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What's The Point?
Nathan Davies

Nothing. No, scratch that; to personally annoy me and others like me who would rather live without it. To cause normally sane people to shout at the television set; to spend their hard earned cash to sit in the cold and wet with other like minded fools just to cheer or cry as they would at home or in the pub; and to force them to buy items of clothing with other peoples names on them every six months or so. To provoke feuds between friends for supporting different teams and divide society along similar lines in a sort of tribal manner. To excuse the behaviour of sociopaths who either have nothing better to do, or worse, like nothing better than deliberately damaging the property of others and then beating the living daylights out of them so that they can't complain afterwards. To validate the apparent need to drink to excess for otherwise no apparent reason. To give weak willed employees something to let their bosses beat them at on work outings, or in executive games of golf. To give the British something else to export, but never to excel at. To instil an anti-social, self-destructive desire for competition in our young, and to lead them astray with false hopes and promises of wealth and glory. To persuade you to throw your money away on a fifteen to one or more chance that some half-dead horse will make you rich. To line the pockets of dodgy blokes in suits and even more suspect men in animal hide coats, who wear hats, smoke cigars and have far more many rings than they do fingers. To give a handful of thugs more money than sense for kicking, hitting or throwing a ball. To make men and women all around the world feel inadequate because they are not as strong or as fast or as skilful or as attractive as some "sports personality". To re-invent really boring people as the aforementioned "sports personalities", so named in a lame attempt to convince people that they are actually quite interesting and should be allowed to appear on, if not host nationally broadcast television shows. To cause un-scheduled programs to appear on TV just when what you wanted to record what was supposed to be on, but you don't realise until you get home and find that the tape which should have had 'that film' on has three hours worth of cricket instead. To pop up unannounced and cause your favourite program to be put back three weeks, to be moved to a time when it is impossible for you to watch it, or for it to be cancelled completely. And finally, to so completely obsess your partner that they forget all about you for the entire season (although some may find this a good thing).

Unfortunately, you can’t ignore it either. Sport, like all other true evils, is insidious. It’s everywhere, and worse, thanks to the likes of school sports days and physical education, it’s left its mark on everyone. And it can be attractive. Take, basketball, for instance.
It has energy. It offers excitement. It promises a big finale. Even to me. For example:

1995 NBA Playoffs, Indiana Pacers Vs. New York Knicks.

Less than 19 seconds to go in the final quarter and the Knicks have a 6 point lead, but that's all about to change.

Jackson of the Pacers throws in from the side line to point man Reggie Miller, who dances out of the 'D' for a clutch three shot off the glass, at 16 seconds.

"Miller for three!"

The crowd cheers. The Knicks do a fast turn around but Miller's on his man. Bump. No foul. It's a steal at 14 seconds.

"Miller retreats to the three point line and hits again!"

The crowd goes wild and the Knicks get nasty. The Pacers strong defence gives them two foul shots, but both are bricks. Then, overpowered, Miller goes down, but the ref calls a foul and Reggie gets to take his shots, sinking both to finish an eight point run in less than 11 seconds.

The Knicks pass off with six seconds to spare, but their man stumbles at two and it's all over. The Pacers win 107 to 105, and Miller dances victory over the Knicks, team owner Spike Lee, and 19 thousand spectators at Madison Square Garden, NYC.

That's basketball. That's entertainment. And that's sort of the point of it.

Like any other sport, basketball revolves around competition and has evolved into big business, but it has become so much more than that; it's an entertainment franchise which sells itself on the action and energy of any given game as much as it does the actual league table. And it works. Take me for example; I'm really not a fan of sport, but I love basketball and will happily watch a game, even if none of the players or teams I'm interested in are playing. There's just this intensity and sense of showmanship inherent in the game that, as far as I can see, no other sport has or can rival.

Steve Nash © NBA

I think that it probably has something to do with how condensed basketball is. The playing area is comparatively small, when compared with the likes of a football pitch, and the teams are only allowed to field five players at a time. This speeds up the action (think about all that went into the last 19 seconds of that playoff) and makes things appear a lot more personal than in games played on a larger scale. The relatively small size of the court also allows cameras to get right into the thick of things, so not only can you see clearly what is going on, but also the players are able to show off, and they do. That's half the fun. Slam dunks, lay-ups, alley-oops, clutch shots, fades, feints, no-look passes, all the fast and fancy stuff; that's where it becomes entertainment. Add the tension of down to the wire finishes and you've got the point of watching, if not the point of the game itself. High speed action, cool moves, and the right amount of attitude; that's basketball. That's entertainment. That’s how sport can win you over.

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