Bateman: No NBA, no glory

By Oliver Bateman

Permit us to set the scene for you: It’s 9 p.m. on a gloomy weeknight in late December. Permit us to set the scene for you: It’s 9 p.m. on a gloomy weeknight in late December. You’re cloistered in your tiny room, meditating about what to do with that noxious pile of dirty laundry you’ve been neglecting all semester. Sure, you could give the pile a few spritzes of Febreze, but that marvelous elixir doesn’t grow on trees, and you’re not sitting on untold millions à la beloved TV star Ashton Kutcher. No, the best course of action here would be to recline on your futon, order a couple of delicious $5 pizza pies and flip idly through the channels while you wait for them to arrive.

On CNN, three old people in power suits with power ties argue about how this economy’s always in some kind of depression. Fox News offers essentially the same content, except one of the men in power suits is blaming the depression on the president’s dubious birth certificate and consequent “usurper status.” C-SPAN provides an interesting glimpse into the secret workings of Congress, showing us a row of old people in power suits who are struggling to stay awake while an even older person in a more powerful suit reads a resolution announcing a “National Dryer Lint Fire Prevention and Fayette County, Pa., Memorial Awareness Day.”

OK, that’s enough current events for now. Let’s see what kind of amazing stuff is going on in the wide world of sports. You surf over to TBS and discover that the Toronto Raptors are playing the New Orleans Hornets. Wow, you think to yourself, both of these legendary franchises once employed 5-foot-3 point guard Muggsy Bogues. Since it’s such a grueling season, the top stars on these teams are dogging it, hoping that big-market squads like the New York Knicks or the Boston Celtics will move heaven and Earth to acquire their expiring “max contracts” and get them out of their podunk towns. Sandwiched between the nigh-interminable TV timeouts — during which you’re bombarded with flashy advertisements for hot “kicks” like the latest Air Jordans and sweet, citrusy drinks like Sprite — are a handful of ungainly free throws, pointless personal fouls and “bricked” 3-pointers. For long stretches of time, both teams appear to be fielding line-ups that consist of no fewer than four small forward/shooting guard “tweeners” who were originally lottery picks, but have since flopped because of an inability to lead their teams in any statistical category except field goal attempts.

After 10 minutes of this tedious spectacle, your $5 pizza pies arrive and you switch on ESPN SportsCenter to watch all of the gravity-defying slams, jams and 360-degree no-look dunks that look so fantastic out of context. In one such highlight, Los Angeles Lakers power forward Blake Griffin drives the ball through the hoop, breaking the backboard in the process. Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph and Portland Trailblazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge do likewise. Man, you ask yourself, how can this league afford so many backboards? Finally, Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love is shown jumping roughly one half-inch off the ground as he launches a “trey,” much to the delight of the 2,000 or so fans in attendance who can’t get enough of his “work ethic” and attention to the “fundamentals.” You greedily stuff your face with pizza, accelerating your progress toward the “ripped” 220-pound physique you’ll need for spring break 2013, and contemplate how this probably wasn’t the least boring way you could have spent your evening.

Now consider the horrifying alternative: It’s 9 p.m. on a gloomy weeknight in late December. The pile of laundry is still on the floor, the $5 pizza pies are still on their way — only the NBA season has been canceled! Yep, you read that right: No slams, no jams, not even one single 360-degree no-look dunk. Like other serious NBA fans, you’re left with a 30-minute lacuna in your monthly routine. Without this mildly entertaining sport to occupy that gap, will you still be able to countenance the cardboard taste of these cheap pizzas? For how long can you and your roommate tolerate the noisome vapors coming from that laundry pile, which by this point has become as much of an albatross as the “max contracts” all your favorite small-market superstars have?

Friends, if the fat-cat owners and greedy players can’t resolve their differences, this is the grim future we face. Sure, professional basketball isn’t the “national pastime” or anywhere close to it, but it’s hardly the worst sport you could watch. For example, the indoor rowing and stationary bicycling events at the 2011 CrossFit Games, NASCAR, duckpin bowling and cribbage make for much less interesting TV. During those cruel winter months when hockey and college basketball aren’t on and whatever is on ESPN Classic falls below the consistently high standard set by the network’s incessant reruns of the 2001 shootout between the Boise State Broncos and the Fresno State Bulldogs, it’s definitely an option worth considering.

This nation was founded by its godlike Founding Fathers on the bedrock principle that there should be freedom of choice for all people who aren’t slaves or women, and it appears that we’re about to lose one small part of that freedom. For roughly 30 minutes during the month of December, that will really suck.

Oliver Bateman is the head coach of the Moustache Professional Basketball Club of America. You can access all of the Club’s trick plays and zone defenses at And if you’ve got a killer suggestion for a column that (hopefully) has something to do with hardgaining, $5 pizza pies or Maddens 2006-2012, send it to [email protected].