Monday, June 18, 2012
The NBA needs to add some bacon, quick.
As I said to Sweetie on the way to try the sundae: "How can I not try it? It's a big deal. Everyone's talking about it. And I am all about event food now."
ALSO: I coined the term "Event Food." You can say it, but you've got to pay me a nickel everytime you do.
"Event food" is like an event movie -- the Bacon Sundae as Avengers 3D Imax Movie, something to get you (me) off your (my) butt and out into the restaurant, and Burger King is a leader in the new era of Event Food. While McDonald's offers up their "Daily Double," which is just double cheeseburger with mayo on it, ho hum, Burger King is putting bacon into ice cream, freezing cokes, who knows what they'll do next?
The review of the Bacon Sundae will have to wait, because this is a (non)sports blog, and so I have a (non)sports focus to this post, which is this:
Burger King made me try bacon in ice cream: why can't the NBA get me to watch LeBron James play basketball?
Or, put another way: Is the NBA Finals a harder sell than bacon in ice cream?
Leave aside my belief that LeBron James isn't as good as people make him out to be, and consider instead that the NBA ratings are suffering. The hope was that this year, the Thunder's "dunk-heavy" offense would appeal to the casual fan, in part because the "Durant-James rivalry" (which is a thing?) promises electricity.
Confession: I'm not exactly sure who Durant is. But that might be because the last pro basketball game I watched was that one where what's-his-name on the 76ers hurt his mouth and was spitting blood under the table to stay on the court. (It involved the Bucks, in the near past, and I was trying to bond with Oldest Daughter by watching basketball.)
So far this year, the finals, through Game 3 with LeBron down 2-1 (of course), are the highest rated in the past 10 years, but if Oklahoma City is drawing in the viewers by the flocks, it's got to steal them from Pawn Stars, which drew only about 2,000 less viewers in the final two games OK City played against San Antonio.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals drew 13 million viewers, roughly double the nearly 7,000,000 a rerun of Person of Interest got on CBS; earlier in the week, more people watched America's Got Talent or an NCIS rerun than tuned into Game 1.
The Finals are averaging through 2 games about 16,500,000 viewers per game (game 3 stats aren't available yet) which places them somewhere between "Chicago/Utah 1998" and "Chicago/Utah 1999", comfortable territory, it would seem, but well below almost any series involving the Lakers, and nothing about this series appears to be drawing in "casual" fans: the 11.8 rating puts the series in about 20th place, all-time, nevermind the hype about "record" ratings.
So why can't the NBA convince me to switch the channel over to watch a game, but Burger King can get me to make a special trip to shell out $2.49 for chocolate-covered gooey bacon? In either case, you'd think the sell is equally hard: I'm not crazy about basketball, but I will watch a big deal in sports even if I don't like the sport: I checked out Michael Phelps winning all those gold medals, and I once watched the gymnastics finals where that one girl broke her leg. I used to listen to the NBA Finals on the radio as I biked for exercise, back when Jordan played.
If the NBA can't outsell bacon in ice cream, it has a problem. Maybe it's that Burger King doesn't cram 38 months' worth of desserts into a single year; I find it hard to believe that basketball is still going on, but let's face it: it seems like basketball never stops. There was a lockout last year, I believe, and it still feels like basketball is endless, with a regular season that even the 'casual' fan (me) doesn't believe matters. (The NBA regular season exists only to make people in Milwaukee throw away their money for a few months before getting their Lakers' jerseys out of the bottom drawer for the real season.)
Or maybe it's that the NBA isn't doing a good job of packaging the big stars. Remember, I don't know who Durant is, and the biggest name in the current finals is a guy who is mostly known for sucking in the finals. (LeBron wouldn't make a good running mate for Romney, one guy on NPR said, because he'd quit trying by November.) I used to care about basketball when basketball had big names and oversized personalities, basketball being the place where a big name can have a bigger impact. One major star is 20% of the people on the floor for a given team at any one time - -10% of the people on the court, so a big name in basketball has a major impact on the game at any time.
But I can't name most of the big names in basketball right now. LeBron, sure, and I guess I know Chris Bosh because he hangs around with LeBron, and I know Dwyane Wade, and Kobe still plays basketball, right? But outside of that, the only NBA player I've heard about this year was Jeremy Lin and I'm pretty sure he doesn't play in the league anymore because I never hear his name.
The NBA is a cult of personality, really: the game, to guys like me, is hard to understand for its strategy and niceties, and sports people admit that: The Thunder dunks a lot, so 'casual' fans will like them. Mostly, when I watch basketball, I see the same thing over and over, about 100 times per game: This team inbounds, dribbles and passes, and then scores, and then the other team does that.
That's a hard-sell to guys like me. I don't have 2 hours to waste on now you now me sports that seems to not matter much until the last two minutes. So to get me to watch, you've got to show me something different, something new, something bigger. I check out the NCAA Tournament every year because it's the biggest thing around and always features some good storyline; there's always a Butler to love or a Duke to hate. I'll watch some of the Olympics for that reason, and I got into the World Cup a few years back because it was the World Cup.
The NBA doesn't seem to have that; they just keep serving up the same old Daily Doubles, and hoping that their name recognition carries them through. "Record" ratings or not, I can't shake the feeling that there's nothing much going on in the NBA that I haven't seen before, and, frankly, I'd rather eat some bacon in ice cream than watch a few minutes of the Finals -- at least with the Bacon Sundae, I'm assured that it'll be different, something to talk about.