Monday, June 19, 2006

The World Cup and the NBA Finals: The Flow Versus the Freethrow

I've been watching a lot of soccer lately and it's really changed my view of the NBA Finals. Basketball is played in little snips; little tiny bits of time. It's a freethrow shooting contest with bursts of tremendous action dished out in between. The Miami Heat shot 49 last game. 49! No wonder the players are so damn cranky. Nobody likes getting interrupted every ten seconds when they're trying to work - especially by a whistle blowing egomaniac. By the way, I was once at a party in Portland that had several of the big name NBA refs at it and they were in full celebrity mode, believe me. Game #5 of the Finals was an endless series of shrill whistle blasts, including a horrendous ticky-tack call at the end that allowed the game to be decided - where else? - at the freethrow line. It's even more pathetic when one of the biggest stars - Shaq - is so awful at shooting them. At this point, Shaq is practicing in the gym with actual bricks. It just recreates the game better. It's like if they forced football lineman to stop playing the actual Super Bowl every now and then for a Punt, Pass, and Kick contest. Don't get me wrong: I love hoops. I'll be watching Tuesday night as these incredible athletes compete. I just wonder what the flow would be like if they ever got a chance to play for longer than a minute or two uninterrupted? Meanwhile, I thought we were supposed to be bored by soccer? Once you adjust to the lack of scoring, it's kind of fun having the games continue for so long without a stop. They even have the stoppage time at the end. It's nice. Yes, the many injuries can be annoying when some seem fake, but every now and then you hear whistling from the stands and you cringe expecting another break in the action. Surprise! They just go right on playing. I've spent a lot of time thinking of ways to make soccer better. My solution: A bigger net. But during Game 5 of the NBA Finals the other night, I found myself pondering a way to get the game off the freethrow line and back to the action. When we were kids on the playground playing hoops, we didn't even bother shooting freethrows. Why stop playing the game? That would be boring.


At 11:52 PM, Blogger shane said...

I agree.. watching soccer is refreshing after watching so many american sports.. what really bothers me is these sports anylisits go on and on about how the "better" athletes play basketball and football and how a 5'6 guy could never be as good as an athlete as our big time sports stars here. I'd love to see shaq run a soccer field for 90 minutes.. I love the guy, but I know he can't do that..

At 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soccer's virtues -- the sustained buildup to the magic moment -- require the kind of powerful concentration that baseball once commanded. Generations weaned on instant-replay sports -- basketball and football -- are not used to focusing on the games with an intensity such that you don't need announcers.

I, too, have thought soccer would be perfect if they could just add maybe two goals per game. But making the net larger isn't the way to do that. Making the net larger ultimately rewards inaccurate shooting. We don't want that.

My suggestion would be to limit the number of defensive players that can occupy the penalty box.


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