Small Market Mondays #5: Sanctimonious Sanctions

Posted on Mon 03 December 2012 in Small Market Mondays by Alex Arnon

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

"This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming."

That's what commissioner David Stern had to say before fining the San Antonio Spurs a quarter of a million dollars because the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich, rested his stars on a long road trip. Yes, that's right, resting your older players is an unacceptable decision in the eyes of Mr. Stern. But overstepping his bounds and vetoing a trade that both team GMs involved approved? Sure, why not, that happens all the time! But it's alright, the Hornets got the 1st pick in the draft after the trade got vetoed -- you know, the draft for which the choosing of the order takes place behind closed doors and isn't shown to anyone but people on the NBA payroll.

How about Donald Sterling ringing people into the locker rooms to let them admire the "beautiful black bodies" of the players? Well, I guess they are beautiful. And good old Donald Sterling sure is an upstanding member of his community! We'll let that one slide too.And remember how Stern oversaw two lockouts within a span of 12 years, leading to some teams playing 5 games in 6 days? It was good for ratings, the viewers at home love watching sloppy basketball where the players have a higher probability of getting injured because they're playing for the third night in a row! And if the coach thinks they need some rest, he can just sit them for a game!

Wait, what's that? Oh yeah. Nevermind.

What about the time a referee was caught manipulating games for gambling purposes? That was classic, wasn't it? Sure, it was a bit of a misstep, but Stern sure did do the right thing by loosening restrictions on NBA referees gambling and then never answering questions about it again! And refusing to acknowledge referee fallibility except in fledgling gasps in the death throes of his career! Whatta guy!

You're starting to get the point here, right? I'm not going to insult your intelligence by further pointing out the hypocrisy of what David Stern calls "unacceptable" and what he allows in today's NBA, where he is king. And nor should Stern insult your intelligence by pretending that he actually, genuinely cares about the Spurs sitting some players. This is nothing more than a power play at the expense of the small market Spurs to show them their place. This is David Stern getting revenge for never being able to market a team that won 4 championships in 8 years to a national audience even though he's supposedly the marketing genius of the NBA.

Let's face it, who in today's ESPN big market culture will care about the Spurs outside of the blogosphere? The casual fans who've never gone out of their way to watch the Spurs will let out their generic "well Stern probably fined them because they're so boring to watch" jokes and the other casuals will laugh along because that's what the television told them to think. The Spurs are everything that's right and winning about today's NBA and that's why they're hated. There are no storylines to be found in a team that just goes out and wins. There's no drama in a team that builds from within and doesn't land marquee free agents but still wins. There's no controversies to be found when a team utilizes teamwork, floor spacing, and ball movement to win. Did I mention... wins? (In case I didn't, let me say it again, with emphasis this time: wins.)

In short, there's no one that would go out of their way to see a small market team like the Spurs unless there was some sort of moral uproar involving them. No casual fan isn't going to be THAT excited about a regular season Heat/Spurs match-up without some added drama, even if it is on national TV! There's no way people would actually get up-in-arms about a Spurs game unless outside factors created an insane, controversial, and ridiculous overarching conflict that brought in viewers and made people forget all about the Spurs' small market snappiness. Without some villainous looming figure to create the controversy, nobody but a few random bloggers are_ really_ going to care about the Spurs playing a TNT game, no matter who's on the floor. David Stern would have to create some kind of ridiculous meta-story if he ever wanted the Spurs to really drive ratings. Something so ridiculous that it essentially forced writers to scribe obscenely haughty pieces bloviating for both sides. A story-above-the-story. Drama for the nondramatic. And how could David Stern accomplish something like tha--...

Hey. Wait a hot second.

Oh, David... maybe you really are the marketing guru they say you are...

In solidarity with Coach Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, I sent the other mainstays of this feature home to Finland on a Southwest flight. Just try to fine me, McGuire.


You can do that, Alex Arnon, but know that I will be withholding your pay until further notice in solidarity with David Stern's position. Good luck buying that shiny new gold-plated trap album without your weekly $15,000 salary you make from your cushy blogging job! Also: retroactively, I'm withholding all prior pay. Which means it's a good thing we hadn't paid you any of it yet. Also, probably a good thing nobody else on the staff realized you were making $15,000 a week before this pernicious act, given that nobody else here makes anything and we had no actual way to pay you that salary. Also, it's a good thing I never told you about it. I'm a great editor like that. Always striving, never diving. That's what my pops always used to say. Because I can't swim, damnit.

... What was I talking about again? -- McGuire