Monday, February 18, 2008

The Cost of Basketball Greed

On Saturday afternoon, I was feeling lazy, so I picked up the remote control and turned on the TV. I soon found a thrilling game between Connecticut and South Florida, won on a last-second shot by Connecticut in overtime. You can see the game recap, photos, and video here. I've been impressed by the Big East games I've seen on Saturday's--lots of close games and intriguing project players like Thabeet from U Conn. For a shot-block affectionado like myself, the game was almost as good as it gets.

However, the problem is, I'm firmly entrenched in Big Ten country, and have been for most of my life. Why am I watching Big East games instead of Big Ten games?! Well, the Big Ten, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I should not be able to watch all their games unless I get a special cable package. And since I have never had cable (either it's been too expensive for me, or I'm concerned about the wasted time), I don't have a chance to watch Big Ten games. The result? My loyalties are shifting to the Big East. Oh sure, you can call me traitor and say I must not have cared that much about the Big Ten to begin with. And you'd be right, at least as far as basketball is concerned. But don't just think about that--what about the kids and teens growing up right now watching Big East ball and cheering for Marquette and Notre Dame instead of Wisconsin and Indiana? And what about the pros--will the next Lebron James be able to say he grew up watching Lebron on TV? Or, because his family's too poor to have cable, will the kid say he only saw Lebron or Kobe on bootleg videotapes and once a year in June during the Finals?

As I type this, the NBA All-Star game is going on. I love the NBA All-star festivities and believe the NBA hosts the best All-star game of all leagues. Yet, I can't watch it on my TV, because I don't have TNT. I can't even watch the NBA Western or Eastern Conference Finals without a cable package. I remember being able to watch the Cavs on basic TV as late as 2004? or so; now, you need an FSN package to watch their games. And yet, when the games were free, the Cavs were building a strong fan base in large cities like Pittsburgh and Columbus. Back then, my brother bought a Cavs play-off ticket package, and we went to more games than usual, just because we identified more with the team now that we could watch them on a regular basis. Is the short-term gain really worth losing intensity in the long-term from your fan base?

I wish I could have picked a better topic for my first NBA Monday post, but it really does annoy me. I'd love to support the NBA, and the NBA needs me based on its falling Harris poll popularity numbers. But if it takes a trip to a local sports bar or $50 a month just to get a basic game package from cable, it makes it difficult. I'm sure most of you already have cable and wonder what the big deal is. But when I was in school and lived off-campus, there was no way I could afford it; and I'm sure I'm not the only one to be in that situation. The NBA and college basketball needs to stop sacrificing tomorrow's fan base for the sake of today's dollars.

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