The lack of sports prior to the NBA bubble gave the common sports fan an unshakable feeling of emptiness. Even during lockout seasons, we have never experienced such a pit in the area of our hearts that care so deeply about sports. The bubble was designed to be a remedy. A remedy that would help us forget the current situation in this country regarding the pandemic. When the idea of a bubble in Disney World had first been discussed, I could not have been happier. Then the idea had been approved, and, at least for me, it was one of the happiest moments of the entire pandemic! There was a glimmer of hope. A light at the end of the tunnel that showed us it is possible to get back to the way things were. I followed the progression of the restart on a daily basis until it eventually came into fruition in late July.
Finally, when tipoff had arrived, I hate to say it, but I was a little bit…well, uninterested. I would find myself missing games all over the place, keeping games on in the background and paying them no mind, falling asleep during the games, or being content with letting someone else take the living room TV to watch their own shows. Frankly, the only thing keeping me in the loop, aside from my love for the Denver Nuggets, was my job writing at TSW. If my work did not require me to keep up with the bubble, I doubt I would care the least bit about what has happened thus far. How could it be that after so much build up and anticipation, my bubble could be popped, just like that?
A Shared Sentiment
After reflecting on why this is the case, I did some research and realized I was not alone! Ethan Strauss of the athletic wrote that this has been a “ratings disaster of a season, with the NBA’s most-watched game of last week trailing golf, NASCAR and wrestling. This, despite an incredible run of exciting games in Orlando. So far, the NBA built it but very few came.” Even before the season was suspended, the NBA saw a drop in viewership of 12% since the end of last season. The restart that was supposed to signify the glorious and triumphant return of sports has only amplified the ratings debacle in the NBA, with the “seeding games” having an average viewership of a pitiful 1.39 million. Those who attribute this decline in ratings to “cord cutting” fail to acknowledge that Nielsen ratings include streaming services. The statistical evidence proves a sad pattern, and the anecdotal evidence makes it all the more sad, at least in my case. My closest friends who love the game of basketball as much as I do share the same sentiment… they are bored!
Why is This the Case?
Why, after 4 long and dreary months of no basketball, are we so unenthused about this restart? I thought long and hard about what may be causing such a ratings catastrophe. I came up with a few reasons, but one of them is undeniably more blatant. The politicization of the NBA. Whether or not you agree with the social messaging on display throughout the restart, you have to acknowledge that it is quite evident. The question of if individual athletes have a responsibility to speak up is besides the point. Click here for a link to one of my articles where I discuss that topic in depth. The NBA as an organization has taken the position to side with a polarizing political movement. Again, whether or not you agree with it, you must understand that there are people who disagree with that stance. Joe Workingman does not like seeing all his favorite players wearing BLM shirts. The only thing Joe Workingman likes less than that is to be lectured by a multi-billion dollar corporation about how racist he is. What does Joe Workingman do when he sees something on TV he does not like? He changes the channel! Not only does he change the channel, but he goes to facebook and tells all of his like minded friends to follow suit. This is not such an easy problem for the NBA to fix. On one hand, if you appease the activists, you will get more of the same. On the other hand, if you go back on your stance, you will be weak on your principals and upset the players. There is no easy solution to this complex problem, but one thing is for sure… I am bored as hell!