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What Kind Of Idiocy Is Going On Here?

No, I'm not talking about the owners and players both wanting to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) - that's another rant for another day. I'm talking about marijuana use and the length of players' shorts.

Toke You Very Much

Could we come up with stupider issues for there to be disagreement about? Take the marijuana use issue. A New York Times report recently estimated that as many as 70% (you read that right) of NBA players are at least casual users of marijuana. Why? One reason is because the NBA doesn't drug test for marijuana, though they test for all other illegal substances.

"ESPN Sportszone" took at look at the issue recently, and it's clear that the online NBA fan crowd is divided. I don't think it washes so easily in mainstream America, however. They are the ones who provide the eyes that watch games, in particular playoff games in May and June. In my mind, it's simple. As long as marijuana is classified as an illegal drug outside of very limited medical prescriptions, NBA players (and management, for that matter - do they have to take drug tests?) should be held accountable for being within the law of the land.

I don't want to get into a discussion of whether marijuana should be legalized, because that's a secondary issue that really distracts from the central issue. If the players allow themselves to be tested for other illegal and banned substances, why isn't marijuana on the list? It's banned just like any other drug. Now, a more relevant side issue would be whether drug testing of NBA players should happen, but I'm going to dance around that one for the moment.

This is a loser of an issue for the players. Yeah, it's probably a bargaining chip for the players union in the upcoming renegotiation of the CBA, but it's not a very strong position to be in. Could you imagine what happens when NBA commissioner David Stern announces to the world that the lockout must continue because the players won't concede to marijuana testing? It doesn't matter if there are other issues, the main media outlets will pick this one up and run with it - a major PR disaster for the players.

Stay tuned on this issue. I don't expect it to be an issue a year from now, after the two sides presumably (still a big if) ratify a new CBA.

Do Your Shorts Knee-d To Be That Long?

Sorry for the pun, but that's how serious this issue really is. Yet the NBA is making a minor crime out of it. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

->> WashingtonPost.com: A Shorts History.

David Aldridge of "ESPN Sportszone" asked the league office about their reasons for the crackdown, and you will get the bit about a rule being interpreted to justify their whims. He also got someone to intimate that the league believed it made the players look like gangstas.

Aldridge got all indignant about the racial overtones in that justification, and on one level he's probably right. It's one of the lamer excuses one could come up with. However, why isn't the league cracking down on braided hairstyles on some of its players (e.g., Iverson, Sprewell), which also has certain fashion and social connotations? Where does the league draw the line? Should it draw the line?

No, it shouldn't. This is amazing. As Aldridge pointed out, the league sure isn't consistently enforcing rules about traveling (both taking too many steps and changing pivot foots), palming the ball, and moving picks, so why this issue? The previous issues directly affect the outcome of the game, whereas short shorts do not.

I believe it comes down to merchandising the product to an increasingly well-heeled clientele. You are aware of how expensive games are getting. It's impossible to get good seats without putting down a lot of cash; it's difficult to get good advertisers, too, if image starts becoming a problem (and advertisers are needed for this new, more expensive TV deal). But I never saw an image problem to begin with - unless you count the lack of energy from fans in the high-price seats, who seem to be there to be entertained rather than be fans. Where are the real fans?

And to be honest, these shorter shorts just don't look right on this current batch of players. I don't want to see those knobby knees and thin legs. Cover them up, please! Yes, I know it's only a couple of extra inches showing and I'll probably get used to looking at it soon, but it's just not the same. Let the players wear their shorts as they like. It doesn't condone anything positive or negative.

wtf 25 November 1997

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