Coach's Corner

Please forward this column to NBA Commissioner David Stern. His sport is in dire need of Coach's advice.

I'm asking a favor, a small thing really. It's probably something nobody out in Readerland can help me with, but who knows? We do take up a few kilobits or whatever out on the vaunted Internet. It's conceivable Phil Jackson's a regular reader. If he is, Phil, you, too, can help. Anyway, on the off-chance you know NBA Commissioner David Stern, know anybody in his office, are a distant cousin, friends with a player, his agent, wife, lawyer, or grandma, anyone who might know the commissioner, please cut this out and send it to him.

Dear Dave:

First, let's establish that I like professional basketball. I'm not a rah-rah Billy Packer, the-college-game-is-pure-as-the-driven-snow type. I subscribe to the NBA Season Pass. Occasionally, just because it's there, I'll watch a Milwaukee-Atlanta game. Your publicity people say you're a real smart guy. A listener. You need to listen to this.

We have a good news/bad news kinda deal here. We -- hey bro, we're all in this together! -- we need to do something permanent about this Heat-Knicks deal. It's bad mojo, Dave. Bad shit. Bad for children to watch. Bad for healthy sleep patterns. Bad for the appetite. Bad for the libido. Toss Miami into the Western Conference. Then the only time we'll have to worry about 61-59 playoff games is on the off-chance they meet up in the league finals. This is a possibility, but it's remote. Anyway Dave, this is the good news. Miami/New York is for sure a bad thing -- like a daylong, grinding headache. Still, after a good night's sleep, it will go away. Our other problem's life-threatening.

I'm sorry I must bore my readers by being repetitive -- they've heard it before -- but you, Dave, need to hear this. I'm sure you are personally a fine, generous fellow. Good to the neighbors, kind to the dog, considerate with the wife and kids. This is all well and good for getting into heaven, no help at all filling empty seats and dark TV screens. Take no personal offense when I tell you the vacuum-sucking greed of your bosses, the yawing avarice of the players and the golden goose herself -- television -- are killing our game.

Take a few nights ago. Miami/NY. Oye. Enough bad medicine. Pro basketball with a score in the 60s is torture aplenty. But then this fiasco staggers into overtime. More! Sure I could've turned it off, but hey, I'm a fan. The five-minute overtime must have lasted a half-hour. It was an electronic root canal with no anesthetic but an old belt to bite on. This is how it went: a few missed "shots." Timeout... three commercials. We're back: a turnover, a few more fouls, four free throws. Timeout ... Here's Bill Russell embarrassing his dignified self (for the 40th time in two hours) pitching Coors beer in a new can. Bob Seger's up next, still going on about Chevy trucks ... "like a rock." Shit, Dave, Chevy's been running that spot for a decade. Next, the ad kids for Alamo Car Rental, sending that poor guy into the telephone wires. Cute, really ... up until the 50th viewing. This redundant sequence, with only minor variations -- Ford trucks are Texas tough, Phillips Flat TVs, (they have to admit "it's getting better ... ") Joe Montana catches a can of beer -- is repeated ad nauseum. This on top of the 30 or so commercials stuffed into the last minute of regulation.

I know, someone's gotta pay for Kevin's contract, but dude, you've lost control of our game. You're killing it, man. As my friend Donna is wont to say, "True dat." Do you know what I did, Dave? It was unprecedented, previously considered genetically impossible. I walked away. Yeah man ... true dat! Just turned off the TV and walked away. No regrets. No looking back. With 30 seconds left, the outcome in doubt, after another foul/timeout/commercial sequence, I walked away. Just didn't care any more. I crossed a dangerous line, Dave. Very scary.

Get our game back! Do the guys really need all those damn timeouts? If the Lakers don't understand by this time that the idea's to feed Shaq, well, so be it. Overtime and end-of-game-timeouts should be drastically cut. Recall the flow and rhythm of a professional basketball game in which the players actually played. Played, Dave!! It's novel, for sure. Players play!? It's an idea with merit. This is going to be a tough sell, Dave, but everyone says Youdaman. Players make a few mil less, networks pay less, owners cement up a few odious skyboxes, and what do we have? Well, what we have, Dave, is ... The Masters, where those stuffy old racists control their own little golf tournament.

Do you remember back in the Sixties, Dave, when Walter Cronkite came out against American involvement in Vietnam? Lyndon Johnson said, "If we've lost Walter, we've lost Middle America." Dave, when a person like me, who has front pages from the Chicago Tribune framed in his office celebrating Bulls championships, when my ilk, when we start turning off overtime playoff games because the ads have finally driven us totally batshit, driving me to read a book ... A book for Christsake!! When this happens, there's trouble. Trouble indeed in Gotham. To quote Donna, "True Dat!"

Sincerely,

Your Pal

Andy Cotton

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