Watching the NBA All-Star game from Toronto, one can’t help but be amazed at how phenomenally gifted these athletes they really are. Gravity defying slam dunks of every style occurred and shots launched from far behind the 3-point arc landed in the bucket with inhuman frequency. Forget the days of Larry and Magic or Abdul and Wilt, this generation of NBA talent is more gifted than any before it. But with a final score of 196 to 173 I don’t believe it is out of line for me to ask, why can’t an All Star play defense?
Please don’t hand me that “it’s a meaningless exhibition” canard to explain away the lack of basketball fundamentals on display. No, a meaningless exhibition is if I stop and watch the neighborhood kids shoot hoops for a few minutes. This was a collection of the best basketball players in the world, and we lose something when we have an opportunity to watch the best yet they only give us a one-dimensional look at their skill sets.
So how did it come to this? Defense is an important component in most sports, and we all know defense wins championships, especially in the NFL, MLB, and NBA. In a must win game, give me a stud pitcher like Madison Bumgarner with a Gold Glove defense playing behind him every time, even if he is facing a lineup of batting champions. The answer, of course, is playing defense isn’t sexy and thus rarely makes the highlight reel. In this light the NBA is reflecting a mirror on our modern times. We are a society of great sizzle, so much so the steak is an afterthought.
You can purchase anything you want in this world, have it delivered quicker than ever and at a price that is comparatively affordable, but no matter what you purchase you can’t expect it to last. Ever try to get an appliance or TV repaired in the new millennium? The idea of a neighborhood grease monkey who will tool around with your car till he finds out what is wrong with it is as quaint an idea as the blacksmith. Buy the top of the line Smartphone, laptop, or PC and I guarantee you in a few years’ time it will be in the dump heap or more likely a PC recycling bin.
For in an all sizzle world, everything is disposal, including us. Get a few years under your belt or come down with a disease and modern society’s clear message has become you’re a burden to your family, and how dare you run up the health care costs for everyone else. Physician-assisted suicide is all the rage, and you’re considered selfish if you aren’t open-minded about it. And don’t kid yourself that our thoughts and ideas will live on as long as previous generations. Today you can read the collected letters of previous luminaries such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Orwell, Gandhi, and so on and so forth to get a real sense of their personality and what was important to them. The irony of course is at light speed we have more platforms to communicate from, which can reach more people than ever, but in our all sizzle world communication has become gibberish. Do we really expect 50 years from now future generations to read our greats’ tweets full of rushed thoughts and hyper-abbreviations, and take it as anything more than what it is, utter nonsense?
I’m not against modern advancement. I love the Internet and most modern technology. Maybe I’m selfish, but I don’t see why we can’t have the steak to go with the great sizzle. Part of why I am a conservative is I believe exceptional ideas and values from the past, such as our founders’ vision of a limited government, are worth fighting for and are compatible with the future no matter what surprises the years ahead may hold.
My unsolicited advice to next year’s NBA All-Star squad is simple. Hustle after a loose ball, shadow whoever you’re paired up against like a glove, box out and go up hard for a rebound. In short, while on basketball’s most talented stage, see how you really match up against world greats. Try to win the game, and put your heart and soul on display. It maybe a sizzle world, but you’ll regret selling yourself short in the end.