briefly, the jail blazers as trail blazers


or, why we don’t view the NFL the same way as the NBA?

With public conscience finally aware of the complete and utter corruption in FOOTBALLFOOTBALLFOOTBALLFOOTBALLFOOTBALL, one nagging thought has stayed in my mind: where is the outrage and pessimism that remains persistent with the NBA?

Surely, the sports-conscious remember the Jail Blazers, those late 90s-early 00s Portland Trail Blazers teams that were routinely getting in trouble on and off the court. Who could forget Rasheed Wallace as a lightning rod for criticism with his technical fouls and problems with substance abuse? Bonzi Wells? Ruben Patterson? Zach Randolph? Damon Stoudamire? That entire team was under a four-season-long contact high, with numerous run-ins with the law to boot.

Add to that Kobe Bryant’s Colorado antics and Allen Iverson’s practice meltdowns, Latrell Sprewell choking PJ  Carlesimo twice, Vernon Maxwell, Dennis Rodman, Shawn Kemp, Ron Artest and the Palace incident in Detroit, and those are the figures and events I can name off the top of my head. The NBA was written off by a significant percentage of the American public and, still to this day, you’ll hear the coded language of people preferring college basketball for its purity or whatever. Which is total bullcrap for one, and ignorant in at least two ways.

Never mind the NBA hasn’t had a better product since the Jordan years, cleaned up the league significantly from the Jail Blazers era, has several compelling on-going storylines and more than a few top-flight talents. LeBron may have made foolish PR decisions, but he hasn’t been an off-court fool. Kevin Durant is, by all accounts, a decent guy with otherworldly on-floor talent. His earnest MVP acceptance speech was widely regarded as on par with Lou Gehrig’s ‘luckiest man on the face of this earth’ speech. Even my wretched Milwaukee Bucks are going to be interesting, pairing the second-year Greek Freak with another class-act in rookie Jabari Parker.

Yet the NBA is second-shelf, while the steaming, stenching shield sits atop the American sports hill. The NBA is a league of thugs while the NFL is, umm, exactly what? Sold out? What will millions of Americans do today? This isn’t to say the NBA is devoid of fools, the combination of money, fame and athletics lends itself to foolishness, but the perception does not match the reality, at least not anymore.

I used to think the NFL would finally implode when someone died on the field, something that very well still could and will happen. I was wrong: instead, it just takes a feckless commissioner and some footage from a casino elevator.

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