Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NBA - The McDonald's Of Pro Sports

Ask most adults if they like McDonald's and I can guarantee you that a majority will give you an emphatic 'No!' as an answer...and by majority I mean 7 out of 10. Those that answer 'yes' will qualify their response with one of the following - 'I only go there because my kids like it' or 'I really like their Sausage McMuffins, everything else sucks'. If those answering no were to be believed, then McDonald's should be on the verge of bankruptcy. That, however, is not the case - McDonald's is still the most popular restaurant chain in the world. Subway may have surpassed them with stores, but they can't match the brand equity and revenue that the Golden Arches rakes in year after year. That means one of two things - a lot of people are eating their body weight in Sausage McMuffins day in and day out or kids are making the meal decisions for damn near every family on the planet...

The actual answer is that the McDonald's question is now a litmus test. Answer yes and you are a simple minded buffoon with no regard for your own or your family's health. In fact, you and McDonald's are everything that is WRONG with America and the world and you should just DIE RIGHT NOW YOU F*CKING UNENLIGHTENED MORON!!! Think I'm kidding? Just take a random sampling of your coworkers...most are going to say they don't care for McDonald's or will give an answer with some logic twisting preamble and/or disclaimer.

What does any of the above have to do with the NBA? Well, the NBA enjoyed some of its best ratings last year and league attendance averaged over 17k fans a game, a record I believe. However, if you ask most sports enthusiasts how they feel about the NBA a majority will answer they don't watch or attend games because they hate basketball and the NBA. If someone does say they watch NBA games you will be treated to the same type of mental gymnastics that you received from those answering yes to the McDonald's question...'yeah, I watch a game every now and then, but I prefer college basketball' or 'I only watch the playoffs, the regular season is a joke' or 'I can't believe the NBA let the Sonics move to Oklahoma City, f*ck the NBA in the face with a chainsaw!' Yes, well...that last statement was an actual answer from a co-worker this morning...although I added the bit about the chainsaw because chainsaws, like bacon, make everything better. Moving along...

Although the NBA's popularity was on the rise last year, it isn't considered hip to be an NBA fan. Oh no, the hipster doofus sports league to embrace, especially here in Seattle, is the MLS. This is completely understandable as the NBA shat all over Seattle by aiding and abetting the move of the Sonics to Oklahoma City. David Stern helped orchestrate that move, and it is one that I hope backfires in his face...with a chainsaw. This move left a hole that the MLS and the Sounders have filled and they have done so brilliantly...but this doesn't explain every other major city though.

I'm not sure when it happened, maybe after the lockout in 1998 or the 2001 Kings/Lakers officiating debacle, but the NBA went from the darling of the sports world to McDonald's status. Both are still popular, but no one is going to admit enjoying them as to avoid being labeled a simpleton. The dislike of the NBA runs deeper though, with elements of race and entitlement thrown into the mix. Now, I'm not one to ever play the race card, and maybe race is the wrong card to play here...we could just be witnessing a cultural paradigm shift in regards to pay and status...but I feel that there are some uncomfortable feelings surrounding young black men like Lebron James and Dwyane (can he fix the goddam spelling of his name?!?!?) Wade making so much guaranteed money and wielding so much media power. That's another discussion for another time, but it is something to consider, especially now as the lockout continues and the national U6 unemployment rate pushes up on 20%.

The NFL is America's game, no one begrudges the money NFL players make because a majority of fans know their contracts are, for the most part, not guaranteed. It is also understood that the NFL is known as Not For Long by the players, meaning they either produce on the field or they will be cut. That doesn't happen in the NBA (or MLB), so the vibe is that the NBA game suffers as the players don't have a whole lot to lose once they sign their contract. And although the NFL has been playing games overseas for decades, there has not been the push to internationalize the game the way Stern has diluted the NBA brand by trying to take it global. His pandering to Hispanic and Asian markets is embarrassing, and the league's stunt of renaming teams during Hispanic Heritage month ('Los Lakers' anyone?) last season made me want to puke all over David Stern's face...with a chainsaw. Is the NBA brand damaged goods, especially now that the lockout has wiped out the first two weeks of the season? Or does anyone even care?

I've touched on a lot of stuff here in trying to figure out how McDonald's and the NBA could be so popular yet have no one really admit to liking either one. I'm not sure what the answer is to that disparity...maybe I just know a lot of people that don't really like either one...or I know a lot of liars...what's your take?


  1. I will admit to liking McDonalds, but couldn't care less about the NBA. Or basketball in general - I don't watch college hoops either. No real insight here I guess. I paid attention to the NBA back in the 90s when the Sonics were good, but after the last strike I stopped watching and the league didn't do anything to lure me back. Now I mostly see the league as a bunch of showboating thugs. The talent level has fallen off as most players just want to make the highlight reel, and I'm pretty sure that at any time at least 1 team in the league (usually Portland) has 20% or more of their roster in legal trouble. Anyway, I tried to work a chainsaw in there somewhere but apparently didn't try hard enough because I couldn't pull it off.

  2. I agree with Scott about level of caring for the NBA. If the league doesn't come back or does come back as a second tier sport (like hockey did after its strikes, though I think it's making a comeback), then so be it.