Don’t lie. You’ve already had the conversation. If not with a friend, family member or some sort of grief counselor, then at least with yourself. We all want to believe that the best will happen. My mother used to tell me that whenever she would start worrying about nuclear war coming to fruition, she would tell herself that there were enough people — high-ranking, credible officials — whose primary responsibility was to make sure that that never happened, that chances are, it probably wouldn’t. And I want to believe the same about the 2011-12 basketball season. But I’ve had the conversation too, with friends, with myself, with God.
What the hell am I going to do with my life if there’s no basketball next year?
It’s a scary question, no doubt. But it’s one that, as we go into a free agency and Summer League-less summer, probably needs to be asked. We need to start thinking ahead, planning, preparing. If indeed the ’11-’12 season never actually tips off (and it’s such a horrific thought and sentence that if you need to tab away for a few minutes, hours, weeks until you’re ready to get real, I understand) then we need to have some sort of self-preservation scheme in mind, some way to survive the length of the season without any actual game action to speak of. We need to start talking options.
Here, I have contemplated five of the more plausible solutions to the issue. While I would like to speak for all of us, in truth I am only speaking for myself, as in such times of crisis, we all respond differently. Ultimately, the path you choose must be your own.
Pros: Every year, it’s the same thing: I like hockey, and I wish I could watch it more, but there’s just no way to follow it and basketball at the same time. Perhaps it’s easier if you only follow your local team — I’m a Flyers fan living in New York and I don’t get the NHL package, so I could only watch about 15 games a season anyway — but for me, hockey always goes on the backburner until the playoffs, and even then, it’s a lower priority.
But without basketball, I will suddenly have hours upon hours free to watch Flames/Kings on Versus or the NHL Network. I can arbitrarily decide that I like the San Jose Sharks and the Tampa Bay Lightning. I can root for Winnipeg in their first season back with a team. I can hate on the Detroit Red Wings like I ever gave a damn about Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov.
Plus, it’s kind of like basketball, right? It’s all about fluid, positionally-vague lineups serving as a single unit, with continuous movement and back-and-forth action. And they also use the term “power forward,” which is cool and familiar. And they have great uniforms, way fun live games, and the ice is totally pretty. Plus, legitimate fistfights that don’t call for post-game firing squads from the league. Everyone can enjoy that.
Cons: My limited experience with hockey has taught me that the regular season is all but meaningless. Either you get into the postseason or you don’t, and that’s obviously important, but once there, seeding is totally irrelevant and any team can win. Though this NBA postseason was a relatively wonky one, the regular season in basketball is usually indicative of who will and who will not be good once the playoffs start, and that’s important to me.
Plus, I like to be able to tell who the good players, or at least the important players, are on a team by watching them just by watching them once. In hockey, the fact that a team’s best guy can go an entire game without materially affecting the score is distressing to me. And true hockey fans can be kind of wary of bandwagoners, which I respect and don’t really want to fuck with.
Back-Up Plan Viability: Fairly strong. I can’t say for sure that it would take but I would probably be willing to give it a try. If not now, when?
Pros: Every year, it’s the same thing: I like college hoops, and I wish I could watch it more, but why would I do that when I barely have time to get in all the pro ball I want to consume? I was never much into that whole spirit-of-the-game business, that it’s somehow purer or more exciting or that the players try noticeably harder or that “Onions!” is a perfectly acceptable sports-announcer catchphrase. When I watch a sport, generally speaking, I want to watch it played (and announced) on the highest level possible. College is close, but not quite that.
But I do still enjoy college basketball as an alternative. Some of the rivalry and conference shit is cool, and it is definitely fun to scout players who you might one day be watching at the next level. Plus, with an entire season’s viewing under my belt, maybe I could actually have opinions about the teams in the March Madness tournament, beyond “I hope those guys win because I have them picked in my bracket,” “I hope those guys win because they’re the underdog,” “I hope those guys win because they’re slightly closer geographically to the place where I lived when I first cared about sports” or “I hope those guys lose because fuck those guys for no real reason.” That would be refreshing.
Cons: The season isn’t really long enough and there are too many teams to watch at once to digest it the same way I do the NBA season, where I know nearly every player on every team and have opinions about every game. Plus I hate a lot of the announcers and analysts, the ESPN College Basketball music pisses me off (and I don’t really like marching bands, sorry) and the fact that I went to a college whose most renowned athletic squad was their fencing team has left me somewhat bitter about college sports in general. And it would still leave me high and dry for the post-March months of spring, though at least baseball would be starting up not too long thereafter.
Back-Up Plan Viability: Decent. Maybe if there’s one player or team I can really get into early and sort of let it blossom from there. You guys got any tips?
Pros: Hey, Deron Williams already has one foot out the door to Turkey, and any number of other big-name players have offered up quotes expressing their willingness to play just about anywhere where they will be loved, appreciated and financially compensated semi-comparably to the way they are in the United States. It could be fun to start up with one of the Euro leagues, or in Israel or China or just about anywhere where they play competent pro hoops.
Maybe you start only because Kobe or T-Mac or some other familiar guy is playing there, and before you know it, you’ve fallen in love with the team’s lunkhead 7-foot center, the crafty, slippery point guard and their energy/hustle rebounder guy off the bench. Maybe once you get a true taste of basketball where you can grab the ball of the rim, it’s next to impossible to go back to conservative, repressive American views on goaltending.
Cons: Hard to watch, probably. NBA TV may show a handful of the games, but unless you have some super-deluxe foreign cable package or are willing to brave the shady bars that do carry the super-deluxe foreign cable package, you’re probably left scouring the internet for shaky feeds and poorly translated game recaps.
And maybe your guy doesn’t do as well as you thought he would against the supposedly weaker competition, and suddenly you can’t look at him the same way when he returns stateside. Besides, if I really wanted to get all international with this shit, I probably would’ve listed some sort of soccer league back-up plan in this article. (I don’t.)
Back-Up Plan Viability: Good for emergency fixes, perhaps, but not stable enough in any long-term sense.
Watching Non-Sports TV Instead
Pros: How many times did I shelve NBC’s Thursday night comedy block last year, or forgo watching it altogether, because I was busy checking Bulls-Heat on TNT? Many. During the NBA season, usually the ripest time of the year for prime time network television shows, my serial TV watching nonetheless drops to near nil, because I can’t waste the time or DVR space when Grizzlies-Clippers could be playing on NBA4 on League Pass.
Who knows how many quality shows came and went while I was too busy watching meaningless NBA regular season games to notice? Maybe “House” got good again. Maybe “Men of a Certain Age” is on again somewhere. Maybe “Covert Affairs” is secretly the best show on television. I wouldn’t know about any of this if the season was actually happening. Perhaps it’s time to catch up a little.
Cons: Well, the culture isn’t quite the same as with sports. You might have enjoyed last night’s “Hawaii Five-O,” but you’re not going to watch post-game highlights from it later that night on CBS. You’re not going to read web columns the next day breaking it down and evaluating what casting moves it needs to make to put itself in the best position to get good ratings. And you’re certainly not going to spend 15 minutes deliberating whether or not it’s worth plunking down $80 on a Scott Caan or Daniel Dae Kim jersey. Plus there’s no winners and losers, at least not in the literal sense, and at the end, nobody competes for the title of Best Show on Television. (And before you bring up the Emmys … no.) It’s fun, but it’s just not the same thing.
Back-Up Plan Viability: Fill-in around the true backup plan, perhaps, but woefully insufficient on its own.
Going Out and Having a Life
Pros: There’s a whole world out there, supposedly, and perhaps now is the time to go out and experience it unencumbered. Without an organized sports league to dominate my nighttime activity, I could use the hours instead to sample aspects of the local culture I’d never taken the time to experience before. I could go to museums, attend dance parties (some of them in the museums), sit in the park and appreciate that life is beautiful a lot of the time.
I could meet people, new people, better people, sexier people. I could have conversations about politics and current events and board games. I could start going to the gym and mention about doing so to everyone I meet. I could see my co-workers outside of the office. I could learn to drink craft beer. I could finally get a library card. Without basketball, there’s no telling what the world has in store for me.
Cons: It’s cold outside and people are scary.
Back-Up Plan Viability: Maybe once the lockout enters its second decade.
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