Monday, May 30, 2016

Go Go Gadget Draymond: The Myth of a Sports Meritocracy

“Sports is where meritocracy exists.”
Ever hear or read those words? Do you believe them? Be wiser not to.
“The only true meritocracy is in sports. Every other field is subject to politics,” wrote one fan in a 2014 blog comment. I’m still laughing.

Let’s be sober and to the point: We know the so-called superstars get more benefits from referees and league officials, in all sports and on all levels. Maybe they are just quicker and more aggressive. Maybe they mesmerize even the refs, gaining favor—few people were going to whistle Patrick Ewing for taking four steps as he headed to the rim. Not when he was the main show at Madison Square Garden for so long.


Off the field of play, the owners and leaders of major sports know where the bread is buttered. They are going to punish a role player more readily than a LeBron James for the exact same action. A history of past transgressions matters, but not as much as an athlete’s overall status. As sports fans, we silently consent to this favoritism, knowing that it is ultimately for our selfish pleasure.
Now, show us where the meritocracy is.
The Golden State Warriors’ mercurial Draymond Green tripped over the league’s tablecloth in the 2016 playoffs. He knocked over the plates and silver, and we marked everything. Just as we notice every missed call in sports because of HD TV and super slo-mo, we see the sausage being made in league offices because everyone is the media now. Everybody talks, information gets out, and the hints that Green wouldn't suffer anything began. The sports opinion industry seemed offended that a piece of the pleasure might be removed from their eyes.

It was clear Green would not be much punished for punting another player’s inseam. Meritocracy can’t survive in that situation, because there is money to be had and social media fanatics to appease.
What is merit? Being worthy of something, whether reward, punishment, or attention. By that definition, it makes sense that the star athlete gets the benefit of the doubt. Because they affect the bottom line and league perception so deeply. They are “worthy” of favor if the overarching goal is profit.
One Fox Sports radio personality has been heard saying there are no conspiracies. This from a man who worships the ultimate conspirators, the degenerates in Las Vegas, and believes that the nation is doing pretty well these days socially and spiritually. His show producers play the “X-Files” theme song, as he eye rolls his way through a mocking rant about anyone who thinks differently.
Simple etymology: The root of conspiracy is “conspire,” or plot. Two parents discussing a child’s Christmas present is a conspiracy. The league plotted to keep the status quo of this season’s record-breaking headliners. They didn’t want to put out M&Ms without any blue ones in the bag. A conspiracy is not always a secret!--though it can be. Keep in mind, this is not written with a spirit of criticism. It just is.

An agreement between two or more persons to engage jointly in an  
unlawful or criminal act, or an act that is innocent in itself  
but becomes unlawful when done by the combination of actors.

The upgrade to a flagrant 2 (which usually would have cost Draymond Green some game time… except this time) was just an affirmation. Shut the purists up and keep truckin’. 
Suspending a vital piece of the Warriors was thought to have greatly influenced the series. Wealthy people, talking heads, and sports fans didn’t want that. The NBA is in the business of pleasing the customer. The rest of the discussion is just fun hot air.
To a man, no one defending the Green high kick to Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams stayed there. The Green defenders all went ahead and admitted at some point, in some manner: “I don’t believe Draymond should be suspended, because it might demonstrably alter the series.” There it is. You are admitting that the brand, the image, the product, matters more than anything.

That is admitting that there are, in fact, conspiracies. Sometimes a conspiracy is right out in the open. You think you see what’s going on, and the lie is hidden inside all of the “transparency.”
Again—that is okay from a business perspective. It’s what a gigantic company does. They worry about the bottom line and, in the end, any rule can be ignored in that pursuit.
But you cannot then argue about how much or little he injured the opponent, nor about Green’s intent “Draymond wouldn’t do that,” we heard, as if industry strangers who may have met him a few times know the heart of the man
All the discussion of natural basketball moves is irrelevant, when the circus must go on.
In billion-dollar monstrosities like the NFL and the NBA, there are going to be manipulations and scheming. This is obvious but we rarely hear it said straight out. The talking heads will always tell you how much
integrity is in sports. Hard work, determination, talent, being coachable, teamwork, and to market it, family values of some kind: Well, looks like you’re gonna make it, Junior! They tell you this humility and grit fairy tale just after tsk-tsking all the individual sports scandals. We love ya but we're just gonna dig through your trash when you go to bed... Profit is the mark, not integrity. It’s only natural.

There is too much at stake, too many people with something to lose. It’s the same reason many condemn our political system. The United States is a TRILLION-dollar franchise that may not actually trust entry-level workers like you and me to choose leadership. Who knows? The best part of a well-laid conspiracy is that you believe you are in on it.


NBA 2K16-9: Round 2, Roanoke Railguns v Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta was not as good as the Miami Heat, who we had just dispatched 4 games to 1. The Roanoke Railguns coach anticipated a
sweep. Never mind that the Hawks were rated at 81 to the Guns' 73. They were worse than the Heat on paper and on the court.

Joe Dumars had a bad hammy that is day to day. The lineups were very different than at the start of the season. That's attrition for you. But the rest of the team was prepared and relaxed.

Game 1, in Roanoke: Roanoke wins, 87-56. At some point, the Hawks got a doppelganger of our Willie Wolfe. On our team, Wolfe is a lead-footed bench warmer. On Atlanta he was a starter.


Enough said. Mack Long, our Shawn Kemp-like backup center, was a 70 rating but if he ever got to 90 or so, he could be lethal. He went 24 pts, 6 reb, 5 steals, a block and an assist. That was off the bench... 

Game 2, in Roanoke: Roanoke wins, 82-58. John Derry Stevens poured in 28 [13-19 shooting], 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals. Nevalove nearly fouled out before getting 17 acrobatic points. The Warriors lead 2-0 over OKC; same for Memphis over New Orleans and Chicago over Cleveland....

Game 3, in Atlanta: Roanoke wins, 65-49. Ugggly! Stevens was the player of the game and he shot 5 for 20. 11 points, 5 steals, 4 boards, 2 assists. Nothing to see here. Clear the area.

Game 4, in Atlanta: Roanoke clinches, 68-61. Good news arrived after that crime scene victory we got in Game 3--Joe Dumars was healed up from his hamstring injury and we had our starting PG back. Swole Whitehead might not have been happy, and he played pretty well in relief. But Dumars was simply better; the game would have been closer without him, because Alanta took it up a notch and were tough... he scored 18 points. Stevens had an 18 point, 6 board game.

The Oklahoma City Thunder eliminated Golden State, 4 games to 3, on the other side of the bracket. A one-point victory in Game 7 at GSW, with Russell Westbrook missing because of injury. So much for beating the Warriors in the Finals... OKC would face the 8 seed New Orleans Pelicans in the Western Finals. Next up for the Roanoke Railguns: #2 seed Chicago Bulls.



Thursday, May 19, 2016