Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Love the NBA and Why It's Too Easy to Criticize

by Ben Howard

My love of sports isn't really a secret to anyone. I've written about football and baseball and the Olympics. I'm sure I'll eventually write about hockey and auto racing and yachting, but there is a special place in my heart for basketball and the NBA in particular.

Baseball is about poetry. The field, the grass, being outside in the sun in the summer. It's pristine and agrarian. As George Carlin once pointed out, the whole point of baseball is to go home. Football is about teamwork and discipline and the cold. It's aggressively physical and socially conservative. It's a game of guards and field marshal's marching up and down the field.

But basketball...basketball is something else. Basketball is about art and creativity. It's where athleticism meets chess meets playfulness. It can be serious and it can be beautiful, but it's always dynamic and always in motion.

There's something magical about watching some of the world's best athletes pushing themselves to the limits of what physics allows. How high can they jump? How fast can they run? Then you intersperse this with the anticipation of the jumper and that feeling you get when somebody releases a beautiful three point that you know is hitting nothing but net.

Now professional basketball certainly has it's seedier side, like every sport. It's awash in consumerism and greed. You can make the case that professional sports only exist so that companies can market themselves to people who like sports. Every day ESPN has another column about how Athlete X and Team Y can't agree on how to share millions and millions of dollars with each other.

Sports, like almost every other area of life, are caught in this battle between the beautiful and the grotesque. The optimistic and the pessimistic. It's the battle most of us fight every day.

This is incredibly obvious during election season. It's hard to distinguish sometimes between whether people are voting for their candidate or against the other one. Or, take the Christian sub-culture. Today is the official release date of Rachel Held Evans book A Year of Biblical Womanhood (see that, slipping in a little promotion, read her book). Some people have praised it for it's tongue-in-cheek take on the idea of "biblical womanhood" and others have criticized Rachel for not taking the Bible seriously enough.

I'm becoming increasingly frustrated with this constant refrain of negativity. I don't want to argue that there aren't problems in the world, but it's just too easy to be a critical hack. It's too easy to tell everybody why everything sucks and why they shouldn't enjoy it. But why can't I enjoy something for what it is? Even if "what it is" is deeply flawed?

That's why I love the NBA. I know it's deeply flawed. It's run by greedy businessmen and played by greedy players. However, you have to juxtapose that with the beauty of sports.

I think that it's to the glory of God when you see people do the thing they're best at, even if that means that they're playing a game for entertainment. It's to the glory of God when we come together as a community for competition. So yes, there are negative aspects to the NBA, to sports, to everything, but it's not enough to criticize something for the things you hate about it. You also have to praise it for the things it does well.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't work for improvement. It doesn't justify the billions we spend on sports or politics, but it does allow us to enjoy the good aspects without having to always feel guilty.

Happy NBA Opening Day and Thunder Up!


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at] gmail.com.

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