On Players Standing
Posted by Zach Lowe on Oct 7, 2009
I’ve never sat behind and NBA bench for a game. I once sat in the second row at Madison Square Garden on the side opposite the team benches, courtesy of a friend who works for a high-powered investment fund (or something). Seann William Scott sat right in front of me and exchanged an awkward “hey, we’re both celebrities, so we have to chat briefly as if we know each other” conversation with the Asian guy from Heroes, who was seated to his right.
Heroes guy was gone by the 3rd quarter. Scott, who happily suffered through several “Stifler!” chants, missed the end of the 2nd quarter and most of the 3rd doing who knows what. He probably also wishes he missed the part when Dr. Ruth bounded down from five rows above us to give him some brief sex advice and a key chain in the design of a “Sex for Dummies” book—all as the game was going on. The young-ish blonde guy from Sex in the City had a front row seat (the women squealed–yuck), as did Jim Leyrtiz, a month or so before he committed an alleged DUI manslaughter.
This is MSG, I understand. This is not a front row crowd in, say, Milwaukee or Minnesota. In those towns, it’s local execs, lawyers and corporate types. And Kelly Dwyer’s right—the money those guys pour into the league for the privilege of sitting in the front row is part of the lubricant that makes the league run profitably. (Even if the guys sitting in the seats aren’t necessarily the ones actually paying for them. It could be their company or their law firm or a client).
But damn if the ignorant populist in me really doesn’t care that these guys might have their views obstructed during the end of a close game. I get what the league is going for with their newly announced ban on bench players standing. I understand that not everyone is young, that these aren’t college games and that it might not be fair to ask some 60-year-old corporate lawyer with bad knees to stand for 30 consecutive minutes in the fourth quarter. I get it, I sympathize, and I really, truly respect most of what David Stern and the NBA do.
The thing is, I really, really enjoy (from the comfort of my own home) the sight of NBA players standing at the end of close games. I will never, ever get tired of watching an NBA player on the bench wave his towel and smack it on the floor after a big hoop or a big stop. It’s funny when it’s the 12th man and he hasn’t broken a sweat yet, but it’s much cooler when it’s Lamar Odom or Paul Pierce standing during a quick rest or an offense-defense substitution. It shows the players care. It adds tension to the broadcast. It signals a big moment.
And as a TV viewer, I like that. I don’t want that to go away, and, frankly, it’s not going to go away, at least I hope it won’t. These guys are still going to be standing at the end of a big playoff game. How can you tell them not to? And are you really going to fine them for it?
Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald apparently started this push after he watched the Cavs bench stand for the entire 4th quart of a November game last season. Ok, that’s ridiculous. But isn’t the solution to have Mike Brown, the Cavs coach (or one of his assistants) politely tell the players to sit down because there’s nine minutes left and it’s a November game against the Bucks? Threatening teams with technicals just seems…too much. It’s applying a black-and-white rule to a situation that is not black-and-white. Players should be allowed to stand on the last possession of the NBA Finals.
Of course, that’s in effect how the rule is going to work. No ref is going to call a technical foul on a team’s bench during a close playoff game.
And maybe that’s the smart thing about what the NBA has done. Maybe the league has created what appears to be a black-and-white rule that is going to result in the happy medium I’m talking about—players sitting except in the biggest moments. Because I have to believe that if you’re sitting in the front row of an NBA game, you care enough to stand at the end if it’s close. (Note: may not apply to some front row fans).
So let’s just see how this plays out. Because I bet by June we’ve all forgetten this whole thing ever happened, which is probably what the league wants.
If I’m wrong, this just gives us yet another reason to hope KG stays healthy, because he’d have been thrown out of the stadium had the refs enforced this policy during the playoffs last season.