Ray Ratto

The three things we really want in NBA, NHL conference finals

vegas-steph.jpg
USATSI

The three things we really want in NBA, NHL conference finals

The conference finals have been set in both the NBA and NHL, and your level of satisfaction will be defined by how quickly your team eliminates the other person’s team. Fandom is schadenfreude, after all, and being happy for yourself necessarily involves making someone you know unhappy. It is, in fact, the thing that separates us from the animals.
 
Well, that and the general sense of purpose and dignity animals have that we don’t, but that’s a story for the next installment of Species Degradation Magazine.
 
With that in mind, and with Rockets-Warriors specifically, here’s what we want – what we really want:
 
       1. For all four series – Rockets-Warriors, Celtics-Cavaliers, Jets-Golden Knights and Lightning-Capitals – to go seven games. Seven games is one of the three moments of absolute crystalline perfection in sports history, along with the bracket and the moment Arnold Rothstein thought to himself,            “Hey, let’s get the gang together and fix a World Series.” More games are better by definition, and this is not disputable.
 
       2. For all 28 games to go into overtime, again because longer games are better than shorter games. This is probably unrealistic, but we have millions of playing the lottery, daily fantasy sports and mock drafts, so reality isn’t really something we’re that interested in.
 
       3. And finally, for every road team to win every game.
 
This last one has actually never happened (the closest any series ever went to going full overtime was Coyotes-Blackhawks in 2012, when the first five games went bonus), but it will have an important feature that should happen.
 
The haunting scenes of a building emptying in 40 seconds, morose fans filing out with their hopes mauled and their dreams crushed, with only the thought that a league executive handing the trophy to the other guys will be booed as comfort.
 
And why is this important? Because crowd shots of delirious fans are tiresome and repetitive and even phony because fans, like players, mug to the camera way too quickly now, and nobody needs that.
 
Of course, nobody needs shots of children crying hysterically (and on cue, in most cases) at the sight of their favorite team losing, but at least the kid is learning a useful lesson about life – namely, that it is a series of modified employment disappointments, followed by a hip replacement and then the debilitation of old age, and that your favorite team will help you with none of it.
 
We can’t say that there would be upsets to warm one’s heart because in the case of the two NBA series, the favorite either by Vegas or pundit definition is the lower seed. And in the NHL, while it would mean that Vegas would win the Stanley Cup, there would be plenty of people who would grouse that the fan base there didn’t earn it by learning about suffering – in the same way that Colorado Avalanche fans caught hell for getting a Stanley Cup champion in 1995, their first year after lifting the team from Quebec.
 
And that’s the underlying story here – for every happy fan base, there are 29 or 30 grinding their teeth in envy and hatred, and only a few can have the visceral satisfaction of their coach being fired. And envy and hatred fuels sports fandom far more than joy and celebration.
 
So let’s go deep, and give everyone what they want until they don’t want it any more. The maximum number of games, the most minutes beyond regulation it is legal to have without players collapsing in cramping heaps, and fans grousing between games about what is wrong with their otherwise wildly successful favorite team.
 
It’s nirvana, I tell you. You just have never thought of it that way before.

The Kings are the Kings, Myers can't swindle in second round and thesaurus reigns supreme

The Kings are the Kings, Myers can't swindle in second round and thesaurus reigns supreme

When the biggest news to emanate from the NBA Draft is Adrian Wojnarowski’s thesaurus, you have a bad draft.
 
When the second biggest news is Sacramento bowing to the wishes of Luka Doncic (and the Kings did just that, we are sure) as another reminder of its place in the basketball universe, you have a bad draft.
 
When the third biggest news is that nobody wanted to talk to Bob Myers about selling their second-round pick to the Golden State Warriors because . . . well, just because, you have a bad draft.
 
When the fourth biggest news is which draftee’s mom is the hottest, you have a bad (and oddly creepy) draft.
 
And when the most compelling stories coming out of the draft are still LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Dwight Howard, you have a bad draft.
 
In ten years you may find, of course, that this was actually a 2009-level (as in great) draft for future stars, and all the other stuff will no longer matter. But that is the case of most things these days – they seem like big deals for about 24 hours and end up being nothing of import.
 
In short, as entertainment, this NBA Draft was that rare flatliner. The league is apparently much better at roasting money, the time for which begins shortly, or maybe our tastes as voyeurs are changing.
 
The Warriors got in Jacob Evans, the 6-6 wing from Cincinnati, a sort of poor man’s Draymond Green (which is a compliment, and an almost rave review for a 28th pick), but the greater development Warriors-wise was Bob Myers’ inability to sweet-talk a second-rounder out of money-hungry competitors. This may be a sign that nobody wants to touch the Warriors as a trading partner, at least until they are no longer considered enemies of the people, or maybe people are coveting draft choices more than they used to do.
 
As for the Kings, they went for Marvin Bagley III largely because he was the highest rated player who went for them. Doncic was largely considered the superior choice, and Michael Porter’s troublesome back worried too many teams (he ended up falling to 14 and Denver), but Bagley wanted to be the second pick if he couldn’t be first, which made his appeal to the Kings clear.
 
But it did nothing to dispel the largely held notion by many players and/or agents that Sacramento is to be avoided by any means necessary, and not because the city is demonstrably worse than any of about 20 other NBA outposts. It is because the perception remains that ultimately, the Kings are gonna King.
 
Thus ends another NBA show, with minimal effervescence or lasting effect. It was a great draft for the purist, if that matters to you, but the truth remains that LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are going to blot out the sun this summer. It is a victory for the status quo.
 
That is, unless you have a rooting interest in the Adrian Wojnarowski-fought-the-law story line, and frankly, you shouldn’t.
 

Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom

curryayeshawarriorstunnel.jpg
AP

Yelp reviews for Ayesha Curry's restaurant in Houston just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom

There is always a good reason to despair for humanity these days. Humanity is, on the whole, performing at a Baltimore Orioles/Arizona Coyotes/New York Jets level, and needs a serious makeover if it is to last through the current millennium.

The latest example of this is in Houston, where local Rockets fans have decided to flood Yelp, the only populist reviewing site, with reviews slagging the new barbecue restaurant opening in town that is owned by megachef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry, wife of Him.

The key here being that the restaurant hasn’t actually opened yet, so these reviews are meant only to ruin a business run by someone whose husband has a nice jump shot and who otherwise has never meant anyone any harm (although I can’t vouch for the coleslaw).

This is a gentler modification of the campaign by Kentucky fans who tried to ruin referee John Higgins’ roofing company in Nebraska in 2017, and then doubled down with death threats, because Kentucky basketball is that kind of a thing.

Now Warriors fans, who have the same problems with excessive free time that Rockets fans evidently do, have flooded Yelp with five-star reviews of the restaurant, which is no more open for their expertise than that of the Houston fans. In other words, this is one more example of how technology and democracy are wasted on people like us.

The argument has been advanced that Curry somehow invited this by opening up a restaurant in a town that has been bedeviled by her husband’s accuracy for four years now, but this is grandiloquent nonsense. The Kentucky fans showed us that state boundaries are no deterrent to such hate-fueled Internet hijinks, and I have unwavering faith that Rockets fans would have done this if she and Mina had opened their restaurant on the surface of Io. And that Warrior fans would have responded similarly.

Now maybe this is an old guy’s argument (and in the spirit of transparency, I have never met Ayesha Curry or eaten a morsel of her food-based products, so I am aggressively indifferent to her future, good or ill, as a pan jockey), but back in the day the traditional way of objecting to a restaurant was not to patronize it, and when sufficiently aggrieved to give it bad word of mouth. But that was always in response to a poor meal, inadequate service or hygiene shortcomings. That was presumably the idea behind Yelp – to widen the sensible review base.

But in all such cases, the establishment had actually plated a meal and delivered it to the customer before people took to their keyboards or not-so-smartphones to register their views. This strategy is just plain mean-spirited sabotage disguised as hyperfandom, and is one of the reasons why people who take the extreme view that fans suck are not entirely off-base.

The clear solution here would be for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Daryl Morey to attend the grand opening of the joint and chow down in earnest. They don’t have to rave about it, or even comment about it. They just need to be seen doing so, and when asked by a member of TMZ’s guerilla restaurant desk after the meal what they thought, they should say this:

“We are pro-Houston, and we are pro-business. We want everyone’s businesses to succeed, including this one. If you like us, and you do, you’ll leave these folks be, to make their eatery survive or fail on the merits. Oh, and be sure to try the brisket.”

Reason: We wouldn’t want Warrior fans to get the idea that Fertitta’s restaurants should be similarly attacked, or that they should start smearing his casinos simply because he owns the Rockets. Because once this starts, it never stops, because our culture has taken the greatest information delivery system and turned it into a gigantic hate farm.

There. Wasted lecture over. And yes, by all means, do try the brisket, even if your outraged sensibilities about the Western Conference Final allow only to do take-out.