this really happened—punching his wife out in a casino elevator). They’ve tragically lost multiple former players to suicide. They’ve willfully undermined the clear scientific connection between physics (namely: mass x velocity = impact) and brain trauma, not to mention our vaunted legal system.
Also: a player strike, a referee strike, untold Pro Bowls, and Pacman Jones.
I’d go on, but the meter where I parked doesn’t accept $1,000 bills.
The Association has weathered its share of PR storms as well, of course. But for as much pain as Tim Donaghy, Donald Sterling and Robert Swift might’ve brought to bear in the short term, none of these incidents, no matter how despicable in isolation or indicative of underlying social scourges, can rival the kind of systemic soul rot currently consuming the NFL. Not even the 2012 Bobcats. That’s right, Creeperstache McBaconneck. I said it.
Tempting though it may be, now is not the time to revel in our rival league's misery. Let’s save that for the next time five flags get thrown on one play (i.e. Sunday). Instead, I’m proposing a series of initiatives intended to seize on football’s sustained swoon, to offer the NBA as a cultural alternative to what has lately become a festering façade of brainlessness and bull----. More detailed explanations of these proposals will be mailed to your respective front offices at the usual postage rate. No, Reinsdorf, I’m not spotting you the 74 cents.
- A new, reduced schedule, whereby all teams—with a few, holiday-related exceptions—would play a 60-game slate. Games to be held on Thursdays and Sundays. Yes, that’s intentional. As the old adage says, go big or go buy the Bucks. Revenue lost by virtue of the shortened regular season will be recouped through lowered travel expenses, television contracts wrought from a more competitive bidding market, and intensified fan interest resulting from the increased importance of individual games. I just blew your mind, Cuban.
- NBA Tough: In an effort to dispel the myth that football players are somehow inherently stronger than athletes in other sports, I hereby propose a campaign through which prospective fans are invited to defend an NBA power forward on the low block while he works on his post moves. A DeMarcus Cousins who hasn’t eaten in three days should do just fine. Also: These fans are not allowed to wear pads because, remember, “basketball is for pansies.”
- “All-Star Weekend”: As the title suggests, an entire two-day slate dedicated to showcasing the NBA’s unrivaled talent and jaw-dropping athleticism. Specific events could include a “three-point shootout,” a “slam-dunk contest” where guys do ridiculous stuff like dunk blindfolded, blowing out cupcakes on the rim and holding two balls at once and …Oh, wait, we already have that—and it’s bloody amazing. The Pro Bowl is a three-hour Cialis commercial with half-assed post patterns.
- New NBA Mobile app that sends a text message at the end of every game you watch stating exactly how much time would remain had you watched Lawrence of Arabia instead, followed shortly thereafter by a second text message to remind you that Jaguars-Raiders actually lasted 20 minutes longer than Lawrence of Arabia.
- An NBA just for women and… Oh, wait, we already have that—and it’s bloody amazing.
- A joint, covert partnership with the NFL whereby each league would volunteer one player to participate in training camp with one of the rival league’s teams. For example, LeBron James attends Cleveland Browns training camp, catches every flaming fuselage of a pass from Johnny Manziel and tallies 395 yards and seven touchdowns in the first fully padded scrimmage. Meanwhile, the Lions send Calvin Johnson to Pistons camp, where his most significant statistical accomplishment is being listed at a quarter-inch shorter than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
- The Global Game: The NBA enhances and is enhanced by basketball’s growing popularity abroad. There are literally dozens of professional basketball leagues in scores of countries around the world. By contrast, football is—in nations not named the United States—played mostly in parking lots and cemeteries. Or, in countries like Japan which have very limited available land, on top of cars. We must redouble our efforts in emphasizing the NBA’s superior hold on the global imagination. Pointing people to this link would be a terrific start.
- NB-Hey! Basketball Is So Much Less Expensive!: In essence, a targeted PR campaign intended to emphasize how OH MY GOD FOOTBALL IS EXPENSIVE AND VIOLENT AND INCREDIBLY TIME CONSUMING WHY WOULD YOU EVER PAY $500 TO WATCH YOUR KIDS SMASH HIS HEAD INTO OTHER KIDS’ HEADS? (This is a working title, I think, but I’m open to it.)
Given the manifold talents amongst us, additional feedback and other ideas are encouraged—preferably ones that don’t include Prokhorov’s Contra spray gun collection. (I keeed, I keeed, Mikhail! Seriously though, don’t shoot me with a Contra spray gun.) Remember, the ultimate goal here is to reinforce our games’ status—not only as a growing sport, but an increasingly global one as well.
We ought not expect football to retreat completely from the public consciousness. What we can do, however, is take a proactive approach in tempting a fan base betrayed and beset by the game’s ongoing corruption and duplicity. The eyes and minds of millions are desperate for an alternative. Let it be us who gives it to them. Because while baseball is for old people and hockey is for those who spend 11 months of the year fearing the return of the sun, basketball—that beautiful ballet—really is for everyone.
A version of this column originally ran at The Cauldron on Medium.com.