Monday, February 18, 2013

All-star Weekend Showcases America's Decline In Taste

It was around 7 o'clock on Sunday night, when I turned the T.V. on, and switched the channel to TNT, hoping to get some pregame insight before one of the most celebrated basketball events in the world, the NBA all-star game. Instead, I ended up watching not one, but two separate performances by Ke$ha, featuring special appearances by Diddy and Drake. I have a pretty tolerable ear when it comes to music, but there was nothing remotely listenable about the bubble gum that was presented to the viewing audience before Sunday night's all-star game telecast. Not only did I end up watching Ke$ha's less than spectacular charade, but I also watched pop singer Ne-Yo prance around the main stage at the Toyota Center, where they were introducing the starting lineups in a long, drawn-out, over-hyped pregame ceremony. In between three songs by Ne-Yo, players emerged from a tunnel filled with flashing lights, and smoke to hear their names called out in reverential fashion by an obnoxiously loud P.A. announcer. For the first time in all my years of watching the all-star game, the spectacle finally started to bother me. I felt like the target age group for this game must have been between the ages of 7 and 21.

But it wasn't just Sunday night's game that provoked me to write this article, condemning the status of the all-star game in its current state. It was the rest of the weekend. All-star Saturday, for one, featured a dunk contest final between Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors, and Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz. Evans had done something that I'm sure no NBA player has ever done in the past. He jumped over a covered painting, dunked the ball, then revealed the work that he had created to the audience. It was a painting himself performing the same dunk he had just thrown down. It was awesome, and yet somehow Ross ended up winning, because he jumped over a kid, who turned out to be Michael Costolo, the son of twitter CEO Dick Costolo. Fans had voted for Ross, because he involved youth in his performance, choosing what was otherwise a simple between the legs dunk over what I thought was clearly a stroke of genius on the part of Jeremy Evans. It occurred to me at that point that a pretty broad majority of Americans, specifically NBA fans, have very little appreciation for artistic endeavors, such as the one Evans made, and were more impressed by the simple involvement of a child, which captured, not artistic beauty, but youthful exuberance, as the defining moment of the annual dunk contest. One also has to wonder if the NBA had given the title to Ross, simply because he had involved the son of a relatively important CEO.

Jazz forward Jeremy Evans watermarks his own painting of himself performing his last dunk (Photo by Ronald Martinez-Getty Images)
Even the halftime show turned out to be less the exceptional. The performance by Alicia Keys, who I will say is talented, was opened with a song that just didn't make sense. The all-star game was being held in Houston, TX. The opening song was "Empire State of Mind," an ode to the city of New York. I was scratching my head. Did Alicia Keys forget she was in Houston, or maybe the international viewing audience would have trouble discerning between New York and Houston. I mean American cities are all the same anyway, right? Frankly, I could understand this song being performed in a city other than New York for only two reasons. One was if the Knicks were the defending champs, but they haven't won since 1973. The other would be a last second re-mix where she changed the lyrics, replacing New York with Houston. But that didn't happen. Instead, she just serenaded Houston with a song about New York, and then performed a couple of other hit singles that further reminded me why I no longer listen to the radio.

All spectacle aside, the game was actually moderately entertaining. It featured a vicious one-on-one dual between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Kobe ended up shutting LeBron down for much of the second half, playing spoiler to make sure "King James" wouldn't go near that second all-star MVP award. The West ended up winning 143-138, but the score was not very representative of the Western Conference's dominance. The West all-stars were led to victory by Chris Paul, who tallied 20 points and 15 assists, earning MVP honors, and becoming the first Los Angeles Clipper to win the award since Randy Smith in 1978, but that was when they were still the Buffalo Braves. Kevin Durant was also impressive, scoring 30 points to go along with 6 rebounds. Durant now holds the highest scoring average in all-star game history.

Chris Paul poses after winning the all-star game MVP award (Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Carmelo Anthony represented New York well, leading the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds. LeBron did finish with 19 points, but was outdone in the scoring department by teammate Dwyane Wade who contributed 21 points and 7 assists.

It was a pretty exciting game that showcased the best basketball talent in the world, but maybe in the future the NBA can work on diversifying the type of entertainment it offers in association with this event. Older fans of the league do still exist, and I can't imagine that what was offered in terms of pregame festivities could be at all appealing to even my age bracket, which would be from ages 25-40. Or maybe a better idea would be to put some of the spectacle on the shelf, and just play the game, but somehow, in this shallow, corporate world we live in, I don't think the NBA will ever do away with the entertainment aspect of all-star weekend. After all, it does generate dollars for the league. I'm just saying it could be a little more refined, and maybe even a little more tasteful.