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Parallel Experience

How many people reading this also have a tab up on Twitter, or worse (perhaps better, relative to addictive qualities), are flipping between Tweetdeck and scanning through this article at the same time? Perhaps that’s a subset of the population of basketball fans but that’s intuitive in itself. The generalization that the basketball blogging, and writing, world function as a minute percentage of the hoops-watching world is symptomatic of everything on Twitter.

Without going into the tenuous slope of politics, it’s the same story in the discussion of current events, theories and anything else in such a concentrated group-think atmosphere. Before joining Twitter and following the legions of smart and engaging group of people all over the Web, it was just a game of basketball watched on the TV screen with your boys, beers and oily-fried goodness. Of course it’s one’s own free will to watch the game as they choose, but therein lies the quandary I find myself in during every basketball game. Watching hoops with friends isn’t the same, and for me it’s intellectually stimulating, to watch Andre Iguodala run his defense whilst simultaneously applying Matt Moore’s analysis of it from that same morning.

This isn’t a debate between which style of fan is right or wrong, smarter or dumber, or even better or worse fans. We’re all fans of the game of basketball at the end of the day (Mark Jackson’s quotes have been quite the influence on me) and hoops is something that most people find to pass the monotony of time between work and play. Moreover, I find that there’s different angles in games not reached in most conversations between friends and casual observers.

Basketball isn’t the same as football. Each Sunday is akin to a minor holiday in the NFL world. People gather, barbeque, talk about fantasy teams and enjoy the 7-10 hours of pure head-to-body collisions. Basketball is a near-everyday affair that rewards the person able to withstand an insane amount of Charlotte Bobcats basketball before hitting the nirvana that was Game 6 Miami-San Antonio. I used to room with a couple of my college friends and during the year we’d get together for basketball games, but only if it was the postseason. The difference between basketball Twitter and most other things come down to the sheer number of games played. Not to keep comparing the two but the two popular sports and debate-starters include pigskin and hoops. Fairweather fans watch the St. Louis Rams, be it for fantasy reasons, gambling or merely because it’s the second game on Fox that weekend. Conversely, it’s harder for people to stay in and consume a Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors game on a Thursday night on TNT. Do we need to go over the ratings numbers?

And to the point of what Twitter brings to the game and conversations, it’s increasingly important to wade through the waves of bullcrap one may see floating through your timeline before getting to the “good stuff”. I won’t name any names I don’t follow but guys like Matt Moore (Hardwood Paroxysm), Kevin Arnovitz, Ethan Strauss are important, and perhaps essential, follows if you want to view basketball from different lenses.

An example of a conversation usually found between a couple of my friends who are casual fans that have jobs as personal trainers, accountants and medical/law students (probably harder than an actual job):

“Erik Spoelstra has the easiest job in the NBA. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Just go out there and play and there’s a championship.”

“Why the hell did the Golden State Warriors trade Monta Ellis? They needed a “go-to” scorer that can get buckets when they need one.”

“Kyrie Irving is injury-prone.”

Something along those lines, the cliche’d tropes, the JV coach-instilled sayings, probably influenced such observations and that’s how I grew up watching basketball. The constant, unrelenting, wave of information and diverging viewpoints from so many influential figures can become a bit oversaturated but is breathtakingly refreshing in an era where social media dominates so much of what’s going on. There’s seemingly a subset of smart bloggers and writers that cover every team, harnessing the ability to teach us so much more in five minutes about a Josh Smith defensive possession that announcers on a TV screen and friends can do in a week.

But that isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to watch a basketball game while simultaneously feeling the need to re-watch plays, dissect pace of game, hone in on a specific defender’s footwork, or coaching tendencies after halftime. Most just watch it as a backdrop to conversations and if the game is tight in the fourth quarter, then the focus begins to tighten. Basketball Twitter (I guess this is a thing?) thrives in those moments of detailed learning—like a hardcore fan that’s been through the crappy seasons and now gloating about how no one was a true fan in the golden age—beatings its chest against the mainstream torrent of news and facades.

But like most niche groups, there’s little influence with which Basketball Twitter actually does when it comes to the mass opinion. Dwight Howard was actually an excellent defender and rebounder—by league standards—amidst the scrutiny and injuries, that’s not lost upon most of the people watching every game. Carmelo Anthony won the scoring title but in no way was he the better offensive player than Kevin Durant, not by a long shot. There are small truisms, little phrases (saying WojBomb would get you weird glances in public), that go by unnoticed because of this specific, smaller branch of basketball fans.

And let’s face it, we’re all basketball fiends, absorbing every tidbit and morsel of information found in every nook and cranny we can possibly find. I’m not sure if there’s a correct way to discuss, watch or relatively better approach to write about a basketball game but the growing trend that is Basketball Twitter is so interesting in that it is just a small portion that plays upon the dichotomy of casual fans and the dedicated. But some like it that way. There’s no tangible reason to constantly refresh your timeline during a basketball game. But that’s how powerful a tool Twitter can become. In an age where every little piece of data is analyzed and crunched and re-analyzed; Twitter is an apparatus for not only the spread of information but, under the correct limit of non-troll characters, the source for learning and forward thinking.

Photo from Scobilzer, via Flickr

  • nbacouchside

    Great stuff, Andy.

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