Archive for June, 2011

23
Jun
11

Why the Miami Heat are a Classic case of Collusion

(the following story is lifted from an article that I wrote for the Examiner.com. This story generated so much traffic and hate that the Examiner took it down without my permission. There was one minor factual error from the original deleted in this version. But otherwise this version is exactly intact. Bear in mind I wrote this over a month ago, before the NBA Finals even started. Enjoy

 If it doesn’t matter locally, it doesn’t matter, as far as I’m concerned. But sometimes a story transcends local, and or national headlines and deserves more extensive coverage. The up-coming NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat are just such a story. To be fair Dallas and Miami, the two teams that met in the NBA Finals five years ago have no guarantee of getting back there this year. It is entirely possible that OKC, or the Grizzlies beat Dallas in the West, and that Chicago, the top seed in the playoffs beats Miami. But the overwhelming odds and the eyeball test point to these two teams meeting in the Finals. If the Miami Heat get to the Finals, they will bring with them a unique set of superstars headed by the indestructible Dwayne Wade, the best overall player in basketball, Lebron James, and the highly unique forward Chris Bosh, once a perrenial All-Star in Toronto.

But three years ago Miami was not just an average team, they were one of the worst teams in basketball, in fact, statisically the worst team in the NBA, earning the second pick in the 2009 NBA draft. So how did the Heat get so good so quickly? In my opinion the Heat’s turnaround was a classic case of collusion, a point I intend to emphasize in this article. To begin with, what is collusion? In the dictionary Collusion is defined as “a secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful purpose.” But to be more exact collusion usually involves the manipulations of markets through two or more companies secret agreements. For example a few years ago Mrs. Bairds Bread and Wonder-Bread got together to set price controls on loaves of bread, artificially driving up prices. When consumers are deprived of a fair and even balance in available goods, this is collusion in a classic sense. Make no mistake, collusion is not just unethical, it is highly illegal and regulated fiercely by the FTC, amongst other trade unions. What the Heat did last year, in acquiring LeBron James and Chris Bosh is definatively collusion.

In the NBA teams have what is called a “soft cap” on players salaries. The “cap” is aproximately 80 million dollars (give or take) and means that no team can sign a player beyond what is available in their cap. In theory this means if a team wants to sign a player that costs 15 million a year that team needs to have 15 million available on their roster (give or take), so if the cap was 80 million, the teams salary would have to be 65 million. You see how that works? But hold on a minute. The NBA has what is called a “soft cap” which means that teams can go over the cap limit so long as they follow certain rules. One of them is that all trades have to be within 20% of players salaries, meaning if you trade Dirk ( assuming your the Mavs and you want to) and he makes 15 million a season, a player you trade him for should make aproximately 12 to 17 million. If that player is on the high side, you could go over the cap. More commonly though teams go over the cap when signing their own players. After five years with one team, players have what is called “Larry Bird rights” in honor of the former Celtic Larry Bird, which means those players can sign with their own team no matter what, and for any cost. The rule is designed to keep players in the same city they started out in. So even if you are right at 80 million, the Cavaliers could still pay LeBron 20, 25, even 30 million a year with no penalty to their cap. This is why players typically stay where they are in the NBA. So, getting back to collusion. In order for a team to sign a big-time player to a non-exclusive contract (one where he didn’t start with the team) a team would have to purposefully have significant cap space available. For example if you knew LeBron would cost you 15 million a year and you are not the Cavs, you would have to purposefully pay 15 million under your cap space hoping that LeBron would sign with you, and not somebody else. But, lets be honest, how many teams are willing to do that? Most teams not only operate at the salary cap level, they are way above it. In fact many teams are looking to dump long-term contracts every year, so the odds of any NBA team having more than ten million in cap space available are very slim. And yet, somehow, the Miami Heat not only had the cap space to sign LeBron, but also Chris Bosh, two salaries that total close to 25 million a year. If you are wondering how many other teams had that much cap space available last year, the answer is just three. 

The truth is that about three years ago, the Miami Heat (at then, the worst team in the NBA) began dumping cap space in record volume. They dropped Shawn Marion, Shaquille O’Neal, and restructured Dwayne Wade’s long-term contract amongst other deals, all of which got them 25 million under the salary cap. As it worked out, this was perfect for them, because two of the best players available in free agency (Lebron and Chris Bosh) were able to team up with them during the 2010/11 season and set them on a course prepared for a championship. A great story to be sure, so what’s the problem? The problem is that in my opinion the Heat didn’t luck into theit good fortune, rather it was planned out right from the start. Some may not remember this, but LeBron, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh all played on the same Olympic team that won the Gold medal for the U.S. in 2008, and by all intentions the three men have been friends in the off-season for many years. It is illlegal in the NBA for a coach or a G.M. to contact a player until the trade deadline is near, but players are exempt from this rule. Would it be improbable that Heat guard Dwayne Wade had a conversation with Heat G.M. Pat Riley about the aquisition of certain stars over the years? Not hardly, by all acounts Riley and Wade are good friends, and if Riley made it known to Wade that the organization was interested in Lebron and Chris Bosh, it would be very easy for Wade to have passed this onto his future team-mates. The truth is we do not know what happened, but we are left with one of two possibilties. One: D-Wade conspired with Pat Riley (and/or Heat management) to acquire James and Bosh, or two the Heat just happened to have the right amount of cap space available to sign two of the three biggest free agents at that time ( Joe Johnson, also rumored to go to Miami, stuck with Atlanta). I hate to be a realist, but let’s get real here! All signs point to a secret agreement between James, Bosh, and Wade for the three to opt out of their contracts and re-sign in Miami. Remember that players are after the most money so they would not have left their home teams if they weren’t sure a good deal was in place somewhere else. If in deed this did happed, as I think it did, this is collusion for several reasons. Number one, it circumvented other owners from making proposals that would have acquired these free agents. Number two: It deprived LeBron and Bosh of seeing the full market value for themselves ( there are rumors LeBron would have scored big in New York, and Bosh was heavily coveted in Dallas) but most importantly it deprived fans of seeing an equitable balance in the NBA. The NBA is not like the NFL or any other sport. In the NBA one player can make a huge difference. Just as it would have been unfair to put Michael Jordan and Hakeem Alijuwon together, or Magic Johnson and Larry Bird together, it is unfair to put D-Wade and LeBron together. Fans will never see them for their uniqueness, and teams that would have had one of them are deprived at either. The NBA has set up rules designed to make the league fair in its distribution of superstars. One team controlling two or more superstars is unfair to the rest of the league. I think it is telling that LeBron and Wade said their move was designed to beat Boston, after they aquired their own big-3 (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett). This means LeBron and Wade were thinking about this back in 08, the year the Celtics came together. The NBA doesn’t want players creating their own super teams, but guess what, it has happened? Is anyone going to do anything about it? I highly doubt it. But don’t think for a moment this isn’t collusion, or that it itsn’t illegal. The sooner everyone realizes this, the sooner a wrong can be wrighted. Sincerely, Jack B. (P.S., the Mavs will play the winner of OKC, and Memphis on Tueaday, and the Bulls will play the Heat on Sunday or Monday. The Mavs and Heat should play in the Finals sometime in late May. ……. Continue reading on Examiner.com: Why the Miami Heat are a classic case of Collusion (from a Dallas P.OV.) – Houston Nonpartisan | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/nonpartisan-in-houston/why-the-miami-heat-are-a-classic-case-of-collusion-from-a-dallas-p-ov#ixzz1MabvBhEA

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22
Jun
11

Defining “Sports Hate”

 Joe Posnanski of SI.com did a great piece on the hatred of LeBron James, and in general the hatred or love we feel about certain players or teams (here’s the link, if you want to check it out  http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/06/15/the-case-for-rooting-against-lebron/. So I don’t feel I have to add a whole lot to what he says, but the piece did get me to thinking a lot about the teams that I hate, and why I root for or against certain teams. Sports hatred is not easy to define, and yet we all do it. My cousin hates Dirk Nowitzki, but when I asked him why he just sort of shrugged and says he gets a lot of foul calls. Which is true, but it is also true of Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and about a million other superstars. But I understand why he couldn’t give me a straight answer. It’s the same reason I can’t tell you exactly why I hate the Steelers, or the Spurs or a number of other teams. Sports hate is not easy to define, at least it wasn’t until now…

I have created the ultimate guide to explaining and defining sports hatred (keep in mind sports hate is not like real hate, it just applies to sports, and is meant to be in good fun). The Sports Hate Index for Teams, or S.H.I.T. list  can help you determine exactly why you hate whatever team you hate. Here it is, hope this answers some questions.

1) Hatred because of Jealousy

In truth, most sports hate is really because of jealousy. We don’t like to admit it, but we all wish our baseball team was the Yankees, our basketball team was the Lakers, our football team was the Steelers, and our hockey team was the Red Wings. We wish we were from Boston, so we could celebrate seven championships in ten years, but we can’t, unless your one of those annoying people that follows the trendy team at a given moment (like most Heat fans this year). Bottom line is, we are jealous of other teams success, this is multiplied when out own teams do not have success. If you are a Rangers fan, and you had never got out of the first round until last year, how are you not jealous of the Yankees 27 titles?

It makes perfect sense for Cleveland to have a lot of hate because they have not won anything in over fifty years. This is why LeBron leaving them was so hard to take. They didn’t win with him, and now they are years away from winning anything else, without him. The teams with the most success, regardless of how they are run, are hated the most. We hate them because we are jealous, whether we want to admit it or not.

2) Hatred because of Rivalries

Rivalries exist in sports, in part due to tradition, in part due to geographical location, and teams placement in divisions, but most importantly because true rivals keep your team from reaching its goal. The best rivalries from my perspective were the 49ers in the 90’s and the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000’s. Both won championships, but more importantly both had the power to keep my teams (the Cowboys, and Mavs) from reaching our goals. From 92 to 95 the winner of the 49ers/Cowboys NFC Championship game would win the Superbowl every time. The NFC Championship back then was the Superbowl! The Mavericks have not been as successful as the Spurs (Although this year we were!) but you always knew as a Dallas fan that to advance in the playoffs you had to face that team. Since 2001 The Mavs and Spurs have met in the playoffs five times, with Dallas winning two series and the Spurs winning one. They are a true rival, both geographically, and competitively.

True rivals are great for sports, but there are not a ton of them. The Yankees/Red Sox is a true rivalry, The Texas Longhorns, and Oklahoma Sooners are one, Lakers/Celtics is one, but there aren’t many. True rivals have a few things in common. One is geographic or divisional location, usually both. The Red Sox and Yankees both play in the AL East, and they are the two major cities on the East Coast. The Sooners and Longhorns both play in the Big 12 and they are seperated by the Red River. Teams don’t have to be geographically simmilar. The Lakers and Celtics are over a thousand miles apart, and the 49ers and Cowboys were seperated by three states, but in those cases the two teams usually play in the same conference, or happen to meet a lot in big games. The Celtics and Lakers have played each other in nine championship series.

The other thing that makes a true rival is competitive success (meaning you have to have both teams beating the other one on some regular basis) and usually but not always championship success. It matters more that the Red Sox and Yankees have both won World Series Trophies in this decade, same for the Lakers and Celtics. This is why as a Cowboys fan I don’t consider the Eagles a true rival because they have never won a Superbowl, and have never got in the way of us winning one. The Giants and Redskins on the other hand are true rivals because they have won multiple titles, sometimes at the expense of Dallas.

It is okay to hate a rival team, hell it is expected. This is the most legitimate form of sports hatred.

3) Dislike of key players

This one is tricky, because as Jerry Seinfeld once said we are often left rooting for laundry when it comes to pro sports. When A-Rod left the Mariners to come to Texas, I cheered him, when he left Texas to go to the Yankees I booed him. The Red Sox cheered Johnny Damon until he went to the Yankees, and yes I hated T.O. until he traded his Eagle green jersey in and brought his popcorn to North Texas.

So some of this hatred of players is fluid, but sometimes it does stick. I will never like LeBron after his decision, the way he announced it and the way he left Cleveland holding the bag so he could partner up with Wade and Bosh and party on south beach. Maybe you are okay with his decision, that is fine, but it is easy to understand why so many people dislike him. But because he plays for the Heat, I will also hate the Heat, even if I might have otherwise liked him. For the same reason I will always hate the Yankees because they have two of our ex-players on their roster, the egomaniacal Tex and A-Rod.

Sometimes the hatred gets a little more personal. Like if you hate the Eagles because you hate what Michael Vick did, or you hate the Steelers because you dislike what Ben Roethlisberger did. For me personally, I don’t get too bothered by this stuff. About the only players I truly despise on a personal level are Pete Rose (because he lied for decades when all he had to do was tell the truth) and O.J. because, well… Because he killed two people! But in both cases these players were long retired before I disliked them. I don’t even dislike Barry Bonds that much even though I know he cheated. Still, some people have strong principals when it comes to this stuff, and who am I to tell them who to root for. If you don’t like the Lakers because you think Kobe cheated on his wife, you are entitled to your opinion (even though I think its a dumb opinion).

In any event, hatred of certain key players is a good reason to hate a team, but not as much as the last one on the list.

4) Hatred of Cheaters

Alright, perhaps cheaters is a strong word, although not in all cases. Sometimes teams have legitimately cheated to win. USC, The Sooners under Barry Switzer, The Patriots, etc. But othertimes teams haven’t so much cheated as gamed the system or took advantage of loopholes, or competitive disadvantages to win. The Yankees are a great example of this. Yes, it is technically playing by the rules for the Yankees to go out and buy whatever player they want, but lets be honest. How many teams can truly afford a $200 million dollar payroll? Four, five maybe. Most teams can’t simply add an A-Rod, then add a Teixera, then add a Nick Swisher, then add a C.C. Sabathia, the re-sign Jeter, then…You get the idea. Most teams have to make a decision. I can keep this guy, or this guy. The Yankees don’t have to make that choice, they can keep everybody. This gives them an unfair advantage over the vast majority of teams. Yes, what they do is legal under Baseball’s CBA (the dumbest one in sports) but you can understand why so many fans of other teams hate them for this.

Another great example of this is the Miami Heat’s acquisition of their Big 3. As of yet we do not know for certain if this a case of collusion (although I firmly believe it is) but it is easy to see that both LeBron James and Chris Bosh got together with Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley and conspired to send their talents to south beach while spurning all other potential suitors. Whether or not they played by the rules, it is a cheap, and manipulative way to get together to win a championship, especially in a sport that has designed rules to try and prevent superstars from teaming up, because basketball is so dominated by just a handful of players. There are plenty of NBA fans who don’t care a lick about Cleveland or Miami that were put off by the way this thing went down. At worst they cheated to build this team, at best they worked the system to build their own superteam. A million dollars says in the new CBA being hammered out this summer, their will be very restrictive rules put in place on player movement. You will never see a sham deal like this again.

In other cases like the Patriots taping film sessions, or baseball teams stealing signs, the cheating may or may not directly lead to success, but it is still seen as a douchey thing to do, and meritous of sports hate. Hating the Giants, or Yankees, or Rangers, or other teams because of steroid use would also fall into this category. In short, any time a team or players cheat or game the system to get ahead, and have an unfair advantage because of it, you are entitled to real hatred there.

So okay, that wraps up the index, now you can use this in a very scientific way to see who you truly hate. For each category rank the team you hate on a scale of one to ten. You may discover that a team you hate doesn’t really score that badly, and is therfore not deserving of hatred. On the other hand teams like the Heat manage to score high in every single category. Using this list, and scoring them one to forty I have compiled my personal S.H.I.T. list for the teams I hate the most. Here they are

1) The Miami Heat: Score of 38

Hate this team. I have true jealousy because they will probably win two or three titles at least. I hate their players (Wade because of 06, LeBron for the decision), I believe they have an unfair advantage, brought about through collusion, and they are now a real rival, having played the Mavs in the Finals two of the last five seasons. I only gave them an eight on the rival scale because we did beat them, but overall they are as close to a total package of hate as you can get.

2) The New York Yankees: Score of 36

All of the reasons for the Heat, but I only scored them a six on the jealousy meter, because frankly I don’t think their that good anymore, and I think the Rangers have a better team. I don’t fear this club like I once did.

3) The Steelers: Score of 28

This is a great rival historically of the Cowboys and I am jealous out the ass. But I can’t say the Steelers have cheated in any way to earn their success, and I only hate a few of their players

4) The Patriots: Score of 26

The Patriots scored high in every category except one. They are not really a natural rivalry in any way to the Cowboys, although you could consider them a rival when comparing dynasties. Still, there is something about this team I really hate.

5) The Spurs: Score of 22

This one would be a lot higher a few years ago when they still had Bruce Bowen, and when they were a better team, but I am still jealous of their success, they are a true rival to the Mavericks, and I still hate Manu Ginobili a lot.

Okay that is it. Who do you hate in sports? Maybe this list can help you out.

Sincerely,

Jack B.

20
Jun
11

How “The Killing” Screwed us all in the ass!

I’ll admit it. I got raped. I didn’t get it as bad as Rosie Larson did, but I got screwed all the same. The victims: The people who watched AMC’s hit show, “The Killing.” The perpetrators: “The Killings” writers and executive producers. For those that don’t know by now ( and I’ll assume if you’re reading this blog, you do) AMC’s “The Killing” was a 12 part drama that began with the rape and murder of a teenage girl found in the trunk of a car, and each week gave viewers more clues as to who the killer was, supposedly culminating with the answer at the end of the season. If you watched the finale (and if you didn’t and don’t want me to spoil it for you, stop reading please) you know that rather than answer the question, AMC chose to end on a cliffhanger, and promises a conclusion next season on Season 2 of “The Killing.” Unless, of course, “The Killing” Season 2 has strong ratings then they might just drag this thing out some more, hell, why not reveal the killer on season 5 of the show. That will really get people to tune in!

I can’t speak for anyone else, but count me out for season 2. If others follow my lead in protest AMC will have to admit they screwed up and the show will get cancelled, and they will be punished for this t.v. sin. Okay, okay, perhaps I am being a bit melodramatic here, this is only a t.v. show. Life will go on, and my anger will subside, but in all seriousness, “The Killings” finale (or lack therof) brings about a good topic for a blog. Exactly what are the ethics of plot devices, and in particular, cliffhangers.

Cliffhangers are not new. Most people know that Charles Dickens used to write serial novels, and readers would flock to the harbors with each successive installment, waiting to see what happened next. In the old days of cinema, slick producers put out serial films, that always ended on a cliffhanger, trying to draw the same audience back for more. Even the old Batman t.v. show ended on a cliffhanger every stinking week (although you always knew Batman and Robin would slip out of whatever device was holding them and kick some serious t.v. butt). But I do believe there are ethics in plot devices, particularly when it comes to mysteries.

Stephen King once said (and I’m paraphrasing badly here) that it didn’t matter how long you took to show the ghost, but at some point you did have to show the ghost. He was referring to horror movies mostly, but what he meant was, you can leave the viewer (or reader) in suspense for a very long time, but you must reward their patience with an answer at some point. We need to see Norman Bates with his mom’s wig on, we need to see the wizard behind the curtain, we need to… well you get the idea. When it comes to book’s the solution is obvious; we find out everything at the end of the book. Although Stephen King himself kept readers on a seven year cliffhanger between books three and four of the Dark Tower series. But mostly books wrap up nice and neat. Television, not so much…

In T.V. shows, if you know you’re going to be renewed for a following season, your job is to hook viewers in such a way that they come back for the next season. All t.v. shows do this to some extent. Smallville, which just had its series finale, used to leave us on a cliffhanger every season, and my own favorite show (also on AMC) Breaking Bad left us with a doozy last season, Walter held at gunpoint, Jesse possibly becoming a murderer, etc. But the difference is you can leave viewers on a cliffhanger so long as the central plot from the season you are watching is wrapped up. It may be annoying , for instance, to not know what will happen to Harry Potter in the next book or movie, but at least whatever demon he was facing at the time you read the story was dealt with. Even Breaking Bad wrapped up the Jesse/Drug Dealers storyline before leaving us wanting more.

“The Killing” had only one premise: Watch the show and you will find out who the killer is. That was it, and they didn’t deliver. This is like a lot of Heavyweight fights, months of buildup, and a lousy result. This is like a girl that takes you back to her apartment, takes off all her clothes, gets you in the bedroom, then says ‘You know what, I’m kind of tired, maybe some other time.” It’s just wrong, man!

It would be okay if “The Killing” didn’t reveal all the secrets, who is behind the larger conspiracy, what will happen to the family, and the detectives, etc. But they had an obligation to all of their loyal viewers to reveal the killer. If that is your show’s premise, you simply must show the ghost. AMC had me from hello, and I would have gladly watched the next season, but I simply can not do it now. That would be rewarding AMC’s arrogance (and after the Mad Men debacle, is this network getting arrogant or what?)

No, I will not be back to see next season’s show, but perhaps you will. And perhaps you feel differently then I do. Are their ethics to cliff-hangers? Let me know how you feel. Send me a message here, on facebook, or at my e-mail (jackbrewster19@yahoo.com.

Thanks for listening.

Jack B.