Friday, March 27, 2009

A Fan's Response

This is what you need just in case you do not like Grantley Bernard's music choice.

The other day I linked an article from Melbourne journo Grantley Bernard. The article is somewhat serious, has a few jokes and lets everyone know the Basketball Australia CEO job is open.

Now a avid fan of our sport has taken some time out of his daily schedule to respond with some of his own ideas. I asked the scribe if it was alright if I went ahead and published his thoughts.

Here they are. Enjoy and please respond with your own ideas. (It is lengthy but has some great ideas.)

"I'm tired of watching people who "like" basketball or use the NBL as a stepping stone to or something their own personal glories that lie elsewhere. I want an individual running the league who is passionate about basketball and wants nothing more in life than to see it succeed. In addition they need to possess true business nous when it comes to making a product work. If that person is Grantley Bernard so be it, but his suggestions range from reasonable to ridiculous stupidity to communism. True, Bernard has been a front runner criticizing the NBL over the past few years and he couldn't possibly do a worse job than Rick Burton presided over, but anyone purporting seriously to throw their hat in the ring for the NBL’s chief position needs to come to the table with at least a bag full of sensible ideas. Please allow me the opportunity to partially dissect some of the “weaker” suggestions:

Rule 10: Imports do not start on the bench or play fewer than 35 minutes. They're supposed to be stars, not role players.

My take: This would be a monumentally stupid rule on so many levels. Firstly it does not acknowledge the role of the aging import who may still have an incredible 25 minutes left in him, which will be valuable considering the league is about to chop 8 minutes off the game time anyway down to 40 minutes. Matter of fact, as any basketball watcher knows, it's far more important who finishes a game than starts.

Secondly, Bernard is are proposing to put American guys up front that are the “stars” when he also wants to cut tickets to 25 bucks (Rule 5) and give away 10% of the ticket revenues by offering charity seats (Rule 9). Which stars are you proposing are going to come and play here for the money you’d be offering? And which of those stars would we really want on the court for 35 minutes at the expense of some of our Aussie players? I see shades of Dave Lindstrom in the belief that only Americans can play.

Thirdly, What a great way to stymie the development of Australian basketball, Mr Bernard, as well as setting our cultural attitude back 20 years that Americans in general are better ballplayers than Aussies. How can a guy who purports to want the head honcho job of the league honestly believe that a league can be marketed effectively to an Australian public when you are putting imports out front as the "stars", many of whom are short term players or using the league as a stepping stone to the NBA or Europe, and then expect the NBL to be embraced by the average fan? Then at the same time turn around and criticize an organization for not being team oriented on the floor with a straight face (or is it pen)? Wake up, people support the name on the front of the jersey, not the back, unless we are talking about Aussies who playing in the NBA. The playing time quota of an American import is only relevant if it is hurting his team.

Rule 8: Only one assistant coach is allowed on the road. It's a matter of economics. He will also be responsible for making sure players are home from nightclubs. This will be called the Al Westover Rule.

My take: Well of course it’s a matter of economics, because after you wisely slice 10 percent of their ticket revenue for charity purposes in rule 9, you've just wiped over 130K off the operating budget of a team each year anyway (assumes a full house and calculated on the basis of 350 seats at $25 for 15 home games). Why would someone with the best interests of the league at heart financially penalize already strapped teams just to get the community into basketball? If you really want to enfranchise the community, make the players go to schools instead and donate time, using their profiles to raise awareness and promote basketball? This seems a sufficient and logical "grass roots" step if you ask me? Chopping ticket revenues by 10%, nice sentiment, wrong idea.

Rule 19: The average age of the three-man referee crew should not exceed 42.3 years in any game.

My take: Grant, Are you going to restrict players playing over 42 years of age also? How about commissioners? I hear sports-writers tend to lose it after 40 as well. Have you heard of Earl Strom? Dick Bavetta? Guys who were/are OLD and the NBA deemed fine to officiate at the highest level. Quality refs are hard enough to come by as it is, why be completely ageist and throw the baby out with the bathwater? Have you monitored the quality of refereeing according to age demographics? Do you know exactly who makes the better calls, the younger guys or the older guys? My hunch is a resounding no. If the ref is good enough, they should be allowed to run the game, period. Before we know it you’ll be tossing women refs out once they get too old, heaven help the league with a discrimination lawsuit directly as a result of your genius referee employment program.

Rule 7: Games are not to be played with a ball that looks as if it's been left in the back yard for three weeks.

My take: Is this a criticism of the FIBA ball? It seems good enough for the rest of the world....Go get an NBL deal done with Spalding or Wilson (or even Buffalo Sports) if you think the Molten version is not good enough Mr Commish to be. If the balls look too old, making sure they have a game ball endorsement deal should fix this up quick smart.

Rule 15: No black socks, shoes or ankle braces. And Rule 16: No undershirts, especially of different colour to the uniform. It looks cheap.

My take: What if the uniform is black and the socks match? This is stupid and nitpicky. It reminds me of the old mother hen's that used to fuss over our uniforms when we were playing rep ball as kids. Your dislike of unattractive multi colored sprawls can be simply solved; just make the teams submit uniform dress codes at the start of the year and then enforce it with fines if they stray. Simple. If you really wanted to make uniforms look less like clown outfits, take the advertising off them. Except that’d pose a financial problems so you can’t go down that path….

Rule 20: The national anthem to be sung only at the grand final, but with no twists, turns or electric guitar solos.

My take: What’s wrong with patriotism? I like the suggestion about not massacring the anthem with electric guitar. The rest of the suggestion is, dare I say, un-Australian. What country is it? I'd rather hear Advance Australia Fair than see all the b-grade dance teams combined at NBL games 100 times out of 100. Better still, how about we not get any of the miserable singers who continually butcher our anthem? It stays.

Rule 1: Court announcers will just announce.

My take: Like it or hate it. This has evolved to become part of the home crowd advantage. Look at basketball all over the world. Same deal.

Rule 2: If the game-night music is not in my iPod, it doesn't get played.

My take: Wow, are you serious? This is more than just a bit of a scary proposition. How old are you? What music are you into dude? Do we get Emo rock or are we pelvic thrusting to Britney Spears? (If I hear Cold Chisel, Icehouse, Kulcha, Guy Sebastian or any other nonsense at an NBL game I'm heading for the exits along with everyone else). I guess at least you will be entertained at the games. Even NBA Commissioner Stern doesn’t get this deep in the weeds.

Rule 24: All referees must have their natural hair colour. This will be called the Bill Mildenhall Rule.

My take: Funny joke. Are you really in the running for this job?

Rule 12: If the margin is 10 or less with three minutes left, there will be no entertainment during time-outs.

My take: I don’t follow the logic of this decision, especially if there, say, a double timeout in a 10 point game with 30 seconds left. You won’t even give us one of the golden oldies from your ipod playlist?

Rule 22: Any coach who sits on the floor during a time-out will be given a technical foul. This will be known as the Goorjian Rule.

My take: I'm worried about a commish with a vindictive streak a mile wide, personally. It already seems like Grantley has Goorj in the crosshairs for some of his tendencies (Rules 22 and 33). So what if he sits on the floor?? He can sit on his head for all I care. Besides, what antics is the crowd going to be entertained by during a double timeout in the waning stages of a 10 point game now that you wiped out all the entertainment?

Rule 23: Fox Sports commentator Steve Carfino's microphone will be muted for 60 seconds every time he uses the terms, "One-bounce dribble" and "No kidding" and refers to his college days or the Sydney Kings.

My take: Carfino is nowhere near as bad as John Casey and his “All cotton”, “User Friendly Rolls” and not to forget his excruciating radio-specific commentary minutia that never allowed the screen to do the talking: (ie; “Dribbles the ball, one bounce, two bounce, thinking about a pass, looking for someone, decides on the shot fake, shakes to the right…..). If Carfino picked up those habits from anyone, it was sitting alongside Casey listening to that drivel. Use your wisdom and power to develop the next generation of “Voices for the NBL”, more on this below)

Some initial suggestions for a chief to improve the NBL:
1. Do whatever you can to make the on court product as strong as it can be. To do this, financial strength is a must. The NBL chief needs to oversee a league towards becoming as close to competitive in terms of financial attraction to the European leagues as possible. While value of the dollar to the Euro is always going to be difficult to overcome, the NBL should at least be seen a viable first option for non-NBA Australians. While losing Aussies in their prime to Europe benefits Australia at the Olympic level, it hurts the NBL from a fan’s perspective and a business perspective. Retaining the Ingles and David Andersens of the world is a must. In order to do this you have to maximize profit and revenue then reinvest it back into the on court product to strengthen it. You can start by instilling rules that impose fiscal responsibility on the clubs, starting with re-engineering the salary cap and points system (ie getting rid of it).

2. Restructure the NBL web pages. NBL.com.au is a painful site, both from a content perspective and functionality (the RSS feeds are a mess). There is no reason for an NBL fan to use this website regularly. It contains a scant nod to history with some records that have no context. It has no video footage that is globally accessible, no merchandise, really weak statistical wraps of games and is a fairly worthless medium aside from the standings. It needs a significant revamp because it's not fan friendly.

3. Develop a historical online statistical database. Start collecting stats in a meaningful way and compiling a database so stat geeks can start filtering through them and making some intelligent analyses rather than looking at who scored the most points in a game. People want to be able to compare best fives on a floor or historical performance of Joe Ingles to a young Shane Heal on a 40 minutes basis. Any keen basketball fan knows that the US followers of the NBA are setting a standard with number crunching and young kids from all over are getting into it. Many sports are heading in this direction, don’t be left behind. (Here’s an idea, get some basketball loving engineering/computer software geeks from RMIT, Melbourne Uni etc to put it together as a school project.)

4. Put the NBL players into primary and secondary schools in a heavy way, especially important in regional Australia. Basketball has massive junior participation all over the country. How do you think the AFL got back into the good graces of the public after they admitted their worry regarding basketball's popularity in the early 90s? They started programs like Ozkick and worked on the grassroots, that's how. Pair state championship/rep/elite juniors games as tipoff double headers with NBL games. Get the grass roots thinking about going to NBL games again, and then get them to the games. I also think there is huge room for high school basketball to be realized in a more organized fashion than it currently is in Australia. Support this with NBL partnerships. This gets kids talking about it in schools and playing in the playground.

5. Get a merchandising deal going with an Australian retailer (even if it is K-Mart again) that puts logos on chests and minimizes the dent in the average Joe's wallet. NBL merchandise has typically looked cheap, felt cheap and been overpriced. Australia doesn't have an economy of scale like the US, so keep item options limited and universally appealing so you don’t blow your budgets. Quite simply, putting a non-cheesy team logo on quality fabric shirts is not difficult. Why should anyone have to pay 100 bucks for a 5 dollar made in China Melbourne Tigers hoodie? Or 50 bucks for a t-shirt? No wonder people prefer NBA gear, they can get it for half the price and mailed directly to their house AND it's better quality fabrics.

6. Create a library of NBL archive footage. You have already stated history is important, but history doesn’t start and end with a Hall Of Fame (Rule 11). Plenty of people WANT to see clips of old Andrew Gaze bandaged up going deep from three while concussed, Arne Duncan playing for Nunawading, Jim Havrilla pulling shards of glass out of his shoulders simply to check out which ex-NBAer and college stars made their way through our league. Channel 7, 10 and ABC all had these games and must have some degree of footage stored away. Get as much of it as you can and create an NBL archive that is proprietary. Select releases of NBL footage is a must. Fans should be able to buy Grand Final DVD’s every year, or at the very least, a well compiled year in review.

7. Prime Time TV on FTA locked in as a regular event. You know why cable TV is no good for the NBL, because it has low penetration into Australian households as it is expensive and largely perceived as not good value for money. If FOX footy channel had a 0.6% audience share at its peak, how are you going to make NBL a household sport in this capacity going forward? Here’s what you need: One game per week (say a Tuesday night) and make them marquee matchups. Find a station that wants to do for basketball what SBS has done for soccer. Find talent that can CALL games and wants to serve as the media face of basketball. The game has really only seen one great Australian play-by-play caller and it was Steve Quatermain. Why can't we get back to making the voice of the game an important vehicle for the sport?

8. Capitalize on free promotion opportunities. Not to criticize JR and DJ Rod, (because I think they do a brilliant thing and I want to see them continue) but why has the NBL gotten to the point where these guys and bloggers are almost the voice of the NBL? It points to a massive failure in marketing and strategy that could have easily been at least partially addressed with a used laptop, skype and a free version of audible. Surely the NBL can address this? Where is the embracing of the web as a vehicle for promotion? These efforts can yield a big bang for a small buck. My mental vision of the NBL IT department looks something like a dust covered Atari under the stands of the old Albert Park stadium.

9. Be thorough in evaluating who owns a team. Complete transparency for team ownership before expansion licences are handed out is essential. Include a thorough financial analysis and firm contingency plans so when over leveraged businesses go belly up (like ABC childcare and Firepower) the fans, who are emotionally invested in their teams, don't get royally screwed. I'd like to see if the Hawks NFP model works because it could be another future model for clubs if proven successful.

10. Place the Boomers at the center of the national league. Playing for your country is the pinnacle for all Australians in almost every sport. They should have a short triangular series (held in revolving capital cities) every year versus quality international sides over two weeks during a midseason break. Why are the Boomers not doing Weetbix commercials like the Cricketers? Because nobody knows who the hell they are that’s why.

11. Make the All-Star weekend a centerpiece event. Not only have one, make it count for something so the players play hard. One suggestion, make it Australia vs. world and put prize money on the line for winner takes all. Perhaps the answer is splitting the league into conferences and having the winner of the all-star game decides home court advantage for the finals (irrespective of record). Either way, provide an incentive so it’s not considered a joke.

12. Celebrate and acknowledge Australian players in the NBA. This needs to happen, even if they are not past NBL players. Find a way to involve them in the promotion of the league. What about the Bret Browns, Mike Dunlaps and so on who go to the NBA? Why is nobody retaining connections with these guys and putting it out there so people can understand just how valuable the NBL is to the global basketball community?
Finally, JR and DJ Rod, PLEASE keep calling the NBL out for the dumb shit that they do. Only by turning the flame of scrutiny on them is improvement going to come. If the new comp fails, dark days for basketball are ahead in Australia. "

20 comments:

Gaff said...

Some very sound ideas by an obviously passionate hoops junkie.

Pity he didn't put his name to this very well thought out piece. I hope that some of these great ideas get to the hands of those in charge of the new NBL or the new commissioner when appointed - especially to do with promotion of our great game.

We have had such a strong league for so long and Basketball has always been popular with the youth that it is amazing the league is struggling at the moment.

I live in hope that this great sport reaches the heights it did in the 80's and 90's.

This clip shows what an exciting and quality league we have had in the past.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-9gNGHMxqE

Here's hoping that the new NBL will flourish.

Nathan said...

Whoosh!

That's the sound of Bernard's jokes going over this guy's head.

The idea of Bernard going for the job was in a joking fashion and the rest of his article contained jokes and a few of his pet peeves. Writing a serious and critical response to that article is missing the point.

Big Mike said...

Good Vid Gaff. I think the bit about the Boomers is good. When you look at the Socceroos, when they don't win the media asks what is going on. Pity the same doesn't happen for the Boomers.

I think overall there are some pretty solid suggestions, even if Bernard was writing with some humour, a fair few of his points seemed more than a bit serious.

DJ Dudd said...

I didnt even read past the 1st few lines of that HUGE essay.

OMG get a life.

Why doesnt whoever wrote it, come out of hiding and say it on a radio show, better still a VIDEO SHow cause thats much much better, not hiding a thing then.

Anonymous said...

practice what you preach loser

Anonymous said...

Very interesting points there. the NBL needs some real direction (in the right wa) if it is going to get better.

The thought of rules telling coaches how to play there imports, players what to where, and ref's not to be allowed passed an age and have natural hair colour? - that is just plain stupid, and there are lots of bigger fish to fry!

DJ........

RD
the guy does have a life, and it revolved around basketball, like a lot of people on here.
the fact that you didnt read it proves that you have no place in these forums.... so PISS OFF

DJ Dudd said...

1st Annon:
practice what YOU preach loser, and dont hide behind an Annon name.

2nd Annon:
I have every right to be where ever i choose to be. Your Welcome.

NOTICE HOW I POST MY NAME WANKAS?.

Anonymous said...

was it all a bit to smart for u dj dudd?a lot of big word u cant read??poor baby,ask ur bf if he can help. but i bet he's just as f1@#!ed up as u

Anonymous said...

dj, if u hate this website and the ot,y do u keap coming back? its pretty sad that u keap coming back

DJ Rod said...

I have finally had time to read the whole post - very busy day today...

Love your passion - i think the Bernard article has done something good - it has got you thinking... and enough for you to put it on paper. The article was tongue in cheek but it seems like most of the media take cheap swipes at the NBL because it is just easy to do... Nothing else to write - lets bag the NBL.

Why couldn't they use the space to promote the game or call out some of the idiots in BA or NBL head office???

ALL of your ideas down the bottom have A LOT of merit and we have spoken about them before on the show but no-one appears to be listening :)

DJ Dudd said...

Hi guys, can somebody please give me hug?

Anonymous said...

john casey is awesome!

DJ Rod said...

actually that was one point i didn't agree on - Carfino needs to go and someone like casy needs to bring some professionalism back!

Big Mike said...

I love DJ Dudd.

C - d.o double gizzel Enemy # 1 said...

yeah i got all his cds, i bought them online too.

nice work C-Dogg.

p.s. I relly like J-Foxxx too

Eric said...

yeah same, but im missing 1 album, i will get it next week. cant wait.

Anonymous said...

Its going Platinum.....in Newcastle

K said...

I like clint doggs mum

K said...

shez great in tha sack

Jimmy Carter said...

Isn't it amazing that this guy is the Basketball writer of the year. In other words, he and Boti are the only writers of B'Ball, so it must be Boti's turn next year...

The NBL really needs to consider the validity of this type of award. What does it really mean?

Why take the time to announce a writer of the year award, when most of the media are not engaged in Basketball, are not interested in promoting Basketball and only comment on it when bad things happen (teams go under and owners don't pay money)?

More poor form from the NBL...