KAPALKO: Give me college hoops over pro-ball any day

Jamie Kapalko

I don’t like the NBA.

Big deal, you say. A lot of people don’t. NBA stars brush off the fundamentals. (Insert joke about traveling and frequent flier miles here.) Defense is nonexistent, and every single player is more selfish than an entire season’s worth of “My Super Sweet Sixteen” kids. There are too many fights, and the games are too long …

Okay, you get it. We’ve all heard the same reasons for pro-basketball hatred over and over again. Some of them have a legitimate basis and others don’t, but I wouldn’t pick any of those as the reason why I’m not an NBA fan.

If you’ve read my columns before, you may not be surprised that I consider fans to be one of the most important parts of sports. I enjoy watching sports because when I invest myself in a game, I feel like I am a part of it. I’m not swinging the bat or holding the snap, but maybe, just maybe, if I want it a little more, my team will win. Obviously, this isn’t how the game works, but as fans, it is, in a way, how we think. Basically, when we feel connected, we care, and vice versa.

When I watch the NBA, it’s like I’m trying to find cell phone service in Antarctica. No matter how much I wave the phone around, I’m still completely disconnected.

I know that it’s not this way for everyone. For some people, the NBA works. Maybe they have a better service provider than I do. I’m not trying to convince these people that the NBA is a waste; if they enjoy it, then for them it’s worthwhile.

For me it’s not. When I look at the crowd at an NBA game, I see corporate big-wigs yapping on their cell phones and the occasional shot of Lindsay Lohan painting her nails. If I wanted to see either of those, I’d be watching “The Apprentice” or “Entertainment Tonight” – not a basketball game.

When I watch a basketball game, I want to see face paint. I want to see screaming, cheering and jumping up and down. I want to see choreographed hand motions during free throws. I want to see people who care about the game. That’s what makes me feel connected to a team. If the people who are actually at the game don’t seem to care, why should I, the TV viewer, care?

Obviously, I love college basketball for this reason. Every year the players change, thanks to the very thing that I dislike. More significantly, every year the fans come back in full force. The star player departs after his freshman year? You wouldn’t know it by the looks of the student section the next season. College basketball fans (and true sports fans in general) don’t cheer for individual players; they care about the team. They care about the team enough to don their school colors and become attached to the new players year after year. If that doesn’t tell you that fans are an integral part of the game, nothing else will.

Let’s say I flip on a game on TV with two random teams, about neither of which I have a particularly strong opinion. If it’s an NBA game, I’m probably going to turn it off. Why? Well, it’s no fun to watch a game as a neutral observer. Even if I don’t really care about the game, I have to pick a team to cheer for. When I watch an NBA game, I can’t pick a team; I don’t see anything that inclines me toward one team or another.

A college game is different. After seeing a shot of the fans or of a player’s mom or hearing an interesting story about a player’s life, I suddenly find myself supporting a team. Maybe it’s trivial, but I guarantee I am not alone in this.

My opinion on the NBA is not the result of systematic studies. I have not compared the exact number of traveling violations per game in the NBA to that of the NCAA. I have not measured the average player’s ego (what is the unit of measurement for an ego, anyway? Paris Hiltons per second, perhaps?). It is much simpler; when I turn on an NBA game, I get bored and turn it off. There is nothing scientific about it, but that doesn’t make it insignificant. It is one of the only sports that does not hold my interest. To me, that says a lot.

If I want to watch basketball, I’ll watch a college game, not a pro-game. For me, the NCAA has the fewest dropped calls – not Sprint or Cingular, and certainly not the NBA.


Jamie Kapalko is a sophomore English major from Belmar, N.J. She can be reached at [email protected]