You know what’s no fun? A sports debate whose two sides each stand on shaky logic.Consider the one that arises every year around this time. Should all-star players, who by definition, are crucial to their team’s success, risk injury and fulfil their obligation to fans by playing in the showcase game?
Problem is, we’re having trouble finding the big injury risk. NHL and NBA teams play 82 games during the course of the season. They play one all-star game. And as far as we can remember – please, correct us if we’re wrong – the most devastating injury suffered in any game since 2000 is a badly sprained Brad Miller ankle. So, to borrow from the Passover service, why is this night different from all others? Why are injuries such a concern during an all-star game but not during the other 82?
The answer, of course, is that this game is for the fans and not the standings. But therein lies the second misconception; this game isn’t played for the fans. Not anymore, at least. It’s played for the players. They get the opportunity to be serenaded on national TV and mentioned with all of the league’s other greats, while they clear out the lane so they can see who completes the best alley-oop with all their friends around the league watching.
A game that was truly for the fans would feature the 24 best players in the league actually competing to win.
Imagine: Derrick Rose taking the ball down court with Chris Paul defending him step-for-step until Amar’e Stoudemire sets a high screen to set up his favourite play: the pick and roll dunk. Only instead of dunking over a typically overmatched defender, Tim Duncan is ready for the challenge. For the first time in as long as he can remember, Stoudemire is stuck. He needs an outlet. Luckily, there’s Dwyane Wade cutting to the basket, eagerly waiting to accept a lob.
See? Nothing could be better than a hard-fought game, where premier talent is contesting every dribble, pass, and shot. It would be a dream come true for fans. And, even without flashy dunks, a close game featuring players of this magnitude playing their hardest, could only be topped by a Game 7 in the playoffs. And, as Bill Simmons noted in a recent column, this year’s NBA All-Star game possesses more talent than any other in the last 20 years.
If we can compel these players to go full speed and truly fulfil fans wishes, that would also solve the injury risk misconception. Fans wouldn’t even consider rooting for the team’s best player to sit out.
Does your team’s most important player want to nurse an injury? Sit out a game where his presence is truly meaningless, like a March walk-through against the cellar-dwelling Cavaliers or Nets. But don’t take off the most entertaining night of the year. Plus, because all 12 All-Stars players actually play in the game, that player’s body wouldn’t even take its typical beating. He’d play 25 minutes rather than his usual 40.
Photo: AP Images
If sports fans and writers thought like this, league executives wouldn’t look the other way when a star sat out the game to nurse a phantom injury. Players wouldn’t want to sit out, anyway. A hard-fought All-Star Game would be the biggest event on the NBA calendar short of the Finals.Yes, sports fans root for their teams, but what they really want is to be amazed. That’s why fans of every team – well, except the Cavs – love to watch LeBron James. Sports fans would gladly sacrifice the small injury risk that an extra 25-minutes of playing time might pose (as opposed to the 3,000+ stars regularly rack up during the season), for the opportunity to be awestruck.
So let’s agree to end the argument before it starts up again. Don’t sit out the All-Star Game simply to rest a nagging injury. Take the opposite approach. Play like your life is on the line.
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