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Monday, Jan. 19, 2009

Above the Rim?

Sports in Real Life

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For many years I’ve been daydreaming about sports. Not in your traditional “I wish I were Hank Aaron, or Tony Mandarich” kind of dreaming. In this wonderment I look at a sport and consider why some things aren’t different or more sporting.

How could we make professional sports more interesting? What if we made golf balls out of something a little denser? How about filling the little orb with ball bearings or cement? Let’s see Tiger blast a chunk of concrete off the tee 300 yards.

In the NFL, I say we make players go barefoot after we litter the field with broken glass and thumb tacks. Let’s see Ricky Williams gain 200 yards without cleats. It would be great fun to watch the gargantuan linemen tripping over each other, jamming their toes in the turf (now that’s a legitimate case of turf-toe).

Baseball players can be cocky, football players confident, but NBA players are smug. I don’t deny that they are talented athletes; however, I think they’re one-trick-ponies. If not for their height, these guys would be working regular jobs like the rest of us. They’d just see the job from a much higher perspective.

Raising the rim in the NBA is my fondest wish–greater than world peace or a potato chip without carbohydrates.

We’ve heard theories as to how to change the NBA brand of basketball, to make it more entertaining or reasonable.

I’m convinced that an 11-foot rim is the only way to go. These days, if a ball is passed down low, all the player has to do is jump straight up and use every bit of god-given muscle and sinew to jam the ball through the hoop with the force of a jackhammer. It’s like shooting a deer in a cage or fishing the stream in a shopping mall (my little brother did that at Mayfair in the 70s–dropped a line in the stream and caught a huge trout–he was a douche, but he was young).

An NBA player dunking the basketball is insanely easy. I wouldn’t take much pride in beating up a third grader, and these guys can jam a ball like Tiger can make a two-foot blindfolded putt.

Where’s the sport in doing that?

What if we took it a step forward and made jamming illegal.

Golf has the hole-in-one, baseball has the home run, football has the Hail Mary and the NBA has the dunk. The shot is known by many names, including (but not limited to) the dunk, the slam, the slam dunk, the stuff, rim rocker, knuckle blaster, kissing the rim, French kissing the rim, twinkling the net and the (rarer) Mongolian cluster plum.

With the new rule, a player would in fact be penalized if he did “jam.” God forbid, the guy would have to rely on skill to gently guide the ball over the rim, into the net. His huge paws would be forbidden to force-feed the rim, thereby limiting his game dramatically.

I’d especially delight in seeing Shaquille O’Neal be reduced to a tree stump in the lane. He’d sport the grace of a garbage truck on ice.Players from yesteryear, like David Robinson and Dr. J, would have fared better as they had more talent and diversity to their game. An outside shot for one thing, a touch for another.

It’d be great to see a 7-footer jump as high as he could, only to slam the ball against the side of the 11-foot rim. The ricochet would cause him to jettison backward onto his butt.

The embarrassment alone would be sublime.

He wouldn’t be injured, but he’d think twice about attempting that stunt again.

The Bucks seem to be doing well and I’m glad for them. Scott Skiles appears to have breeched the team’s inner sanctum and might make believers out of his players.

I’ve been to a handful of games this year, and the fan turnout is not what it once was. You can blame this on the economy or the apathy of fans, either way you’d be correct.

The Bucks are determined to drum up interest, even if it’s a bit forced, somewhat disingenuous.

Bucks rookie forward Joe Alexander has been tabbed as the team’s new public relations target. They’ve started an advertising campaign hoping we’ll become engrossed in the team and part with our disposable income the moment it hits our pockets. According to the Bucks, this kid can jump.

Alexander is hoping to be chosen as one of the candidates for the final spot in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. This auspicious competition will be held in Phoenix during All-Star Weekend in February. His competitors include fellow rookies Rudy Fernandez of Portland and Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City.