There's so little going on in the basketball world, it's frightening. Enjoy this very football-heavy basketball reader.
A Rough Start?
Charles P. Pierce
This piece is a bit dated, seeing as how things look pretty hunky-dory in Week 2 (which is on in the background as I compile this week's reader). But Charles P. Pierce's main point -- that Roger Goodell's dictatorial rule of the NFL is producing some unforeseen side effects which seemingly compromise his overall vision for what the league is supposed to represent -- still rings true. Pierce looks at the bevy of distractions that have marred the start of the new NFL season, ranging from the overturning of the Bountygate suspensions, to the replacement refs, to the growing rancor over the barbarism of football, and its lasting effects on the human body, to Chris Kluwe's brilliant use of the term "lustful cockmonster", to the ham-handed assertion that NFL-funded research will make the military safer. He concludes that Goodell, who has run the NFL much like a post-colonial gatekeeper, has largely lost control of his of his league, and that the neat narratives that make football attractive to right-leaning individuals and corporations, are no longer so clean-cut. It honestly makes David Stern look like a fair arbiter of justice, and the NBA fairly free of problems.
Why the Mariners are the Biggest Opponents of a New NBA Arena in Seattle
For most of their existence, the Seattle Mariners have had to scratch and scrape just to remain in the consciousness of Seattle's fair weather fans. Though Seattleites are more than willing to spend money on the M's when they're a winning outfit, they are not nearly as generous when the team is playing poorly. This has been disastrous for the Mariners, who have not made the playoffs since 2002. In 2011, the M's fell to third place in terms of attendance behind the Seahawks and the Sounders, Seattle's MLS franchise. Now, they stand to fall to last place, once Chris Hansen builds his new arena right next to the house that Griffey built and moves the reborn Sonics (and eventually an NHL franchise) into said new arena. Barry Petchesky details the tactics the Mariners have used to try and prevent the construction of a new arena in the South Downtown (SODO) area of the city, and explains why they're so opposed to the arena being built there in the first place. Unsurprisingly, it has everything to do with competition, but not necessarily competition for fans to fill their own arena. Petchesky explains that the M's are worried about competition in terms of merchandise sales, season ticket holders, and the various businesses around the arena. He also asserts that the M's are concerned of the potential of the new Sonics developing a regional sports TV network; something they've been planning on doing once their deal with Root sports expires in a few seasons. Luckily, the M's are a joke, and the only thing stopping the NBA from returning to Seattle is the fact that no teams are currently for sale.
- JGJay Cutler is People
Nick Bond is correct in his assertion that Jay Cutler, the Chicago Bears' quarterback, is perhaps now "America's favorite sports misanthrope" (at least since LeBron James won his ring and all the haters were finally forced to shut up), and that there's a certain pleasure in watching things go poorly for him. All of us who enjoy ridiculing Cutler had a field day this past Monday night, when Cutler threw four interceptions in a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers. Bond provides a rundown of Cutler's transgressions (especially the much-analyzed shove he gave to linebacker J'Marcus Webb after Webb spectacularly blew a blocking assignment), but then encourages us to view Cutler in a different light: that Cutler is "like any other kid who grew up insanely competitive and firmly convinced of [his] exceptional abilities," and that when he appears petulant, his perceived whining in instead "an existential whine, not so much a questioning sound as the sound of someone confronting a fate is he sure he doesn't deserve." I have always appreciated analyses that focus on the Everyman traits that professional athletes display on large stages, and this is a very good one.
ESPN the Magazine
The title of this piece is as clever as it deceptive. While we have grown accustomed to Jordan-bashing since he became a basketball executive and owner, we have fallen out of practice of Jordan-praising when he attempts to improve his track record. This article provides more details into the ways Jordan has failed as an owner of a small-market team, but also the ways he's changing his behavior, and attempting to build a winner. As McGee explains, in the past, Jordan's roster decisions usually were made in the aftermath of the NCAA tournament, when a young player has a Jordan-esque moment that impresses the G.O.A.T., who then drafts that player with a lottery pick. But of course, none of them work out, because those who are great in college rarely are great in the pros. This is why high draft picks were wasted on players like Emeka Okafor, Sean May, Adam Morrison and Kemba Walker -- guys who look great in March against other teenagers, but clearly don't have what it takes to be a elite players in a league of men. But according to McGee, Jordan has finally become self-aware, and has realized that there are people who's specific job in the league is to assess talent, manage assets, and build teams. In other words, Jordan learned that there are people called "general managers" who you can pay to take care of that type of stuff. Enter Rich Cho, who has received credit for building winners in Seattle/Oklahoma City and Portland, and who is starting the long, arduous process of rebuilding the Bobs from the ground up through the draft and restricted free agency. While I have no problem with reading Jordan-bashing, it's nice to see that he's changing his ways, and that the media is beginning to take notice.
The Man, the Mountain and the Bonner
One of the stereotypical terms that gets thrown around a lot when discussing basketball, and in partitcular, professional basketball is the "slow, unathletic white guy". There are a number of guys who have filled that role over the years, including Fred Hoiberg, Brian Scalabrine, Austin Croshere and, of course, Matt Bonner, who serves as the subject of this piece. Now, I feel perfectly comfortable looking at players like Matt Bonner, and call them "slow", "unathletic", and "white". But as Anath Pandian learns as he spends a day training with Coach B: even 6'10'' and 235 pound "slow, unathletic white guy(s)" can run up a 3,050 ft. mountain in New Hampshire about thirty minutes, then come down the mountain and do over an hour of cardio and core workouts while standing upstream in a rushing river. Then, afterwards, they'll gladly buy you a bottle of water at a coffee shop, and make conversation with the people who knew them when they were young, and still go out with their parents now and again. This is a really entertaining day-in-the-life piece about the work it takes to maintain a rotation spot in the NBA, and how we really throw the term "slow" and "unathletic" around too much. But buying a bottle of water atop a mountain in New England? Sooooo white.