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Now that we’re clear of the regular season, dear readers, I think you want to read about something fresh. I’d imagine you’re as weary as I am of Girls and “hipster racism,” of campaign analysis and summer movie previews. You came to this space for something new, and something new I shall provide. That’s right, I have a few thoughts about tanking.
Now that we’re clear of the regular season, it seems likely that the discussion surrounding tanking is probably going to subside some, as teams are no longer jockeying for seeding or playoff odds. But I waffled on the issue several times over the course of the past few weeks, alternating between “what’s the big deal?” to “it is basically criminal that the Warriors will probably get a better pick than the Rockets,” so I figured I’d share my thoughts about the issue as it currently stands.
I think the reason for variety in opinion over the tanking issue is that it’s much more of a bellwether than it is a self-contained issue: how you feel about tanking has a lot to do with your feelings about the structure of a sports league and how entertainment should intersect with the “real” world. I’ll use a controlling analogy for my point relying on political terminology, but I’m more using a shorthand than I am trying to have a nuanced political discussion. So forgive me.
It seems like the tanking issue comes down, more or less, to what I’ll call a “free market” approach to the game versus what I’ll refer to as basketball “socialism.” Again, sorry for this. These words are stupid in this context. I couldn’t really think of a handier analogy.
Free market viewers believe that the league should function, as an entity, to reward the “best” teams — the most financially responsible, the most competitive, the most innovative, etc. A basketball socialist, which I consider myself, believes that the league should function to regulate the product of basketball such that the most fans are happy at any given time. Crucially, neither of these positions can be “incorrect,” because we’re talking about basketball. Whichever you are is just an entertainment and sports preference, so I’m not here to disagree with anyone.