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basketball ideas

Ideas / NBA Season Ticket, the trash-talk edition

I've got the killer app for the NBA tele­vi­sion-view­ing expe­ri­ence, some­thing that will melt faces around the world and pro­vide the league with yet anoth­er license to print mon­ey. (Props to Justin and Zidane who sparked this idea last night as we watched Game 3.)You could call it: NBA 360, or the Court­side Pack­age, or the Real NBA Court­side 360 Pack­age or what­ev­er, but the con­cept is sim­ple … Arrange some micro­phones around/above the court, and cre­ate a pay TV ser­vice that allows fans to hear the trash talk that accom­pa­nies every game. Even bet­ter: You could elim­i­nate the announc­ers, and go au naturel: Game trash talk sound­track, noth­ing more.

Kobe Bryant & Kevin Garnett exchange pleasantries
"I feel so mis­un­der­stood, KG. Some­times I just wish the fans could know the real Kobe." [Pho­to: Stephen Dunn]

David Stern will nev­er go for it, you say? You may be right — today — but Stern is a prod­uct man­ag­er at heart. His recent crack­downs may seem moral in nature, but they're real­ly efforts to main­tain the integri­ty of the cur­rent NBA brand. Of course, cer­tain brands con­tin­u­al­ly change, and some brands are forced to change. (Gen­er­al Motors can't con­tin­ue to be known pri­mar­i­ly the mak­ers of Sub­ur­bans and Hum­mers for­ev­er, for instance). Some­time soon, I expect that Stern will do what all good PMs do: Evolve his prod­uct and brand to respond to the mar­ket.

Why a trash-talk channel, then?

Well, my guess is that peo­ple har­bor few­er and few­er illu­sions about what's hap­pen­ing on the court. It obvi­ous­ly ain't Sun­day School, as much as the NBA wants you to believe it is. Also, even the slight­est peek at the trash talk is fas­ci­nat­ing. The one and only time I sat close to court­side — in Toron­to, 2003, end of the sea­son, against the Hor­nets — I heard Baron Davis and Rafer Alston go at it for a few sec­onds near the side­line and I was stunned: It was deeply per­son­al, and pro­found­ly enter­tain­ing. (It's also unre­peat­able on a fam­i­ly-ori­ent­ed blog like this). Curt Schilling sat court­side dur­ing Game 2 of the Finals, and he also was strange­ly com­pelled by the trash talk:

… About 43 times last night I heard things being said that would have made me swing at some­one. These guys talk MAJOR trash on the floor, and the great part is that most of the times I've seen it the guy on the receiv­ing end usu­al­ly doesn't respond much, if at all, and just plays the game, school­ing the guy who feels like he needs to talk to make his game bet­ter.

For exam­ple:

Last night KG goes to the line, Lamar Odom (who I became a fan of last night) is say­ing "Hey KG why don't you help on the ball down here?†Point­ing to the paint, and I am guess­ing he's ref­er­enc­ing the fact that KG wasn't down in the paint mix­ing it up. He says it again, loud­ly, KG doesn't even acknowl­edge him, and sinks both. Impres­sive, total focus.

For the record, I was ask­ing KG the same ques­tion from the pri­va­cy of my liv­ing room.

Anyway, on a philosophical note

For the last 10 or so years, the NBA has been in a sort of con­flict­ed ado­les­cence. Stern makes extreme efforts to man­age an out­ward appear­ance of nor­mal­i­ty, but this bare­ly masks the tur­bu­lence beneath the sur­face. He cre­at­ed a dress code, and he enforces strict poli­cies on com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the media. Mean­while, every­one asso­ci­at­ed with the league — fans, play­ers, coach­es, etc — knows that this is all win­dow-dress­ing, and dat­ed win­dow-dress­ing at that. There is a deeply com­pelling game with­in a game going on; why not pro­duc­tize it? There are per­son­al­i­ties, feuds, vil­lains, heroes, and so on — why not bring them out, and cre­ate a ser­vice that peo­ple will pay for in the process?

2 replies on “Ideas / NBA Season Ticket, the trash-talk edition”

That's a great idea. I would love to watch the trash-talk edi­tion.

In gen­er­al, I think there is tons more room for net­works to broad­cast live cov­er­age of the sub-nar­ra­tives that take place with­in games.

I've always want­ed to see cov­er­age of a NFL game that focus­es on the offen­sive and defen­sive coor­di­na­tors who are schem­ing and react­ing dur­ing the game. We get a sense of the com­plex­i­ty of the strat­e­gy from the ESPN show NFL Matchup, but I would like to wit­ness the dra­ma of the tac­tics evolv­ing in real time.

Also, I'm remind­ed of the movie Zidane that pro­vides the view­er a rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent (some would say bor­ing) way to expe­ri­ence a soc­cer game. The film con­sists almost entire­ly of close up shots on Zidane through­out the course of a game in which he is even­tu­al­ly expelled with a red card.

Thanks, Dan. Your NFL coor­di­na­tor POV is anoth­er excel­lent exam­ple of what you nice­ly termed "sub-nar­ra­tives." As a Mad­den play­er from days of yore, the appeal of this kind of angle is obvi­ous: Lis­ten­ing to the infor­ma­tion flow from the field, get­ting a sense of what the coor­di­na­tor believes is impor­tant, and then watch­ing it all play out. How much bet­ter could it get for a foot­ball nerd? (Also, can you even imag­ine how much more meta-nar­ra­tive it would add in liv­ing rooms across the coun­try?)

I also agree with your assess­ment of Zidane. It walks a very fine line between riv­et­ing and point­less. The sound was what seemed so new and inter­est­ing to me; the way that the nat­ur­al sound was mixed did a lot of jus­tice to sports. Most­ly grunts, silence, occa­sion­al shouts. Also, the Mog­wai part was awe­some.