Thoughts on The NBA: Brothers, Bubbles and Ratings

What’s the Deal?

Currently, the National Basketball Association is in one of the oddest situations the league has ever faced in its existence. Odder than the lockout seasons of 1998-1999, 1995 and 2011.  

Where these seasons were shortened due to labor issues, this season was bubble wrapped and quarantined due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19.  

The obvious positive note is that the Los Angeles Lakers are once again contending for an NBA Championship after last making it to the promised land ten years ago.  

Sports and Culture: The Greatest Cliche of the 21st Century

The reason why the often-used term “intersection of sports and culture” seems so trite all these years since it has been repeatedly and needlessly coined is that sports are obviously comprised of people.  And those very people live within the greater society at large. To be certain, it touches and changes them just as much as they touch and change society.  

Right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are up 3-2 on the 17th appearance to the Finals by the Purple and Gold while the upstarted, 5th seeded Miami Heat are in their sixth NBA Finals. Additionally, the Miami Heat and team president Pat Riley had quite a few bones to pick with King James regarding his departure from South Beach after the “Heatles” lost in the Finals in 2014.   

Riley has since gone on record to praise James and reign in some of the vitriol that was spilled in the immediate aftermath of James’ return to Cleveland. 

However, as competitive as champions are, both Riley and LBJ were salivating over the opportunity to beat one another. For NBA fans with long memories, this series initially had all the bells and whistles indicative of a great series prior to the tip-off of Game 1.  

However, as we get ready for the eventual crowning of the Lakers as 2020 NBA Champs, the low-ratings and low energy that has emanated from these games have ultimately affected the ratings in a negative way.

Sports Ratings Are Fading, Or Are They?

According to the Sports Media Watch, these NBA Finals are the lowest-rated Finals of all-time.  More people watched Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals than all three 2020 Finals games thus far.

Speculation as to the cause of this lapse has ranged from conservative-minded individuals postulating that the NBA’s leadership role in pushing voter rights and police accountability might be to blame. While others believe that the absence of live fans at the games leaves the viewing audience devoid of a type of reciprocal energy resulting from the cheers, groans, “defeat cobra” posses, paper bags of embarrassment and all manner of entertaining behavior that makes the viewing experience that much more visceral.  

The last and perhaps most viable explanation is that humans are creatures of habit, and American humans are used to their professional sports seasons being as predictable as snowfall in Buffalo or sunrays in Cabo.  

The internal clock of many American sports fans over the age of 18 is geared toward the conclusion of one sports season and the beginning of another. From the CFB National Championship to the Super Bowl, to MLB opening day, to the NBA Finals, the anticipation builds from week to week as we divest from one and invest in the other.  

Sports Are The American Male’s Internal Clock

Although the Los Angeles Lakers had been the favorites to win it all this season, the journey to the top is just as exhilarating to behold as the confetti that streams down at the conclusion of the championship. 

COVID-19 has robbed fans of a normal NBA season and, for some, watching the NBA Finals take place in October is just a big turn off. A reminder that things ARE NOT normal and may not be for quite some time. 

The start of the National Football League season, as well as MLB and the “Boys of October” powering through a pretty exciting postseason, as both Major League Baseball and ESPN are through the roof over their TV ratings.  However, though the NFL still garners a great deal of enthusiasm despite COVID, the league’s early ratings have been all over the place in the past month.  

There could be any number of reasons why the NBA’s ratings are all over the place, but the greatest likelihood is people simply aren’t interested in a series between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers that’s ACTUALLY being played in Orlando.