A Couple of Thoughts from Around the League: Part 2

I have but a single thought to share today, my reaction to the exit of the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers from the playoffs: thank God for that.

I don't bear any ill-will towards either franchise, mind you. The Clips have been down so long that it's nice to see them excited and making an impact in the league. Rewinding to the beginning of the year, however, you couldn't find two more excessive hype-to-reality ratios than these teams engendered.

Mind you, I'm not anti-hype either. Chris Paul coming to L.A. was worth the headlines. I suppose I can see how Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony bring excitement in New York. They're not my cup of tea, but their names are plenty big and the city is preeminent. That's worth ink.

But you know, media-types across the map, including some who should have known better, were speculating on these teams going deep, threatening established powers. They were the fancy names on the block, chic picks. But one look at either roster could have told you that was never going to happen. They were fine teams. They were not great teams.

That's the part that disturbs me...not the hype surrounding either franchise but the impression I'm getting that we don't know the difference anymore between hype and reality. Is it that much of a reality-TV, ratings-driven, if-it-bleeds-it-leads world now? Are we so starved for excitement that we're just as happy making it up out of thin air as finding solid ground and seeing what we can build on it? Call me crazy, but the vicarious thrill isn't the most important part of watching NBA basketball for me. It's about the game, the players, the contests, the communal experience. Those things bring the thrill, because those things are real. "OMG! The Knicks are SOOO going to rule everything this year!!!" just doesn't do it for me.

I'm not taking Knicks or Clippers fans to task here. My objection is placed solely at the feet of the guys who write the headlines, who analyze the league, the pundits and prognosticators who are supposed to know what they're talking about. Increasingly the media is taking on bad high school overtones. It's not a matter of who's correct or most thoughtful, rather who's popular. "Oooh! Everybody out there is hyping up the Knicks? I better hype up the Knicks!" Ratings! Listeners! Readers! Like me!!! Oh, please, like me!!!

Is this really what we want from people tasked to give and analyze information? Our ability to understand the game is only as good as the data which is fed to us. Thankfully the internet now affords the capacity for us to acquire our own data, reach our own conclusions. But it's a curious world when we have to work around the media instead of getting informed by the media. The world is even curiouser when we willingly accept hype as a substitute for thoughtful analysis because it makes us more excited. In the end, we get excited about nothing that way.

This phenomenon is not confined to New York or L.A., of course. It's simply more prominent there, and in these particular cases. Hype creep encroaches everywhere, though, including in little burgs like Portland. I don't know about you, but I'm a little weary of it. I'd rather have information I can actually use that helps me understand the game better (even if it's slightly less sensational) than falsehoods wrapped in pretty bows.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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