The NBA is Part of our Overall Unreality

The NBA is Part of our Overall Unreality

Bread and Circuses, said Caesars and those who governed Rome as it started its decline into oblivion, while everyone cheered and overdid whatever was available. And we say it again today, but not shouted to echo against the Coliseum walls and the crowd. We all know there are not and will be no crowds at our Coliseum until Doomsday or so. But it’s too early for baseball yet and will be until October, so let’s keep focused on the NBA and our current darlings, the Dubs, as they stagger forward hoping to nose out some other .500 team for a spot in the playoffs and (we hope and pray) another miracle on hardwood. All the second stringers left for other teams, and we have seen the new half, the team’s newbies, have more clunk than swish.

The other thing none of the players have learned to fall down when touched, as all their opponents do automatically as one of the Dubs comes anywhere near, and the refs blow their whistles. We trail the entire league (meaning in last place) in free throws taken. Because only Poole knows how to fall down, and he falls down mostly when not hit, but when he dribbles off his foot, leg or hip and dives for the loose ball.

One other thing — no one at GSW HQ has gotten the word that the refs have been instructed to build attendance by switching to the World Wrestling Foundation rule book. In every game, you see 30 or 40 incidents where an opposing player barrels into one of ours standing still with his arms out, so he can cushion his fall when blasted out of his “sneakers.” We then watch the ref point at him, hand the ball to the guy who dislocated his jaw and lead him to the foul line.

The Word from the NBA Brass is that attendance and revenues must be increased and violence and the whole “How low can you go” world is coining money while the NBA is just eyeball deep in it with its TV rights, all the ugly clothing, $22 for a beer and the other ancillary revenue sources. Not to mention the huge action in sports betting, whose owners relax at the same high-end retreats as the NBA moguls. Independent of who’s fouling who and whether the call is right or wrong, measured by traditional basketball rules, punching, scratching across the face, and diving on top of another player lying on the court holding the ball. The NBA is Hollywood East, all show business, zero real honest sports.

My dad won a European Armed Services Championship in the late 40’s in a tournament held in Berlin during the Blockade no one remembers now. But that was front page news for months then, as the Russians acted like Memphis Grizzlies and many of the league’s leading teams, using every dirty trick yet invented. I’ve watched basketball for more than 60 years, and a lot of NBA games and championships, including the two Knicks titles of the Bradley/Frazier era with season tix at The Garden.

The game as now played and permitted is incredibly physical and violent, second to second, with players on all the teams constantly out with injuries to a level most likely never seen in this sport. But it does connect directly back from us to the Roman funeral with its Circus Maximus.

That arena, which had a roof, was almost seven football fields long and had chariot races, athletics, gladiators, animal fights, and the occasional decapitation. That finale can properly only be regarded —pardon me please but really — as the cherry on the Sundae of society-wide depravity and thirst for savagery. No one with any wit whatsoever could disagree or deny that we are the Roman Empire of Now, and that the parallels are overwhelming, powerful and persuasive.

My contribution to this is no secret, just one of those things you don’t acknowledge because it’s so much more pleasant, if you still have room there, to sweep it underneath the rug, and so we can stay focused on pleasure and the moment, the two guiding lights that lead us downward to darkness “ceaselessly into the past,” as Fitzgerald said, once and for all.