AP Photo/John Raoux
Nothing like a little 24-hour news cycle drama to clear out the old sinuses dear readers and I, like most, took a great deal of joy in the chaos of yesterday.
It seems clearer each week that the NBA has staked out this bizarre entertainment niche where the on-court product is cross-pollinated with long-running soap operas and after some months of initial panic over this fact, I’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm of punch-drunk bemusement. Around the time of “The Decision,” I was a manic moralist, decrying the evils of invasive coverage and the propulsive inanity of the stories. Now? I’m a total glutton for this nonsense and I have very little justification other than the fact that it’s so uselessly captivating.
It has been interesting to see, though, that observers’ reactions to the league’s drama cycle split almost entirely on media, or maybe technological, lines. People decrying the narcissism of the athletes or the ubiquitous cataloging of athletes’ feelings seem to have accumulated around print media — even print media with a developed online presence — while the gleeful peanut gallery seems has congregated around “new media” (we really, really need a better term than that).
I know this seems totally banal at first but I guess my question is: why? It has been noted that Twitter and the NBA have a special kind of symbiosis, and Twitter certainly seems to drive the melodramatic market the NBA now seems to occupy exclusively — I can’t think of one story from this week I didn’t learn first from unconfirmed reports on Twitter — but why is the NBA the Twitter sport and why do the people on Twitter seem to have such a different relationship to league business?
I suspect a reason for the NBA to have become the most “melodramatic” of the major sports — and it is arguable whether this is true, but I certainly believe it to be — is that the athletes, as many have noted, are the most visible as people. This is a theory about NBA appeal I’m very drawn to, the idea that we’re so much more physically exposed to NBA athletes that it’s easier to fit them into human stories.
Another idea I found myself pondering was the connection between Twitter, black American culture, and the NBA. Certainly the NBA is the most visibly black of the major sports, and as one SXSW paper noted, Twitter and black culture seem to have developed a unique bond. As has so often happened in sport (and pop culture generally), I wonder if black cultural change is driving the way we think about the NBA.
Of course, that’s just one reason the Twittercycle might be what it is to the NBA and it’s something I need to think about further but it seems clear to me that the real high points of excitement in the NBA universe now include, and might be entirely, moments that take place off the court.
Let me hear your ideas for why the NBA seems to have staked this territory out so much more than the NFL or MLB and what all you see coming down the pipe as a result.