VERO BEACH, FLORIDA – The one-upmanship never ends between the NBA, NHL and NFL regarding who can come up with the most ridiculous All-Star Game format.
This year, the NBA is attempting to wrest worst setup dishonors away from the NHL, which currently lays claim to the title.
If you hadn’t heard, the NBA has this campaign scrapped it’s time-honored East vs. West affair.
Instead, it will go with a “choose up sides” type arrangement in its annual luminary showcase on Feb. 18.
First, all the players named to the East and West rosters are thrown into one pot for selection.
Then, the two highest vote-getters in each conference (this year, LeBron James and Stephen Curry) will play general manager and take turns picking players for his side.
It’s sort of an homage to playground hoops, one supposes.
MAS guesses the NBA didn’t notice that this same format failed miserably for the NFL several years back.
Oh, well, like they say: Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
A little history lesson, then, for the NBA.
Here’s why the NFL plan fared so poorly when it briefly scrapped its NFC vs. AFC setup in favor of a choosing sides deal, irrespective of conference affiliation.
For starters, they would appoint two past NFL stars seemingly still addicted to the spotlight — like Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, one year — to play general manager.
The pair would then take turns picking players making up the two Pro Bowl sides.
Their selections would obviously be made by what those two considered position importance and degree of performer’s skill.
Most former pro grid greats are content to fade into the background of the sport, secure with their gridiron legacies.
Not guys like Sanders and Rice.
The pair leaped at the chance to draw more attention to themselves.
Perhaps if the NFL had kept the All-Star draft a secret, it would have been more palatable.
The league had to make a shameful televised spectacle of the selection process, which featured Sanders and Rice at their hammiest best or, rather, worst.
While they shucked and jived their way through filling up their rosters, imagine the embarrassment of those players — All-Stars, mind you — who were among the last picked.
Or picked way below a slot they felt deserving of.
Well, actually, you didn’t have to imagine the chagrin of those players. It was written all over their faces as ESPN televised the whole draft charade live.
In the green room-type waiting area, their sense of humiliation and resultant anger was palpable.
Talk about disgraceful treatment.
Predictably, the NFL ditched this disastrous experiment.
Now the apparently slow-to-learn NBA will put its players through the same ordeal.
Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, after assuming the top spot in the early voting for Western Conference starters, said he would NOT want to be the one of the two player pickers.
To his everlasting credit, Durant wanted no part of any Sanders-Rice type general manager buffoonery.
Doubt James will feel the same, given his propensity for influencing roster construction on every NBA team he’s played for.
Wisely, NBA commish Adam Silver has stated the player draft will be held in secret.
The players, though, have a way of finding out the order of selection. And this should still ruffle a few prideful feathers.
Face it, the game, even without its change in format, had already been found wanting.
The East vs. West set-up had devolved into a no-defense, slam dunkathon of a travesty that saw both team threaten to top the 200-point mark annually.
This new format won’t change that.
But, hey, at least it wasn’t nearly as bad as the NHL blowing up its conference vs. conference All-Star contest in recent years and replacing it with several incomprehensible set-ups.
First, earlier this decade, someone came up with the half-baked idea of a North American vs. the World setup.
Like that was really going to pump life into an NHL All-Star Game that, like the NFL’s Pro Bowl, featured little or no hitting and was sans defense.
They should have just renamed it “NHL Goalie’s Worst Nightmare.”
Both sides routinely racked up double digits in lamp lightings, bombarding netminders with 60-70 shots per contest.
But the NHL has outdone even itself the past few seasons, employing the most ludicrous All-Star Game format yet, in MAS’ opinion.
First, its league is broken up into four teams by divisions. Two of the squads then play the other two in 20-minute, 3-on-3 games.
Call those contests the semifinals.
The two winners then play another 20-minute title game.
This is traditional best-against-best hockey?
Not by a long slap shot.
Sacre bleu, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard must be saying to himself as he spins in his grave.
The NHL is the reigning All-Star chump. But the NBA may be giving hockey a run for its money with its present lame set-up.
The three leagues in the competition seem to have a P.T. Barnum attitude regarding suckers, thinking their fan bases will lap up anything presented to them.
And judging by the lack of public outcry over the format changes, they’re probably correct in their assumption.
MLB wisely recently scrapped the use of its All-Star Game as a means to determine which of its two leagues got home-field advantage in the World Series.
Now it’s simply an independent matchup where the two leagues play only for personal and league pride.
It might not have quite the intensity of a postseason MLB contest, but close enough.
MAS finds it much more preferable to the ongoing comedy competition that the All-Star affairs in other major sports have become.
Contact Man About Sports at: firstname.lastname@example.org
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5