I don’t often write about the organizations that manage the various sports leagues, but the current structure of the National Basketball Association’s league schedules deserves some comment. And, in the interest of transparency, I must disclose that one of our grandchildren works for the NBA in New Jersey.
Normally, sports leagues strive to maintain the competitiveness of the teams by equalizing the competition. For example, there are rules about how many players can suit up for a game, how many reserves can be available, etc. However, COVID-19 has caused unfair changes in this approach.
The other evening, our Miami Heat team was able to dress only 8 players because the balance of the team was in COVID-19 protocol and unable to play. And, some of the 8 were reserves seeing their first playing time in prime time. This is not a fair approach and the results are really meaningless because of the unfair advantage the opposing team had playing an undermanned Heat team, not just in terms of the number of players available but in the level of talent available.
I’m sure the reason for permitting this situation to exist is the league’s desire to reap revenues from TV audiences, many of whom will watch non-competitive games just to watch sports. And, it permits the teams to pay their players regardless of whether the games prove anything or not.
I’m sure that the results of this season will be followed by an asterisk advising that they were achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic and are not to be compared to normal seasons.
Once fans realize this situation, and many of my friends have done just that, there is little reason to watch the games and the result should be a declining viewership.
The NBA needs to do some serious soul-searching and develop a better solution for continuing play during the pandemic, which could last longer than we all hope. If not, consideration should be given to putting the seasons on hold until teams are not periodically at a competitive disadvantage. To ignore reality only results in wasted seasons for teams and players alike.