On Saturday night, most sane basketball fans were tuned into an incredible NCAA ‘Elite Eight’ showdown between Wisconsin and Arizona that went into overtime before the Wisconsin Badgers snuck through to this weekend’s ‘Final Four’.
Meanwhile, a tiny sliver of Philadelphia was watching their purposefully brutal 76ers beat the less purposefully terrible Detroit Pistons by 25 points.
The upshot was that when this losing streak was mercifully capped at 26, it simply equalled the NBA record for worst streaks in the history of the game. The 76ers players, as several wits put it, couldn’t even manage to be the best at losing, and must now share that disastrous place in the annals with the post-LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers of 2010-2011.
They hadn’t won since the middle of January (a long time in this game) and the vast majority of the defeats had rather inconveniently been suffered in front of their home fans at Wells Fargo Center where their average attendance has been 13,751, more than 7,000 short of capacity.
It’s a shame because this is a proud basketball city and team. But it’s also calculated a move by their higher-up: the worse their players play, the easier it will be to replace them with the young ones emerging out of college.
They call it “tanking” here. The 76ers are capitalising on an NBA system which in trying to generate a level playing field (admirable in and of itself) also offers a loophole which can be hacked into with tacit support from the top.
“What this organisation is doing is absolutely the right thing,” said new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in reference to the stockpiling of young players not ready yet for the big league. “What they’re doing is planning for the future.”
But there is implied approval also for losing so consistently. It’s just the way it is. I personally agree but I don’t blame American-born purists who have tired of such calculations.
Their frustrations offer fertile ground for the new broadcast rights package announced yesterday by the GAA.
There will be better analysis elsewhere in these pages and there are obviously bigger fish to fry for supporters back in Ireland.
But on the face of it — and I have sought some clarification — it seems like a brave new departure by Croke Park in terms of their overseas market.
I use the word ‘market’ reluctantly but that’s the reality. Maybe bigger dollars or shekels were available around the world through other methods in the short term but if this joint venture between the GAA and RTÉ Digital is run correctly — both in terms of expense and ease of access — then the long-term benefits will be very good.
RTÉ have said they will iron out the details later in the month, and we will wait with bated breath. But it bodes wells.
I don’t look at the Channel 7 deal in Australia with envy but rather with admiration. And also with understanding because I don’t think anyone Down Under will be too put out that their 1am TV schedule in the early hours of Monday morning will be replaced by the Sunday Game, even if it is a Leinster football clash in Tullamore.
It’s all about participation and growing the game. I always think back to Donegal v Mayo in 2012 and the huge crowds that gathered in the pubs of McLean Avenue, that Irish strip of land dividing the Bronx and Yonkers which forms the border between New York City and New York State.
The disposable coffee cups were filled with alcohol because no one could be bothered waiting for the bar taps to flow legally. The $20 notes were collected diligently at the door and no one complained because they knew bigger forces were at play.
The speakers were loud and the shock was deep as Donegal raced into that unassailable lead during an opening 20-minute burst for the ages.
And all the while, the dark, tense interiors of the pubs kept out the pre-teen boys and girls wearing familiar O’Neills designed merchandise that was tailored to suit the colours of the great local underage clubs like St Barnabas, St Brigid’s and Celtics as well as the teams actually playing in Croke Park.
They played around the street because the morning was warm. But they weren’t near grass because their parents were either in the pub or back in Dublin at the game. And when the full-time whistle ended Mayo’s dream, the children had to wait a while longer to get back to a bit of open space so that they could recreate a game they never even saw.