Let 'Em Stand

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Let 'Em Stand
There’s a reason college sports are becoming more and more popular to the “average” fan, and it’s not the simple instinct to go with what’s new. It’s not just the progression of season to season, and it’s not because a pro team is playing poorly and a college team is excelling. There’s a reason that doesn’t involve the actual game play, but its representation.  

And that motive was put on display during ESPN’s PTI on Tuesday (this was just two weeks into the season, as this piece is almost dated).

Host Michael Wilbon and world renowned sports journalist Rick Reilly commented on a statement made by fellow writer Mike McGraw, in which McGraw stated the NBA had to fix its newest and fastest growing problem, immediately  – NBA players, on the bench, standing.

The brunt of that statement was directed at the Cleveland Cavalier’s bench, which has received generous amounts of praise for their support of their teammates from local and national writers alike throughout this young season. From ESPN to smaller publications like the Canton Rep, the really tall guys in the wine and gold jumpsuits have quickly garnered a reputation around the league for their emphatic celebrations after a LeBron dunk or Ben Wallace free throw or simply because the clock shows less than five minutes to go.

The only symbol on the team that still outlives this reputation is Wally’s epic high-five numbers (with LeBron’s emphatic slam against New Orleans, Wally now stands sixth on the all-time list).

College sports fans, the ones switching from professional to NCAA athletics and grumbling all the while, argue that pro sports have become too “commercial” and business like.  

McGraw is about to become their poster-boy.

He claims that people paid good money to sit close to the floor, and bench players should be forced – via a David Stern mandate – to sit down during game action.

Reilly added on, saying “If you’re a bench player, you’re not that important, the game in November isn’t that important – so sit down.”

Wait, what? I rewound it a couple of times just to make sure an award winning journalist of many years actually uttered those words.

What happened to national writers complaining on that very show and others, that professional players don’t care?

A team finally – finally – got “million dollar egos” to stand up and support their teammates - not to mention the same guys taking away their own minutes – and he complains? A coaching staff (with help from #23, rest assured) has a bunch of grown men imitating some CYO teenagers who paid for their own jerseys and are as happy as pie with open gym at the local Y every Wednesday – and McGraw wants to negate this with an official rule change?

Perhaps the thought of professional athletes really accomplishing a task that’s begged of even middle school kids is so daunting, that when it happens we’re convinced our brains and eyes and ears and everything else is playing a cruel trick on our psyche.    

And why is he chastising this unselfish and quite frankly (terribly sorry for brining the screeching voice of Stephen A. Smith into this), very refreshing movement? 

Because Joe the Plumber paid for his tickets and he and his kids can’t see because pro athletes actually show that they care about the W more than their own name.

What’s more important anyway? That the little boy emphasized by McGraw in his writings doesn’t see five minutes of the third quarter as clearly as the rest of the game, or that the little boy watches his heroes act like the men they should be – teammates before superstars. Is that five minutes of staring at Z’s back not more important than witnessing an act which could invariably instigate a lesson that could span a lifetime?

I can’t shake the thought that I’m writing some paper for freshman debate class on how pro athletes should behave in a game. But that’s the reality of what was said – it’s such a basic discussion and an age-old grievance, it seems taboo to continue to banter the subject. Say something basic like, “athletes shouldn’t be able to stand,” and you’ll get a basic response: “Oh yes they should.”

Now, of course – many people can’t afford high priced tickets very often (or ever), so if one was to pay a pretty penny and have their view blocked for 5-10 intervals – well, I’d be angry too. We all would.  

But are you going to blame the players? Or the owners who crammed as many seats as possible into their arenas, knowing those seats would be directly behind the bench?

The owners (thanks for bearing with me as I took the long way around to come full circle) – that’s why many people refuse to watch a sport where players get paid more per hour than the average Joes in the upper deck do in a year – because the owners will do anything for an extra nickel. They do it in many ways, and now, the likes of Sasha, Wally and J.J. have unearthed another – too many seats placed in the wrong position to squeeze out that extra Benjamin every couple of nights.

And sure, it’s a business, it’s a product. But does it have been seen as a product in every single way? Why can’t we salvage some of that six year old passion for sports we had before knowing about contracts and agents and hold outs? Why can’t we salvage the emotions we had after watching Field of Dreams instead of Two for the Money?

Only two routes can be taken from here: One, the fans appreciate having 12 guys who love what they do and will show support for their fellow Clevelander – and/or two, the owners will take out five or six seats and stop the complaining altogether.  

This is why professional sports teams get a bad rap. One day it’s someone saying the team doesn’t care, the next it’s that same person saying the players shouldn’t be allowed to stand. Sports franchises are treated like a business proposal, and when someone or a group of people make that product seem human, it gets blasted with negative media attention.

Are we going to dictate how players can cheer on their own teammates? I don’t think so. Stern has the authority force players to wear suits on the bench – and now that some people complain about their view, he’s going to force them to sit as well? What’s next: a limit on the decibels allowed to be emitted from each player during the game? I wouldn’t half mind that one coming into play (at least we could all get a laugh watching KG fork half his paycheck over every other Tuesday for screaming F*** you at seven year old Timmy in the fourth row).

Maybe owners seating too many people close to the bench in a sport where about 60% of it’s athletes are over 6’6 is a bad idea. But it’s not a problem if people appreciate it as an unselfish act.

The only dilemma that needs to be fixed as soon as possible that I can see, is writers and their hypocrisy. It’s a shame some people at The United Center didn’t get a good view for five minutes, it really is.

But it’s a damn shame the writers are the ones who get the publicity out of this – the ones who get to have their voice heard. Because they have lost sight of what’s important. They’ve bought into the negative stigma of professional sport. And because a group of players go against that and at the same time maybe ruin a couple of Chicago fans’ view of the game in the process – oh, now it’s a wrong-doing?

The solution to this transparent mini-crisis is simple: tell the owners to stop putting seats directly behind the bench if they don’t want the opposing team’s players to celebrate – like they should have been doing from the beginning.

Because the question from McGraw shouldn’t be “Why are players standing so much?”

It should be, “What took them so long?”

There’s a reason college sports are becoming more and more popular to the “average” fan, and it’s not the simple instinct to go with what’s new. It’s not just the progression of season to season, and it’s not because a pro team is playing poorly and a college team is excelling. There’s a reason that doesn’t involve the actual game play, but its representation.  

And that motive was put on display during ESPN’s PTI on Tuesday.

Host Michael Wilbon and world renowned sports journalist Rick Reilly commented on a statement made by fellow writer Mike McGraw, in which McGraw stated the NBA had to fix its newest and fastest growing problem, immediately  – NBA players, on the bench, standing.

The brunt of that statement was directed at the Cleveland Cavalier’s bench, which has received generous amounts of praise for their support of their teammates from local and national writers alike throughout this young season. From ESPN to smaller publications like the Canton Rep, the really tall guys in the wine and gold jumpsuits have quickly garnered a reputation around the league for their emphatic celebrations after a LeBron dunk or Ben Wallace free throw or simply because the clock shows less than five minutes to go.

The only symbol on the team that still outlives this reputation is Wally’s epic high-five numbers (with LeBron’s emphatic slam against New Orleans, Wally now stands sixth on the all-time list).

College sports fans, the ones switching from professional to NCAA athletics and grumbling all the while, argue that pro sports have become too “commercial” and business like.  

McGraw is about to become their poster-boy.

He claims that people paid good money to sit close to the floor, and bench players should be forced – via a David Stern mandate – to sit down during game action.

Reilly added on, saying “If you’re a bench player, you’re not that important, the game in November isn’t that important – so sit down.”

Wait, what? I rewound it a couple of times just to make sure an award winning journalist of many years actually uttered those words.

What happened to national writers complaining on that very show and others, that professional players don’t care?

A team finally – finally – got “million dollar egos” to stand up and support their teammates - not to mention the same guys taking away their own minutes – and he complains? A coaching staff (with help from #23, rest assured) has a bunch of grown men imitating some CYO teenagers who paid for their own jerseys and are as happy as pie with open gym at the local Y every Wednesday – and McGraw wants to negate this with an official rule change?

Perhaps the thought of professional athletes really accomplishing a task that’s begged of even middle school kids is so daunting, that when it happens we’re convinced our brains and eyes and ears and everything else is playing a cruel trick on our psyche.    

And why is he chastising this unselfish and quite frankly (terribly sorry for brining the screeching voice of Stephen A. Smith into this), very refreshing movement? 

Because Joe the Plumber paid for his tickets and he and his kids can’t see because pro athletes actually show that they care about the W more than their own name.

What’s more important anyway? That the little boy emphasized by McGraw in his writings doesn’t see five minutes of the third quarter as clearly as the rest of the game, or that the little boy watches his heroes act like the men they should be – teammates before superstars. Is that five minutes of staring at Z’s back not more important than witnessing an act which could invariably instigate a lesson that could span a lifetime?

I can’t shake the thought that I’m writing some paper for freshman debate class on how pro athletes should behave in a game. But that’s the reality of what was said – it’s such a basic discussion and an age-old grievance, it seems taboo to continue to banter the subject. Say something basic like, “athletes shouldn’t be able to stand,” and you’ll get a basic response: “Oh yes they should.”

Now, of course – many people can’t afford high priced tickets very often (or ever), so if one was to pay a pretty penny and have their view blocked for 5-10 intervals – well, I’d be angry too. We all would.  

But are you going to blame the players? Or the owners who crammed as many seats as possible into their arenas, knowing those seats would be directly behind the bench?

The owners (thanks for bearing with me as I took the long way around to come full circle) – that’s why many people refuse to watch a sport where players get paid more per hour than the average Joes in the upper deck do in a year – because the owners will do anything for an extra nickel. They do it in many ways, and now, the likes of Sasha, Wally and J.J. have unearthed another – too many seats placed in the wrong position to squeeze out that extra Benjamin every couple of nights.

And sure, it’s a business, it’s a product. But does it have been seen as a product in every single way? Why can’t we salvage some of that six year old passion for sports we had before knowing about contracts and agents and hold outs? Why can’t we salvage the emotions we had after watching Field of Dreams instead of Two for the Money?

Only two routes can be taken from here: One, the fans appreciate having 12 guys who love what they do and will show support for their fellow Clevelander – and/or two, the owners will take out five or six seats and stop the complaining altogether.  

This is why professional sports teams get a bad rap. One day it’s someone saying the team doesn’t care, the next it’s that same person saying the players shouldn’t be allowed to stand. Sports franchises are treated like a business proposal, and when someone or a group of people make that product seem human, it gets blasted with negative media attention.

Are we going to dictate how players can cheer on their own teammates? I don’t think so. Stern has the authority force players to wear suits on the bench – and now that some people complain about their view, he’s going to force them to sit as well? What’s next: a limit on the decibels allowed to be emitted from each player during the game? I wouldn’t half mind that one coming into play (at least we could all get a laugh watching KG fork half his paycheck over every other Tuesday for screaming F*** you at seven year old Timmy in the fourth row).

Maybe owners seating too many people close to the bench in a sport where about 60% of it’s athletes are over 6’6 is a bad idea. But it’s not a problem if people appreciate it as an unselfish act.

The only dilemma that needs to be fixed as soon as possible that I can see, is writers and their hypocrisy. It’s a shame some people at The United Center didn’t get a good view for five minutes, it really is.

But it’s a damn shame the writers are the ones who get the publicity out of this – the ones who get to have their voice heard. Because they have lost sight of what’s important. They’ve bought into the negative stigma of professional sport. And because a group of players go against that and at the same time maybe ruin a couple of Chicago fans’ view of the game in the process – oh, now it’s a wrong-doing?

The solution to this transparent mini-crisis is simple: tell the owners to stop putting seats directly behind the bench if they don’t want the opposing team’s players to celebrate – like they should have been doing from the beginning.

Because the question from McGraw shouldn’t be “Why are players standing so much?”

It should be, “What took them so long?”

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