Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Well, Ken Hitchcock was right. Yet another double OT affair. Tim Panaccio reports on the "one that got away" last night, as the Flyers failed to take advantage of closing out their series against Toronto, setting up their first Game 7 since losing to the Devils back in 2000. The Flyers have a 5-5 record in such scenarios, they'll either go above or below .500 pending the results of tonight's Game 7. Rich Hofmann laments the ridiculous scheduling that led to the back-to-back situation between games 6 and 7, for the first time in over half a century. It especially doesn't help that Game 6 went into 2OT, meaning there's less than a 20-hour turnaround between games. Hofmann also writes how this is deja vu all over again for the Leafs. Ray Parrillo talks about some of the miraculous saves by Cechmanek, including a beautiful spin-o-rama kick save. You could watch the NHL playoffs for a decade and not see a play like that. Phil Sheridan says there's nothing quite like sudden-death OT in the NHL playoffs. Speaking of extra sessions, there's been 7 OT sessions in this series, meaning these teams have already played the equivalent of over 9 games. By the time this series is done, they'll have played the equivalent of over 10 (maybe more?) The Ottawa Senators meanwhile are sipping taquila awaiting the survivor.

Ashley McGeachy Fox has Larry Brown still gushing over AI's 55 point outburst. "For me, I'm sitting there watching this little kid go off.... That was truly one of the great performances you'll ever see." Agreed. Bill Lyon is still waxing poetic over the performance, adding this cautionary note: "Even the best soloists are better when supported by a chorus." John Smallwood says "Van Horn knows he got his mulligan," so he better show up to play for the rest of this series. Phil Jasner has a bunch of average quotes from yesterday's practice session. Fox also cites a somewhat misleading statistic that since 1984, the winner of Game 1 of a first round series has advanced 124 out of 144 series. What she doesn't mention is that all those statistics applied to 5-game series. In best-of-seven series, the winner of Game 1 wins around 80% of the time, which doesn't bode well for the teams that lost over the weekend. And while it may only be a few percentage points difference between those stats, my point is that at some point in the future, some stats are going to be tossed about out (meaning the old ones will fall by the wayside) such as, "since 2003, when the first round was expanded to 7 games..." Marc Narducci says Baron Davis wore slippers to yesterday's practice, and he wasn't making a fashion statement either.

Ralph Wiley talks about the "urban legend" that is AI. "Allen Iverson's will alone is very heroic. You can say it isn't, that he isn't anything but trouble, you can O'Reilly him, shout him down, try to kill him off by saying, in a fair and balanced way, that he is undeserving, and not the Answer." You know, like if you're a member of the Howard Eskin fan club. Speaking of which, Eskin, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, pronounced yesterday "AI Day" on his afternoon WIP show. As is his style, he ridiculed callers who were "taking personally" his round-about criticism of Iverson by saying he'd rather have Kobe, Duncan, or McGrady, just because they're all taller and better defenders. When one caller finally called him on the carpet by saying height does not a defender make, Eskin quickly pushed the "hangup" button. I guess that got a little too "personal", how Howard? Speaking of Eskin, a scene transpired after Game 1 that I thought funny, just because I was there. Right after the game, he attempted to run down the hallway to the Sixers lockerroom right after the game (before reporters are allowed in). He was quickly stopped by security, who escorted him back to the court. He then proceeded to get into a heated discussion with the First Union Center's security chief. It might not be a big deal, but I just found the whole incident hilarious. To borrow one Eskin's own phrases, "I'm just reporting the facts, just trying to give you folks some inside info!"

Peter Vecsey continues to demonstrate sour grapes over his ex-employers TNT and NBC, as he recaps the weekend action. He did get a good one-liner in: "The Bucks are demanding the league office force the Nets to play Dikembe Mutombo more than marginal minutes." Bill Simmons offers his (shocking) playoff predictions. I say shocking because he has the Kings beating the Sixers in the Finals in 6. I'm trying to figure out which is more surprising, the fact that the Sixers would even be there, or that they would somehow manage to win 2 games.

Monday, April 21, 2003

What can you say? AI is the man. Franchise, and career playoff high 55 points. Too bad nobody else showed up for the game offensively. I had intended to do a full game story, but for personal reasons, was not able to. The game was definitely worth the price of admission, and continued my streak of 25 straight playoff appearances at the First Union Center. Sadly, that streak will be coming to an end this Wednesday...

Ashley McGeachy Fox has the game story. The always fun-to-read Bill Lyon says the Hornets only hope was divine intervention. Perhaps it was just a concidence that ABC was broadcasting "The Ten Commandments" earlier in the night. Stephen A. Smith has Paul Silas exclaiming "That little kid is something special, boy!" Phil Jasner gets Iverson's reaction to Silas' decision not to double-team him: "Good. That's perfect." John Smallwood was impressed too. He quotes AI saying, "I got in one of those rhythms where the basket looks like an ocean, and I was just throwing rocks in it." Dick Jerardi attempted to speak to David "I don't have a lot to say" Wesley and Stacey "I don't want to talk" Augmon. Rich Hofmann is a little concerned that Coleman, Van Horn, and Thomas combined for 11 points. Paging Dr. Van Horn. Please report to the First Union Center.

In out of town reporting, John Reid has trip-artist Baron Davis lamenting that his "knee is [expletive deleted] up tonight."

Tim Panaccio reports with the bad news that Eric Desjardins will miss the next 2 to 4 weeks because of a broken foot. Game 6 of the series will be on CSN locally and ESPN2 nationally at 7.


Saturday, April 19, 2003

Ashley McGeachy Fox gives her rendition of "master of the obvious" today by saying Van Horn "could be the key" to this series. Phil Jasner offers his preview of Game 1. Marty Burns reminds us that DC has never won a playoff series, going 0-7 in that category. Jimmy Smith gets former teammate George Lynch to say AI, listd at 6 ft, 165 lbs, is "probably about 140." Michael Wilbon has the Pacers and Sixers pencilled in for the ECF, and says this might be the year the Lakers go down. Kenny Thomas logs in to sixers.com with the first entry in his playoff diary (the postseason being a first for him as well).

Dr. Jack offers his previews of the Eastern and Western conferences, picking the Lakers as the only "upset." Peter May also offers his preview of the east and west, predictably picking the Hornets and Lakers as the only "surprises." This NBA.com roundtable discussion had 3 out of 4 participants picking Larry Brown as their "playoff coach." Chris Isidore says the NBA now stands for "No Broadcasts Available," making reference to the fact that only 1 of the 8 games on the opening weekend of the playoffs is on ABC, relegating the rest to cable giants ESPN and TNT (he's also got ratings charts for the playoffs and Finals in there for the past decade). Eric Neel gives 21 reasons why he prefers the NBA playoffs to the NHL, offering this great one mocking Mark Cuban: "Digital Cable service, $44.95 a month. New TV, $529. Pizza and beer, $22. Chance to watch one of the richest men in the world lose his ever-lovin' mind, pointing, strutting and shouting like Tina Turner on a 'roid binge ? priceless."

Bob Ryan says "he's seen enough" of the Celtics this year, a sentiment shared by many longtime C's fans who don't care for O'Brien's style of play which focuses on the perimeter game. Ryan predicts that their "season should be over very soon."

C. Jemal Horton imagines the Nets-Pacers series went 7 games last year. Larry Stewart has an (always entertaining) interview with Charles Barkley. Fred Kerber has Geore Karl admitting he's "scared" of Dikembe, since "I've never beat Mutombo in the playoffs. He has beaten me ever time." Tom Enlund has Mutombo "flaming" these fires by teasing that Karl "has to go through me one more time." Steve Hummer believes Atlanta Hawks season ticket holders might need to get their heads examined.

Did you know Shaq makes $33.88 a second? Larry Stewart gives us this little insight, while breaking down the broadcast schedule (in general terms), based on the new agreement.


Friday, April 18, 2003

Even though this is only the 2nd day back, today is a special NBA Playoff Preview, so it'll be a little longer than normal. On with the links...

Mark Narducci says the Hornets are going to be a tough matchup for the Sixers, and reminds us that Stacey Augmon contained Iverson defensively on Sunday, holding him to 0-6 from the field in the 4th quarter. Stephen A. Smith has a chat with former NBA "chief of police" Rod Thorn, who says "don't tease me" in response to a hypothetical question about a Shaq-less NBA Finals. Ron Reid discusses more highlights of ESPN's coverage of Jordan's swan song, particularly Brad Nessler's remark, "Every time he touches the ball, the place lights up like a giant strobe!" Larry Eichel opens up the accounting books and gives us a glimpse of just how profitable a prolonged playoff run can be for a team. Bill Walton isn't folllowing the majority party line that whoever comes out of the West will romp over the counterpart in the East. Bill Fleischman left Walton speechless when he needlessly asked him whether "Iverson should know by now that he shouldn't be hanging out anywhere at 2 a.m." Phil Jasner has Larry Brown claiming the Hornets as the "best team" in the East. Another disturbing quote by Larry Brown in the Daily News (and just watch for the ensuing controversy if the media asks for AI's reaction to this one): "Maybe he shouldn't be out late at night in a position like he was in, and then he wouldn't have to feel like he did in Chicago." John Smallwood says the first round being changed to best-of-seven this year "might be the best thing for" the Sixers. Why? He reminds us that they are 2-4 in their last six Game 1s. The theory is that shorter series tend to produce more upsets, and the "better team" eventually wins in a 7-game series.

As far as predictions are concerned, Jasner, Smallwood, and Dick Jerardi all pick the Sixers winning in 7, while dissenting Rich Hoffman picks the Hornets in 6. Off the bench for the Daily News, Paul Vigna recaps the season series between the Hornets and Sixers, but incorrectly writes that when the Sixers lost to the Hornets on Sunday, they "could do no better than a No. 3 seed," which is wrong. Had the Sixers only won one more game, against the Bulls on Tuesday, the would have tied Jersey and shared the division championship, but by virtue of winning the season series, would actually have had the 2 seed and would have faced the Bucks instead. So as I mentioned yesterday, with the way the Nets and Pacers finished, it was virtually impossible for a first-round rematch against the Celtics. Jasner backs up his prediction by breaking down the series in more detail. Bob Cooney previews both the eastern and western conferences, and has the Hornets over the Sixers as the only upset. Interesting side story if it develops: do you think Coleman is out to prove to Paul Silas that he isn't the reason the Hornets lost a playoff series to the Bucks back in 2001?

The Times-Picayune's (try typing that fast) John Reid gives his New Orleans audience a "primer" on the NBA playoffs (this being their first one and all). Apparently he's new to the playoffs too, as he seems to think the Nets actually won a game against the Lakers in the Finals last year. Jimmy Smith talks about the solid performance by the bench for the Hornets.

As for the Flyers, Tim Panaccio says the Flyers got a second wind, despite playing the equivalent of more than 3 games in 3 days. Phil Sheridan says the flyers still need to win the series, but that they have already won respect (which, truth be told, isn't as shiny as Lord Stanley's Cup). Ray Parrillo catches Toronto coach Pat Quinn whining about the Flyers taking "cheap shots" at Belfour. Rich Hofmann says if the Flyers go down, "it will be swinging with both fists." He also finds Ken Hitchock predicting "another overtime, I can feel it." Switching to the NFL briefly, Andy Reid provides little insight over which direction the Eagles will head in the draft. Feel free to make up your own punchline or caption to the photo in the article. Only one rule: it can't include the word "cheesesteak." I've already trademarked that one.

Mark Murphy catches a little bit of Jermaine O'Neal's "mind games" (while missing one of the good taunts quoted here yesterday), and Pierce's reply: "I don't remember that." Yesterday, Murphy was wrong when he said the Celtics "took it on the chin from the Pacers this year", stating the Pacers won the season series 2-1. He quietly corrected that in today's article. Bob Kravitz throws Jeff Van Gundy's name out there as a rumor that might surface if Isiah Thomas can't break his 0-2 spell in the playoffs as a head coach. Dave Lewandowski believes the east's top 3 seeds might be primed for a fall, sicne they are a combined 47-54 since the All-Star break (yikes). Sekou Smith has a more detailed analysis of the eastern teams records since the All-Star break, with the Sixers and Hornets at the top of the list (too bad one of them won't advance past the first round. What I found most striking was the point differential in those games, where the Sixers were an astounding +191, which was nearly double the second closest (Detroit). By the way, looks like the Bucks chances of upsetting the Nets might be greatly diminished if the "Tim Thomas controversy" continues to rear its ugly head ("there was a lot of B.S. with the coach and things of that nature"). Just what a team needs as it preps for the playoffs.

The LA Times' Mark Heisler offers his eastern and western conference previews, and has the Lakers over the T-Wolves as the lone upset. Interesting statistic: Byron Scott (11-9) and Jim O'Brien (9-7) are the only coaches (out of the eastern conference playoff teams) with a winning playoff record. Of course, they might be removed from that list by the time this post-season is over. Belittling the east as the "little conference that couldn't," Heisler points out the dire statistic that the Pistons' 50 wins is the fewest for the #1 seed in a conference in 19 years. He goes on to say thank heavens the regular season (or in Lakers-speak, the "second preseason"), is over and concludes that the defending champs are "either the mightiest fifth-seeded team in NBA history, or have just staged one of the worst title defenses in NBA history, or both." Speaking of the "poor" T-Wolves, J.A. Adande attempts to intimidate KG and his crew with this gloom and doom intro: "A franchise without a playoff series victory finally gets to begin postseason play at home. Against the Lakers. The three-time NBA champion Lakers. Who have won 16 of their last 18 playoff road games." He quotes TNT analyst Kenny Smith, "I just feed bad for Minnesota." You think Adande was the bully back in school? Tim Brown has another lame excuse from Shaq about being late for practice (next week: the dog ate my homework!)

Phil Mushnick hates everybody, especially Fox shows hosted by Monica Lewinsky. Peter Vecsey offers up a useless piece of drivel, reminding us that Philly fans booed Santa Claus and Kobe Bryant (he's a day late and a dollar short for this tired rant). He makes light of the situation in which one of Iverson's close associates was shot. Nice. Not too peeved that your NBC gig is up, and that TNT didn't want you back, are you Peter?

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Dave's Sporting News is back! And just in time to recap MJ's last performance ever. No, really this time. For real. No joking (and no, his fingers aren't cross behind his back). Bill Lyon captures all the magic of the moment. Stephen A. Smith rains a bit on his Airness' parade. Ashley McGeachy Fox notes the "We want Mike! We want Mike!" chant of the 21,000+ plus in attendance at the First Union Center. For all the bad rap that Philly fans get, I can't think of a more fitting sendoff to the best to have ever played the game (and those that know me know how difficult that was for me to type!) I had to admit, while observing the festivities from the comfort of my home, that I had somehow missed out on "the moment" by cancelling my season tickets prior to this season. As much as I might have disliked the dominance of his Bulls, I think it would have been a nice memory to have been there, to see the "brotherly love" that was shown there. Major kudos to Sixers VP Dave Coskey, responsible for arranging all of the pre- and in-game festivities, including the very nice touch of flying in former Bulls PA announcer Ray Clay for one last call of his patented "at guard...6-6...from North...Carolina...No. 23...Michael...Jordan!" as nicely recapped by Rich Hoffman. Ironic that the last time I had heard reference to Ray was last year around this time, when I mentioned that the Bulls canned him for wanting to do a fitting introduction for Jordan at the United Center.

Tim Panaccio recaps last night's thrilling triple-OT win by the Flyers. I can now claim to have stayed up to see the two longest games in Flyers history (last night's being #2, the first being that 5-OT affair against Pittsburgh back in 2000, that ended, oh, say about 2 days after it started). Interesting thing about those games, they were both on the road, the Flyers won them both (and as a sign if good things to come, Flyers fans hope, they won that series against the Penguins). Phil Sheridan calls the game an instant "classic." (if the Flyers win the series, that is). Sam Donnellon says the Flyers have caught their share of breaks this series, so they won't have any excuses if they blow it.

Peter May demonstrates his ignorance by mailing it in while "covering" Jordan's last game, lamenting the "oft-diabolical Philly fans," reminding us how those boorish "fans booed native son Kobe Bryant during the 2002 All-Star game" (must I revisit that whole topic again?) Then again, May authored (and I use the term loosely) this awful piece to ESPN.com (who might consider calling the bank and putting a stop payment on that check). PTI co-host Michael Wilbon (who last year also castigated Philly fans for booing Sir Kobe ala Peter May) submitted a fairly balanced column, noting that the Philly fans showed MJ "nothing but brotherly love." Wilbon still had to bring up the tired booing of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny though. Isn't there a statute of limitations on these incidents?

Around the league, Fred Kerber notes that Byron Scott rested his key players during their last regular season "practice." You have to wonder if he would have taken the same non-chalant attitude had the Sixers beaten the Bulls the previous night and the Atlantic Division was still at stake. Incidentally, in retrospect, the Sixers had no chance of playing the Celtics in the first round based on how the Nets and Pacers finished. Had they won one more game and beaten the Bulls, they would have moved up to the #2 spot (holding the tie-breaker over New Jersey), and the Celts would have faced the Nets. For Byron Scott's lack of integrity, here's to a Milwaukee Bucks upset over the Nets in the first round (and believe me, it's a stretch to root for George Karl any day of the year). Boston Celtics fans should find sufficient reason to despise Jermaine O'Neal over the next couple of weeks. O'Neal recalls an alleged conversation between himself and Paul Pierce in which the latter supposedly said "he didn't want to plus us." O'Neal went on to say, "Boston's a good matchup for us. They shoot a lot of 3s. With the playoffs the way they are, with a slow pace, and the bodies grinding, I don't think they can make those 3s." The Indy Star's C. Jemal Horton also previews the "favorable first-round matchup with Boston." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details the Atlanta Hawks' refunding $125 to each of their 4,000 season ticket holders, to the tune of half a million dollars.

Finally, hoping that it's not crossing the line of good taste, some web sites just speak for themselves: WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Stephen A. Smith discusses several possible trade scenarios for the Sixers, including possibly reaquiring restricted free agent Larry Hughes, or landing Austin Croshere, who has been saddled to the Pacers bench under the "tutelage" of Isiah Thomas. Smith quotes Sixers GM Billy King as saying "we need to get better" and that "there's no question that we've got to get more athletic, especially on our front line." Smith squashed the rumored deals reported by certain West Coast papers last week that involved the Sixers dealing their 1st round draft pick (16th). It appears that the only possible takers of Mutombo and his large contract are the Trail Blazers and the Knicks. Smith also mentions that Iverson is trying to maintain his "untouchable" status by visiting Larry Brown's office several times thus far this summer (Brown is currently vacationing with his family in Italy). Over the weekend, Smith quoted one unnamed NBA player as saying this regarding the possibility of teaming up with Allen Iverson: "I recently heard A.I. was in Miami with Cuttino Mobley [Rockets], Baron Davis [Hornets] and some other guys, and all he kept saying was, 'I'm a shooter, man. That's what I do. I shoot.' Well, we all know that and he's great to watch, but unless you're a spot-up shooter, someone who doesn't want the ball, or a player with a fat contract, who would want to play in that situation? If you got a hundred dollars, you can pay and watch him shoot in the stands... without sweating." John Smallwood talks about former Temple guard Lynn Greer and St. Joe's Marvin O'Connor, both friends off the court, going at it on the court, during a Sixers workout session earlier this week.

Phil Jasner discusses Aaron McKie's shoulder surgery this week. Rehab is expected to take 3 1/2 to 4 months, which "would appear to call into question whether he will be ready for the start of training camp." Speaking of the Sixers ongoing injury woes, Billy King lamented, "I just wish it would end." Rich Hofmann chimes in on the Shaq vs. Wilt debate, and makes this rather good observation: "In his era, he stood out more than O'Neal does today. Anybody who doubts it has to explain away the fact the NBA changed four rules in an attempt to slow him down." Don't expect Commissioner Stern (whose email must not be functioning these days, but that's another topic) to go changing rules to curtail Shaq's dominance. If you need any more proof of that, ask yourself why Stern can't get Bavetta and the rest of his merry little band of officials to make the calls that are already in the book (oh, like let's say, 3-second violations, both offensive and defensive...offensive fouls when he uses his "boom boom"...crossing the plane of the free throw line on his attempts...shall I go on?)

Yesterday, Tim Panaccio reported the rather surprising news that Bob Clarke does not intend to re-sign Adam Oates. Panaccio comments, "by not re-signing Oates, Clarke mortgaged a large slice of the team's future to rent a player for 14 regular-season games and five playoff games." Remind me again why Bill Barber was the one who got the axe a few months back? Attempting to justify one puzzling move after another, Clarke said, "We had some concern about the age of our centermen." As if Oates aged 10 years in the few months that have passed since they traded for him. In today's Inquirer, Oates laid some of the blame for Clarke's decision on himself. "I feel I let people down. There is no question in my mind that I did not play my best hockey in Philly... . We didn't do well as a team, and some of that was me." Last week, Clarke expressed some concern over Oates' asking price on the free agent market, which he tagged at around $5 million. However, Oates commented about that, "I don't have a figure in my head, but I was not going to try and win the lottery, either." Another classy move by the GM that can do no wrong.

Mitch Lawrence mentions more proof that Larry Brown is going anywhere (old news at this point): He's apparently applied for membership at the Philadelphia Country Club... To address the lopsided dominance of the Western Conference in the NBA, Peter May proposes a rather radical "baseball-like realignment that eliminates the geographical component and has Eastern-based teams and Western-based teams in each conference."

Peter Vecsey slams the "slew of counterfeit information circulating in the Bay Area regarding Jamison being traded to Philly for its first-round pick (No. 16) and Derrick Coleman" and lists several reasons why this can't happen. After completely dismissing this particular trade rumor, Vecsey, in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion, sums up by saying, "other than those minor irregularities, the Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose newspapers appears to have a pretty good grip on the reality of the situation." Phil Mushnick hates everybody.

Scott Burton actually wrote a rather contrite response to Luke Cavanagh, who had blasted him for writing a rather shoddy piece on Boston fans in the latest issues of Sports Illustrated... Jim Baker had this rather amusing quote from NBC's Gary Koch, who was responding to Sergio Garcia's complaints about "hecklers" at this past weekend's U.S. Open: "I'm tired of the polite golf clap.'' Tom Enlund discusses the complications involved with the Houston Rockets attempting to use their #1 pick to draft Yao Ming. "At one point, there were indications that it could take up to 10 signatures on a contract to make it official. That would include Yao, his parents, the Sharks, his Chinese agent, his NBA agent, the city of Shanghai, the Chinese National General Management, the Chinese Basketball Association and his NBA team. It remains unclear how many signatures would be needed." Sheesh, and I thought signing my name on a dozen forms for my new apartment lease this past weekend was complicated.

Finally, this week, invoices went out to Sixers season ticket holders for the 2002-03 season. Accompanying the invoice was a letter from Executive VP Dave Coskey, which stated, "You'll notice that your invoice reflects a very slight cost of living increase." Hmmm, I guess we have to make sure AI doesn't fall behind on his car note for that Bentley, right? Ticket prices for lower bowl seating went up slightly, approximately 2.7%. I know that seems rather small, and perhaps insignificant, but given the state of the economy, and the fact that, for those who were lucky enough to retain employment through our recent recession, many did not get salary raises. I've given up on complaining on having to pay full price for two meaningless pre-season games, also known as "the biggest ripoff of the sports consumer known to man" (before the Sixers recent rise to success, they used to give season ticket holders a complimentary ticket to the single pre-season game that would be played at the First Union Center). "Slight cost of living increase"? More like "additional profit to pad Comcast-Spectacor's balance sheets."

Sunday, June 16, 2002

At the outset, I would like to wish a very special Father's Day to my dad. Over the past couple of years, and despite living 300 miles apart, we have been able to enjoy some special moments relating to the sports world. For instance, we were at both Game 7's at the First Union Center last year, and we were there during the NBA Finals as well. This year, because he picked up a pair of C's tickets for the playoffs, I was able to see every game of the Celtics-Sixers series in person. Those are the kind of memories you don't forget. And I wouldn't change a thing (except for, perhaps, the outcome of that Game 5!) Thanks dad!

As promised, below I have published the letter that I sent to David Stern a week ago today. I still have not gotten any response from either Mr. Stern or from Mr. Coskey. Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.

To: David Stern
Cc: Dave Coskey (76ers VP); Shawn McCarthy (League of Fans)

Mr. Stern,

I have been a fan of your league since growing up on Larry Bird's Celtics and Magic Johnson's Lakers in the 80s. Upon relocating to the Philly area in the 90s, I decided to become a season ticket holder of the Sixers after they drafted Allen Iverson, the same season they opened the First Union (then CoreStates) Center, the 1996-97 season. During the past 5 years, I have spent over $**** of my hard-earned money on season tickets, playoff tickets, and, this past year, All-Star tickets. If you add the approximate $**** I have also spent on parking, I have spent the considerable sum of $**** to be entertained by your product.

I am writing you because, as a fan with grave concerns about the quality of your product, I am no longer entertained.

A few months ago, I started an "amateur fan's web site" (http://davessportingnews.blogspot.com) to "cover" sports from the perspective of your average fan. After watching the egregious officiating in the now-infamous "Game 6" of the Western Conference Finals, I was moved to post an "article" on my website, which was circulated by one reader, and, ironically enough, was forwarded back to me. The contents of that article appear below, if you are interested in reading about some of my specific complaints.

I will admit that some of my comments were made in anger. Some of these opinions may appear to be just the bias and "sour grapes" of a fan from a team that lost. Keep in mind, though, that the team I support lost in the first round, and that I was watching the Western Conference Finals as a "fan of the game," and what I saw was the most pathetic display of officiating in a very long time. This opinion is not just held my me, as a review of many NBA professional columnists will testify (see, for instance, Stephen A. Smith, David Aldridge, Jack McCallum, Michael Wilbon, and even the LA Times' T.J. Simers; links to all of their articles appear on my website).

Do I believe in "conspiracy theories"? Honestly, no. However, when ESPN's Darren Rovell notes that 22 of the last 23 NBA Finals have showcased a team from one of the nation's four largest markets (the lone exception being the '90 Pistons-Blazers series), it certainly adds fuel to the argument.

What I am most displeased about is horrible officiating. I would be the first to admit that is probably the hardest job in your entire organization. Instant replay will help, but I believe, in the end, it will not address the majority of the grievances I am speaking about. Until there is better accountability when the refs do an obviously poor job, and one that the fans (including the paying public, the season ticket holders who fill your arenas) can visibly see changes as a result of, I refuse to pay another $1 on your product.

Signed,
An Extremely Disappointed NBA Fan
(Dave Messier)


As I said, I have received no response from the commissioner, or from the man currently in charge of the organization to which I have paid a considerably amount of money over the past several years. To date, I have only received a reply from Shawn McCarthy. His email is copied below, with permission.


Dave,

Just wanted to thank you for the support you've shown to Ralph Nader and the League of Fans regarding the letter to NBA Commissioner Stern.

Unfortunately, some have felt this an unworthy cause with which to waste our time. And while we will freely acknowledge that there are more pressing issues in the world, Ralph has very capable and persistent individuals addressing those needs and fighting the powers that be to affect change.

A virtually unchecked area of corporate domination is the sports industry. As a consumer advocate and sports fan, Ralph couldn't stand by any longer while problems in and around the industry were destroying so much of what is great about sports.

So Nader founded the League of Fans as a sports industry watchdog to focus on a wide range of concerns within the sports industry including sports fan mistreatment, media complacency, taxpayer exploitation, over-commercialization, and broad social issues.

Until the letter to Commissioner Stern, most of our new project's focus has been in working to stem the flood of taxpayer-financed stadiums and arenas for the benefit of wealthy owners. These owners use threats to leave town as leverage for extracting tax money from cities and states where the needs far exceed the supply. Many of these franchise owners waste no time in selling their team after a new profit-generating stadium or arena is built on the backs of taxpayers and the value of the franchise is increased substantially.

We've been working on long-term plans for a website launch with thorough information about the many issues with which the League of Fans will be involved. However, because of the overwhelming responses from people like you, we decided to put up a simple (for now) website where people can read the letter to Commissioner Stern and get contact information for him, the NBA Player's Association, all team owners and player's representatives in case you'd like to let them know how you feel.

www.leagueoffans.org

In the coming days, weeks and months, we'll build and improve on the website. You'll be able to give your opinion on certain issues and make suggestions for other topics that concern you. We'll also establish an email list so we can let everybody whose interested in on what we're up to.

Again, thanks for the support.

Shawn McCarthy
League of Fans
www.leagueoffans.org


One of the technical journals I try and read on a weekly basis is InformationWeek. The editor-in-chief, Bob Evans, wrote an article that mentioned Ralph Nader last week, which got my attention. I was moved to email Mr. Evans.

Mr. Evans,

I am a long-time reader of your magazine (well, 5 years is a long time for me). Anyway, I found your comments about Mr. Nader quite amusing. I agree that we probably don't want the likes of him 'having a say in discussions about national security, computer security, and the Microsoft case.'

However, I did not take his comments about NBA officiating as lightly. Whatever his ulterior motives might have been (and you do quite a good job of listing what many of those are), he made what I believe to be valid points. As an IT professional, who also happens (or "happened", past tense, as you'll soon see) to be a season ticket holder for the local Philadelphia 76ers, I was appalled at the horrible officiating that took place in the "now infamous Game 6." Not sure if you're a Lakers fan, or even a casual observer of the NBA, but what I saw that night ruined the NBA for me for awhile. In fact, it was only after hearing of Mr. Nader's letter to David Stern (who promptly brushed him off on a national TV appearance shortly afterward), that I made the decision to cancel my season tickets
indefinitely. I emailed Mr. Stern and told him I refused to pay another dollar on his product until there were measures put in place to prevent such iniquities from occurring again.

As IT professionals, we, and our companies, are constantly being evaluated, as to whether we are satisfying the customer. Similarly, I felt the need to express my dissatisfaction with Mr. Stern, thanks to the initial publicity generated by a non-paying customer such as Mr. Nader. I just thought I'd share that with you, as your article caught my eye as soon as I got this week's issue.

Take care,

Dave Messier


Bob was so kind as to reply to my email:

dave----thanks for the letter. no, i am most certainly not a lakers fan----i've always disliked them a great deal. i would agree that it appeared at times that the refs were missing some calls in that game, but i don't see the leap from there to the quite extraordinary induction that the refs are cheating. on the other hand, you're an actualy season ticket holder and a fan of a team not even involved in the game, and you voted with your actions----that's worth a lot more than my hot air. also, two thoughts on mr. stern: i'm glad he brushed off ralph nader, but more important, i hope he takes your letter very much to heart and responds to you. and didn't i see today that the commish plans to use instant replay next year to help refs make the right calls on last-second shots? see, dave, you're getting results already!

thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with informationweek.


Well, I'd like to think I'm getting results already Bob, but as I mentioned in my original letter to the commissioner, instant replay is going to help only so much in combatting what I believe is a serious decline of the quality of officiating in the NBA. And if a paying customer can't even elicit so much as a return email on the subject, what does that say about their view of the customer?