A Sports Parable

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THE PLANK JUNE 3, 2008

A Sports Parable

 

A statement
from Detroit Pistons general manager Joe Dumars:

I wanted to
say a few words about the Michigan Solution. No, not that travesty
of justice
. I'm talking about a fair, common-sense resolution of the Eastern
Conference Finals.

Some in the
media are declaring the series over because the Boston Celtics have won four of
the six games played so far. But I don’t understand why, with a series this close
and hotly contested, anyone would want to shut it down before we play a seventh
game and have all the results in. As anybody who follows the NBA knows, a
seven-game series would be good for the league, and the added competition would
make the eventual victor, whomever it might be, a stronger opponent against the
Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

It’s no
great surprise that some are trying to push us out of this series. From the
beginning, it’s been clear that the media and league elites have been looking
for an exciting new face, instead of a team, like ours, that has proven its
mettle by making it to the Conference Finals six* years in a row. We saw it in
the Western Conference as well, where officials and news outlets made clear they
were sick to death of the reigning
champion San Antonio Spurs
and behaved like
cheerleaders for the media-darling
Lakers
. Heck, they almost managed to persuade fans that a hokey, small-town act like the
New Orleans
Hornets
was a legitimate contender. It is safe to say that this has been the
most
rigged coverage in modern sports history
.

But back to
the series in question. Yes, Boston has won four
games and Detroit only two. But it's hard to imagine a
more arbitrary and undemocratic way to determine this series’s outcome than
"games won." It is, after all, a bedrock value of the game of basketball that
all points must be counted. But how can that be the case when every point
beyond the winning point is ignored? There are literally dozens of layups,
jumpers, free throws, and (yes, even) dunks that our opponents want to say don't
count for anything at all. We call on the NBA to do the right thing and fully
count all of
the baskets that were made throughout the course of this series.

Once you
abandon the artificial four-games-to-two framework that the media has tried to
impose on the series, a very different picture emerges, with the Celtics leading
by a mere 549 points to 539. Yes that’s right, the margin between the two teams
is less than one percent—a tie, for all intents and purposes. This is probably
the closest Conference Finals in NBA history, though I will thank you not to
check on that.

How do we determine a winner in a series so historically close?
First off, let's look at these so-called "free" throws, which are anything but.
Who decides when these are to be awarded? Hard-working working-people like you
and me? No, it's the officials, the league bosses, the elites. So no
counting the free throws--unless and until (and I sincerely hope you guys are
listening) the refs start breaking our way again. (By the way, you guys do know
that Celts star Paul Pierce was involved in a stabbing a few years back, right?
I only mention it because Phil Jackson is obviously going to bring it up in the
Finals.)

If you take
out free throws, Boston's ten-point margin in the series is
whittled down to a single-digit, all-but-meaningless nine points. But this is still misleading.
Let's be honest: We all know that some baskets count for more than others. (Yes,
I know I was arguing for equal representation two seconds ago. What are you, Encyclopedia
Brown
? Chill out and try to stay current.) Take layups, for example: If
you wander naively into the Finals thinking you’re going to win with layups,
well don’t come crying to me when Kobe Bryant swats that lameass shit right back
in your face. I know. I've been
there.

So let's
get right down to it: Big shots matter. It makes no difference when they happen,
or who's leading at the time, or whether you're likely to make them against the
Lakers, or any of that complicated nonsense. And we all know that the only real
big shot is a three-pointer. So sure, Boston won more games than us, and scored more
points, and made more baskets, and hit more free throws, and never tried to
rewrite the rules after the fact. But we dominated them in three-point
shooting, hitting 29 long ones to their 26 over the course of the series. Take
this into account and it becomes apparent that we are by far the strongest
competitor the Eastern Conference can field against the Lakers.

We again
ask the league to consider all these facts and come to a fair solution. I’ll be
holding a press conference at the Palace tonight, to which I’m inviting all
Pistons season-ticket holders. I may announce our intention to drop out of the
Eastern Conference Finals. Or I may not. But know one thing: If the media and
league elites put the Celtics up against LA, they will lose, and we’ll be the
first to say I told you so.

See you
next season,

Joe Dumars
(as told to Christopher Orr)

*corrected 

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