Why is the NBA better than the NFL?

For the last couple of days I have struggled to find the most apt words to describe why the NBA Playoffs are more compelling (although not more exciting) than the NFL's postseason. But then I stumbled upon this nugget of wisdom from the folks over at FreeDarko.com.

If this series revealed much about LeBron, it’s also taught me about my own relationship with basketball. Increasingly, I’m coming to realize that I don’t watch basketball, but instead watch people playing basketball.

Basketball is as much a drama as it is an athletic competition, we watch it for the individuals, the LeBrons and Kobes. But if we watch people playing basketball, when it comes to the NFL we are simply watching football.

Perhaps this has more to do with the emphasis on team play in the NFL or the helmets which hide players from us, but the NFL is missing out on something by its stubborn refusal to allow players to express their individuality. Whether it's through fining players for wearing different colored socks or penalizing them for celebrating after a touchdown, the NFL has continually attempted to supress free expression among its players lest one of them offend Joe Sixpack.

Take Chad Johnson, the best thing to happen to the NFL since Ickey Woods. Johnson made last season infinitely more enjoyable (and if you disagree on this we can't be friends) and how does the NFL respond? The same way Congress would, by implementing obscure regulations to limit freedom of expression. (If you don't think I'm rooting for C.J. this season simply to see his TD celebrations you're crazy.)

Maybe you feel differently, and don't think the NFL needs to change anything else other than a few minor rules. After all, there's got to be some reason the NFL is the king of the hill in America. But me, I look at the NFL and see all this unfulfilled potential, an ability to make the league more interesting than its current cookie cutter blandness.


Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I think that what you just said is crazy talk. I love single elimination. The NBA playoffs last forever. By the end of it all I'm usually bored.

Joel said...

You are all over it. The NFL is burdened with the title of America's Pasttime and it's not handling the weight. It's become so self-important that it can't find the irony anymore. Protect the quarterback, but load the highlight reel with bone-crunching hits. Come down hard on drugs but sell your adspace to Viagra and beer companies. Vilify Janet Jackson but zoom in close on the Cowboys Cheerleaders.

The NBA had its own case of the borings, making the dress code stricter for players. But that has nothing to do with what happens on the court. The league could have completely overreacted to the Pistons/Pacers debacle, but the rule changes have been perfectly fitting of an event that unprecedented. Ultimately the NBA knows where the fun is and they've made sure not to stifle it. The players are still allowed to be human.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree. The NBA is a league full of Terrell Owenses. I love the NFL because I root for the Bucs (and only the Bucs) regardless of who is playing for the team. Keyshawn was the devil when he played for the Jets, then he was a hero, now he is a devil again.

The NFL has succeeded where the NBA has failed *because* of the strict rules against acting like a donkey. One only has to look at the new NBA dress code to realize that the NBA is starting to imitate the NFL, and that can only be good for their image.

I haven't watched an NBA game in a decade, and I don't have any plans to do so until they clean up their act and become respectable. The whole hip-hop gangsta image doesn't appeal to me or many of my peers.

The NFL has the broadest demographic fan base, ranging from rednecks to geeks to stock brokers to lawyers to doctors to businessmen and beyond. Whites, blacks, and hispanics all gravitate towards the NFL. The league even appeals to women in higher numbers than any other sport. The NBA appeals mainly to one demographic, young black men.

Ski said...

image vs. substance
casual fans vs. die hards
nfl vs. nba

if we're talking about making your sport appealing the widest slice of the population possible, then the nfl wins hands down. The nfl has done a fine job of blanding the league down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. And don't get me wrong, that's the decision the business men who run the nfl have to make.

but the subplots and personalities of the nba make it the much more compelling story (not game) to follow. At this point I'm beating a dead horse, but the nfl's response to touchdown celebrations is a prime example of what's wrong with the league...more regulations, more rules, less individual expression.

for every ron artest in the nba there is a gilbert arenas, an individual who wears the no-number zero to remind himself that he went undrafted. An individual who throws his jersey into the stands after every game because he wants to give a part of his nothingness to the fans.

for all its flaws (or maybe because of them) the nba is the more interesting league

Anonymous said...

uhhhhh gilbert arenas was drafted so........... yeah also half the stuff you just said was false.... o snap.....