Who’s the Batman? Who’s the Robin? Who Cares?

A Better Way for NBA Superstars to Co-exist

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 10th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

An annoying trend that has developed in the NBA is whenever two superstars like Lebron James and Dwyane Wade are on the same team the media is in a rush to dub one of them as “The Batman” and the other as “The Robin”. Batman being the main star and Robin the subservient side kick.

Most recently on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, MichaelWilbon and TonyKornheiser were talking about this with the two stars on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With the consensus in the sports world being Westbrook must accept his role as the Robin. So far this is seemingly creating tension and confusion.The problem is, aside from maybe Richard Simmons and the guy who played Gunther on Friends, nobody grows up fantasizing about being Robin. Batman, Superman, or Green Lantern, sure. You want to go Marvel? Spiderman, The Human Torch, maybe Ironman. But not Robin.

To make matters worse, of all the major sports, basketball markets its stars more than any other. In football it’s the Dallas Cowboys against the Washington Redskins. In baseball, it’s the New York Yankees, vs. the Boston Red Sox. In basketball it’s Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers versus Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

These young kids coming up want to be the alpha dog. They got the game, they’re making the money, they want top billing and they want to be the man. The game sells the individual and then is surprised when the individual great players don’t buy into the team concept or supporting role. (Which of course they should).

Back in the 80’s when the game began to take off to the next level in terms of viewership and media, nobody was saying Magic Johnson was going to have to be the Robin to Kareem Abul Jabbar’s Batman or vice versa.

When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Moses Malone no one said okay Julius Erving you’re now being demoted to the Robin.

Scottie Pippen wasn’t asked to be the Joe Dumars or the Robin, as some players are now described as the Scottie Pippin/Robin, with the connotation being the Scottie Pippen/Robin is of lesser stature.

Hyper coverage includes bean counting who takes more shots and making it a daily topic of conversation especially when one player has a bad game and or their team loses. This only adds more unnecessary pressure and tension to the situation.

Supposedly when the New York Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony he was to be the Batman and Amare Stoudemire the Robin. So spoketh the media. But a funny thing happened in their first playoff game against the Boston Celtics. Stoudemire was on fire in the fourth quarter and when Anthony forced up a shot at the end and missed, even though he is the “Batman”, there were questions of why Robin (Stoudemire) didn’t get the touch.

Forget the dynamic duo, offenses should have a flow that is built game to game based on match-ups, game situations and who is hot. Michael Jordan had no problem passing to Steve Kerr to make the winning shot in an NBA finals game against the Utah Jazz because that is what the situation called for. Mature adults ought to be able to figure it out.

I like what they do in football. For the most part, gone are the days where one running back handles the entire rushing load. Two back sets are fairly standard now but instead of Batman and Robin we get nicknames like Thunder and Lightening, Earth and Wind, and so on.

One running back inevitably gets more carries than the other but there is equality to the nicknames. The running backs know their roles, and they accept and get recognized for them. That is the answer here. Unique cool nicknames for all!

It is also unoriginal to call every duo in the NBA the same name (Batman and Robin). Why not use the player personalities to come up with what they should be called? Magic and Jabbar? I’d call Magic Captain America and Jabbar, Mr. Fantastic. Michael Jordan would be Superman, Scottie Pippen, Spiderman, Dennis Rodman, Wolverine and Phil Jackson? He’d be Dr. Strange. See you can apply it to coaches too!

Diversifying nicknames can be fun for the players and the fans and make it easier for players to embrace their role within the team. And it can be a marketing coup! Are you listening David Stern?

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media

Does the Sports Media Have an East Coast Bias?

Dispelling the Myth

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on April 11th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

Whenever an east coast team, player or league gets attention, especially if it is perceived to be at the expense of another team, player or league that does not play on the east coast, there are cries of east coast bias!

Not only from representatives of the sports media but from sports fans on message boards and blogs as well. Most recently we heard screams over eleven teams from The Big East college basketball conference receiving bids for the NCAA tournament. So, is there a bias?
In the “old” days this bias was said to exist in part because everyone on the east coast was asleep by the time west coast games were over and there would be more coverage of east coast games in the print media the next day as a result. However as the balance of media power shifts more and more away from the print media to digital, on-line media, results and scores are all available by the time we rise and shine.

Editorial content and stories on teams are driven by three factors:

  • Who is winning.
  • who is controversial
  • What the public wants to read.

Further, with ESPN and FOX Sports providing twenty four hour coverage and shows, the accessibly is always there so let’s add who is doing the viewing. Winning, controversy, reading and viewing are mostly neutral factors.

The New York Yankees, The Boston Celtics and the New York Jets are three teams that do seem to garner a lot of attention. Is it because they are on the east coast?

Maybe. In the case of the Yankees and the Celtics, you are talking about the winningest franchises in their respective sports that are frequently in the hunt to compete for championships.

The Jets? Do you think their recent ascension in the media has more to do with their location or their controversial, verbose, toe licking head coach Rex Ryan? Up until the Jets hired Ryan and before they signed Brett Farve, the Jets were the L.A. Clippers of the east, with the New York football Giants serving as the L.A. Lakers in this metaphor.

The Jets fall into the category of controversial and as a rising team. If Rex coached for the Minnesota Vikings rather than the Jets, they would have been the subject of HBO’s Hard Knox. In 2011, the previously little talked about Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the team HBO follows with their brash head coach Raheem Morris and their improved play probably having something to do with their selection.

In the interest of equal time lets talk about non- east coast teams. The Dallas Cowboys, otherwise known as “America’s Team”, The Chicago Bulls, I’m talking Michael Jordan’s Bulls, The San Francisco Forty Niners, circa Joe Montana and The Los Angeles Lakers, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, or Kobe Bryant era, take your pick. None of these franchises play on the east coast. Since 1979, the year Magic Johnson was drafted to today, I’d say the Lakers have been the dominant NBA team, winning the most championships, housing the most stars and getting the most media attention. West coast bias anyone?

Would anyone suggest that had Jordan played in Miami on the east coast, he would have received more attention and bias than playing in the Midwest? America’s favorite diva, Brett Farve, may have played a year in New York, but he played for sixteen in Wisconsin. Would anyone suggest that Farve and Green Bay were short changed of coverage in those years? The Denver Broncos seemed to do okay coverage wise with John Elway. The Utah Jazz seemed to get more coverage when they had two hall of famers Karl Malone and John Stockton playing for them. Rightfully so, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts get more attention than Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

With his 100 mile an hour fastball, pitching phenom Steven Strasburg was destined to be a media focal point regardless of where he signed. The momentum was there for him to take off no matter the team that selected him. Why was Fox commentator Joe Buck slobbering all over Strasburg in effort to get him selected to the All-Star game? Because I’m assuming he felt it could help great ratings.

Stirring passions, whether it is love (underdogs) or hate (Yankees) the media will gravitate to whatever it can to up ratings. The hate aspect is not to be underestimated, and the irony is, if there is an east coast bias it exists in part because people love to hate teams like the Yankees that spend money and win.

Controversy and individual players that generate love/hate also sell regardless of the market they play in: Teams that Terrell Owens played for never seemed to lack for coverage. When Latrell Sprewell choked his coach in Golden State, his Q rating seemed to elevate. And of course the aforementioned Brett Farve.

In reality the discussion should not be about location, east coast vs. the rest. It should be big market versus small market bias. The Cleveland Indians, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Orioles and Charlotte Bobcats are just some of the teams that play on the east coast that I doubt anyone thinks there is any kind of bias going in their direction. Further, given that there are a disproportionate amount of professional teams that technically play in the eastern time zone relative to the rest of country it makes sense that the east would get more coverage to some degree without it being a bias. So when people do say east coast bias, I think they’re talking about a handful of teams predominantly in the northeast.

The big market teams tend to (but not always) spend more money on their players, in some cases that leads to winners which leads to coverage. However, when Mark Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks, it didn’t matter that they weren’t on the east coast. Cuban increased payroll, brought in players, is a colorful personality, controversial, and the team started to win more then previously. Thus the media profile went up.

The San Francisco Giants put together a moneyball winner, have a closer, Brian Wilson, with a colorful personality and lo and behold they’re getting coverage and Wilson is capitalizing on endorsements.

Kevin Durant is bringing attention to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is a superstar. The next step is for him to have a Michael Jordan/ Craig Ehlo moment and take his team deeper into the playoffs. If his team progresses, they win a championship and he continues to grow as a player, he and the Thunder will become more of a story, there will be more public interest and the attention and coverage will follow.

If we bring college sports into the conversation, there we see a more even distribution of teams spread out throughout the country. Notre Dame, UCLA, USC, Duke, there are plenty of teams that are not in the northeast that dominate coverage and attention based on current success, history and tradition of their program, or a dominant coaching personality. Bobby Knight, Rick Pitino, and Larry Brown, should he return to college, where these guys coach media will follow.

Having said all of this you might reach the conclusion that I do not think there is any bias in sports. I wouldn’t go that far. I would say it does exist but to a lesser degree then is often mentioned because of the reasons talked about in this blog.

Where you do see bias is in the reporters reporting the news, picking favorites, criticizing and so on. Human bias is part of the equation in hard news that we see all of the time coming from “journalists”, covering world events.  Of course it will rear itself in the sports world as well where we see fewer journalists, and more fans with microphones, and oh yeah, blogs! In the interest of full disclosure I did grow up in New York.

I started this blog by mentioning the Big East and college basketball. By the way how does the Big East usually do when it comes to bowl selection in college football?

##############

March 31st, 2011 on ESPN’s First and Ten: In Skip Bayless’ continuing campaign to deny Derrick Rose the MVP he actually said that the Bulls & D. Rose have benefited from the Celtics trade of Kendrick Perkins in pursuit of the number one seed in the east. Funny how Skippy doesn’t mention that the Lakers and Kobe Bryant are benefiting from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker missing games for the Spurs in their pursuit of the number one seed in the west… At least for the first time in a month he didn’t mention Rose’s one bad game in Atlanta.

March 30th, 2011 on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, Michael Wilbon was emphatic that the Miami Heat loss to the fifteen win Cleveland Cavaliers meant nothing, zero! If Miami winds up not having home court advantage against either Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas or San Antonio because of one loss ask Wilbon the question again of whether or not this loss meant something.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

ESPN’s PTI Gets Pass Interference Wrong

PTIYesterday, the Carolina Panthers coach of the year, Ron Rivera, suggested that the NFL competition committee should consider making a pass interference call reviewable by the referees.

On the 2/7/14 edition of the ESPN debate show, Pardon The Interruption, both hosts, Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, agreed that this would slow the game down too much, take too much time, and should remain a judgment call that is not reviewable.

Their argument is flawed because Rivera does not suggest that coaches receive more challenges.  Currently a coach gets two challenges per game,  and a third if they are right on the first two.  Losing a timeout if they are wrong.   What difference does it make how they use them?  The time it takes for challenges is already factored into the game by the NFL and the fans.

If the league instituted it, or allowed it on end zone plays as an additional challenge, that could conceivably slow the game town slightly.

However, those are pretty big game turning and often-debatable plays that fans would accept the delay.   After all, what do fans complain about more: the use of replay to overturn bad calls?  Or the non-use of replay that let bad calls stand?

I have been advocating for review long before it was instituted and believe any play should be fair game for a challenge.  “If upon further review the evidence to overturn is clear and indisputable”, what difference does it make if it is a judgment call or not?

There are pass interference plays that are clearly terrible calls that should be overturned.  Plays where the receiver isn’t even touched! And the point of the system is to overturn these kinds of calls.

By yardage, pass interference is potentially the most costly call in the game.  And on more than one occasion the PTI guys have ripped the referees for making or not making this call.

Speaking of non-calls, not only should pass interference be reviewed, but a non pass interference call should be reviewable as well.  After all we’ve seen as many of these calls blown as the other way around.

Technology makes reversals so clear now that it becomes unfair to selectively review certain kinds of plays and not others.

For example, let’s say the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Dallas is on Pittsburgh’s ten-yard line and Tony Romo throws an interception that is run back for a pick six by Troy Polamalu.  But upon further review, Polamalu steps out-of-bounds on his own 38yard line.  Ultimately Pittsburgh punts and Dallas is correctly saved seven points.  Now, later in the same game, say a Dallas defensive back commits pass interference in the end zone, and it is not called.  This costs Pittsburgh seven points.

They say bad calls even out but if you allow for replay on some plays and not for others it makes it harder to do that!  By taking seven points from Pittsburgh by overturning one call, and not giving them seven by overturning another, the replay system becomes the cause of unfairness rather than the solution.  Because is this scenario, replay prevented the bad calls from evening out.

The system would still not be perfect.  Of course there would still be mistakes, but this moves the game in the right direction.  At least it should be tried experimentally.

In a playoff game this season a fumble recovered by San Francisco against Seattle was not reviewable for a reason that boggles the mind.  It was controversial and you can bet this type of play will be reviewable in the future.  Let’s not wait until an egregious, clearly overturn-able, pass interference call is made in the playoffs before we make it reviewable.

WHAT DO THE LAKERS, HEAT AND KNICKS HAVE IN COMMON?

The talking heads have gone back and forth pontificating about the fortunes of these teams.  Lets start with the Los Angeles Lakers.  The two-time defending champions were being overlooked to start the NBA season, and while many were picking the Miami Heat and their big three to run away with it (Jeff Van Gundy saying 70 WINS was doable), the Lakers got off to a sizzling start and all of a sudden the talking heads were commenting on how under the radar the Lakers were and now many were in their corner citing Kobe Bryant, coach Phil Jackson, their size, experience and chemistry.  But then all of a sudden the Lake show was having a tough time beating winning teams.  Andrew Bynum was recovering slowly from off-season knee surgery and then they had a three game losing streak before the All-Star break including one loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.  The plethora of sports talk shows were all asking the same question: On a scale of one to ten how worried should the Lakers be?  Or my other favorite:  Is it time for the Lakers to panic?  Now, they were not referring to Kobe as the game’s best closer, rather, he was old, Bynum was not healing, Ron Artest was playing uninterested, and the Lakers were done as far a championship this year…   Post all-star break, the Lake show is back!  They’ve won ten out of eleven, Bynum is healthy, Kobe is back as the best closer and Skip Bayless is touting him as an MVP candidate (That is just Skip being Skip, everybody knows it will and should be D. Rose)

The Miami Heat.  To be fair, some did say at the start of the season, that it would take time for Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Chris Bosh and the rest (on Gillighan’s Island) to develop chemistry, and that the Lakers and Boston Celtics should be favorites. Not surprisingly the Heat under performed to their talent to start the season, got hot, got cold and more recently hot again, putting together their most impressive three game winning streak against the Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.  And presto magic they are all of a sudden a threat to win it all again.  In between, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was thrown under the bus, pulled out, and thrown under again several times. Wade, James and Bosh were questioned and criticized every which way.  James went from not being an MVP candidate, to being one to not being able to close out a game to being great.  For Wade, it was his team, then Lebron’s, and now whispers that he should be an MVP candidate.

You see intellectually people knew there could be growing pains for the Heat, just like they know there are “dog days” in a season for veteran teams like the Lakers, but when the growing pains happen in front of us or a veteran team slumps, for some reason we are shocked by it and way overreact to the good and the bad along the way.

The New York Knicks.  Weren’t suppose to be a good team this year.  They overpaid for Amare Stoudemire, (according to the talking heads).  He and coach D’Antoni didn’t get along in Phoenix (true but that was a forced marriage, here they were both willing going in) and the Knicks didn’t have any other talent to surround Amare with.  Stoudemire winds up exceeding expectations, not only as a player but as a leader as well.  He and D’Antoni are getting along swimmingly and Coach D. does what he always does, and coaches up players getting more out of them then what was thought he could.  But still, the Knicks weren’t going to be players for Carmelo Anthony, because they didn’t have talent to draw interested from Denver.  Well as we all know, Denver had little choice but to deal with the Knicks and they trade Melo and Chauncy Billups to New York.  Billups might have been the most disrespected element of any trade I have ever seen.  Former all-star, former champion, great clutch player currently shooting over forty percent from the three point line but that is besides the point.  The talking heads declared this doesn’t make the Knicks that much better this year but now if they get Chris Paul or Deron Williams  after 2012 then they’ll be a championship team.  So then what happens?  Everybody remembers, oh yeah, Chauncey Billups is pretty good too.  The Knicks upset Miami, Memphis, and all of a sudden their stock rises.  They can beat the Heat in the first round of the playoffs proclaims ESPN’s Michael Wilbon.  But then Billups gets hurt, the Knicks lose a few, the Denver Nuggets win a few and now the Knicks are done, Wilbon retracts his prediction, Mark Cuban and others are saying Denver got the better of the trade.  Never mind that it has taken the Heat almost the whole season to first be getting it together.  Now we got the media holding D’Antoni by the wrists and ankles getting ready to throw him under the bus because a team that was not supposed to compete for a championship under any circumstance, and was to be an underdog if they made the playoffs under any circumstance is going through the same growing pains that we just saw the Heat go through!

Moral of the story?   Dudes!  Chill out!  A pro sports season is a marathon not a sprint.  Patience is a virtue, and there are going to be ups and downs.  Fans beware, many in the media are no smarter than the drunk boob at your local sports bar.  Thank God they don’t actually run or coach a team…

##############

Can’t wait for the NBA playoffs and the annual this team is done, this same team is great that occurs game to game based on one win or a loss…

Kendick Perkins referred to Pau Gasol as soft?  Yo Kendrick… Pau is an all-star and a key contributor on a two time defending champion… If he is soft then maybe soft isn’t so bad…

Skip Bayless.  The difference between Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose as far as MVP this year, is the consistency of the Bulls play all season, and that Derrick carried the Bulls and played exceptional when key players were out (Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer).  Kobe started looking like Kobe and getting MVP talk only when Bynum was healthy.  Before that the Lakers weren’t playing on a championship level, your criteria for even being considered.