Friday, February 13, 2009

Endless Regimes We Can Believe In

Here's something weird: the US is now lead by a young-ish black guy who plays basketball and listens to Jay-Z, while the NBA, who's relevant personnel is 85% black, is run by a 90-year old white dinosaur who has only ever touched a basketball for photo-ops.

The David's 25th anniversary as commissioner has unleashed an outpouring of praise and superlatives from the sports media establishment. Seeking opinions on Stern's reign, ESPN went out and got some soundbites from non-biased individuals like an NBA team president and two NBA team owners (note: they think he's great). They balanced the coverage with a selected quote from the NBA's 2-time MVP Steve Nash who did not disagree in polite company. So now that we've heard from all sides I guess that settles it. Oh and also Mike Breen and Mark Jackson think he's the second coming. And Jeremy Schaap wants him to be a US Senator, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. But anyway ESPN climaxed with a softly-lit puff-piece "interview" with Stern (on the sidebar) that was not at all cringe-inducing. David Stern does not at all resemble Gollum from the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit and his smile is 100% natural for an invertebrate with translucent skin. Also, his teeth are not the color of creamed corn.

So while America celebrates hope and change we must simultaneously endure ESPN masturbating to stasis and entrenched power and the glory of the status quo. And better yet, acting like everyone agrees with them. I liked in that clip when they showed Stern hugging Paul Pierce after the 2008 Finals. And yet somehow they forgot to show this moment, which happed seconds earlier. Did he just say "champeen"? Yes.

And then there's J.A. Adande coming to Stern's aide about that dress code flap, in which history has come down firmly on the side of the NBA, apparently:
"The dress code was part of his mission; it sparked a mini cultural war, yet it turned out to be ahead of the curve. Look at the landscape now. Jay-Z disdains wearing jerseys, and Diddy fancies himself a tuxedo-clad James Bond. The NBA was there first."
Uhhhhhh, what? The fuck? Are you talking about? The NBA was there first? Like they made up dressing in suits and shit? Like Jay-Z and P Diddy didn't wear expensive suits before the NBA made it cool? The NBA started that? Huh. So Jay-Z + Diddy = "the landscape". I guess David Stern is really just a fashion forward trend-setter when you think about it. Yeah, now that you mention it, I'm sure he set out to start the newest hip-hop trend by trying to get Jay-Z to NOT wear NBA jerseys thereby ensuring he can lose millions of dollars in merchandise sales. I'm finally sold ESPN, David Stern is a genius. Adande goes on to say "Last season's big story, the Tim Donaghy scandal, did not have a racial angle." Yes, only a game-fixing-by-the-league angle. Another Stern victory.

And it only became his mission after the NBA's 9/11 in Detroit. Then in 2005 David Stern hired George W. Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd to craft a marketing strategy to connect with white America. They came up with stuff like dress codes and age limits and shorts that don't touch your knees. Because that's where players hide their guns. They came up with a list of bars players couldn't go to. They upped the technicals. An NBA game in which someone throws a punch is now a "disgrace", while a hockey game without a fight is a disappointment. Dowd's conventional wisdom said that people didn't like the NBA because it was populated by thugs and miscreants, and ever since David Stern has gone out of his way to let America know that he agrees.

But the cool thing is that none of that matters because all you need is five minutes on ESPN and you can go from Vladimir Putin to the Barack Obama-style"global outreach" guy. I guess!