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That's Why They Play the Games

Jaime IrvineCorrespondent IJune 4, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30:  Rafer Alston #1 of the Orlando Magic handles the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The NBAs final four has been reduced to the final two, however, only one of the NBAs two chosen stars will have the opportunity to shine in this year’s finals.

In the west, last year’s MVP, and the one dubbed by many as the best player on the planet, seeks to capture his fourth championship ring.

Meanwhile, in what can only be describes as a “Magical” scene, the eastern conference final round concluded with the current MVP, also known as “King” James, being unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs by Orlando. How ironic is it that the “King” was dethroned in the Magic Kingdom—by Superman, no less.

Afterward, the usually loquacious LeBron left without saying a word. But, who could blame him, as this was supposed to be his coronation. Or, at least if you’re like me, you were subliminally programmed to think it was supposed to be.

What I mean is, this year the media marketing machine that promotes the NBA playoffs really went to the extreme in trying to frame, what it deemed, the best finals matchup. And if the league and its team/harem of sponsors weren’t banking on a Kobe/LeBron showdown, they didn’t do a very good job keeping it a secret.

For example, about a week ago ESPN aired Dream Season: 23 & 24. Nike.com sums it up, saying, “Everyone is anxious to see if at long last the league’s greatest players will be able to bring out the best of each other on basketball’s greatest stage, the NBA Finals.” It goes on to say the one-hour special’s “focus [is] on Kobe and LeBron’s pursuit of an NBA championship.”

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And if that isn’t proof enough that the NBA and its corporate interests play favorites; every other minute of commercial airtime during the conference finals, almost to the point of nausea, was dedicated to a duo of puppets made to try and emulate the likeness of NBA’s two favorite sons.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to see the greatest perform on the greatest stage. However, in an industry like sports, in which the outcome is not predetermined, wouldn’t it be smart not to force your audience to expect an outcome even if it is subliminal, and especially if you can’t guarantee the expected outcome?

Yet every major sports media outlet was singing in unison to the tune of Kobe vs. LeBron. As if only two players were poised for the sport’s biggest stage, or that only two had such aspirations of doing so.

Let’s face it, with all the games sevens this year there have been some really good series’. In turn, meaning, good teams, or at least good matchups with good players. So let’s give those players some respect. (And by the way Dwight Howard’s frame is definitely big enough to shoulder the load of the big stage.)

Now, far be it for me to admonish the “Average Joe” sports fan for sharing their opinions with fellow spectators.

I, myself, admit to being guilty of doing just this. I mean, one of the most enjoyable aspects of sports is arguing and making a case as to why you think a particular outcome is inevitable. In fact, that’s precisely the reason why Nielsen ratings for shows like Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn combined have a larger audience than SportsCenter.

Uncertainty is part of the fun of sports, especially when you can hold an individual accountable for their choices. But, it’s wrong when a faceless corporation or particular sports league tries to tell you who and what team to root for.

Honestly, LeBron’s loss is a win for all the true sports fans out there that follow the NBA (except for those in Cleveland of course). It signals that on an equal playing field the will of individuals can overcome product placement predetermined in a board room to be the only intrinsically viable option with little to no input from the consumer.

The 2008 Superbowl is a perfect example. After going 16-0 in the regular season the New England Patriots seemed poised to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the conclusion of the post season.

However, thanks to a ferocious Giants defense, and one particularly spectacular pitch and catch from an elusive Eli Manning to sticky fingered (helmet) David Tyree, the New York football team snatched the crown that had been prematurely placed on the hood Bill Belichick in what will certainly go down as one of the most jaw dropping finishes in Superbowl history.

Now if the NFL were to choose, it probably would have preferred Brett Farve over Eli Manning to face off against Tom Brady, but would that have produced the same result?

Probably not.

So at this time I just want to remind everyone of the saying, “That’s why they play the games.” Too often champions are crowned and hardware and trophies are handed out before the outcome has been settled out on the field or court. The presumptive dream match-up pitting the NBAs last two MVPs will have to be put on ice for a little while longer.

I can almost hear David Stern in his office screaming.