USATSI_7306676_164908624_lowres

The ‘Effort’ Narrative

Sports media is the most polarizing, glorified, and over-valued arm of all the journalistic outlets.

Yet, it only exists in this nature because you (and I), the fan, continually create an overwhelming demand of all things sports-related. Think about where media coverage was in both 1993 and 2003. Journalists dominated in both decades with the only difference being the Naughts-era expansion of virtual data and small-scale blogging. Now fast-forward to the sports world of 2013 – instant access to a tremendous amount of resources on almost everything a fan could ever care about.

Need to know advanced metrics concerning San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan’s work in the right block? You got it. The Miami Heat’s average points per possession during road games after two-days rest? No problem. In five years, we’ll know the connection between shooting percentages and pre-game meals; Impact of cuticle length on reverse layups in ten.

The advancement in the tools of supply have radically propelled the demand of sports news. Established writers have to compete daily with a plethora of blogs, a solid number by highly educated fans. NBA.com has both an in-depth basketball analytical sub-site and a section dedicated to the fashion choices of professional ballers. Thanks to the need of instant information, sports narratives have been mutated into a somehow even more polarizing monster.

The most prominent today is the apparent lack of effort by the Miami Heat towards an NBA title.

Miami is an already highly combustible team with its ensemble of talent/celebrities. Their talent is so dominant, that any achievement is expected and trumpeted by the choir of talking heads. Despite the appearances, success is the opposite of what attracts the media to the Heat. The media primarily consists of rapacious types, itching to pounce on any misstep, misquote, or short-coming. If it bleeds, it reads. And the media loves to run Miami’s mistakes through an over-the-top manic torrent of criticism.

The Miami Heat are in their third straight NBA Finals appearance and have just recently accomplished one of the most prolific winning streaks in sports history. An impressive feat but here we are with articles and talks shows asking if Pat Riley should blow up the band if the Heat should fall to San Antonio – as if the Spurs are the Western Conference equivalent of the Charlotte Bobcats. The low-key Spurs have been dealing with the narrative of being “old” for almost a decade but the attention stalking the Heat has the South Beach Superstars playing under the world’s largest metaphorical microscope.

Yet this is what happens when the marquee attraction rattles off the number of future banners at the team’s absurdly lavish welcoming party. This is also expected when the same man proclaims to be “20, 40, 50 times better” than he was in his first Finals appearance. Both Miami and LeBron have made their bed of obscene expectations and both the media and NBA fanbase have found it to be quite comfortable. “This team should win eight championships. This team should be the most dominate dynasty in NBA history. This team should hold dominion over the masses for over 1,000 years.” It’s absolutely ridiculous for the media and fans to fall into such expectations but perhaps LeBron should abstain from spouting mathematics to the press for a few years – so far, it hasn’t done him or his teammates any favors.

The narrative of “effort” has been the story surrounding the Miami Heat since the start of their Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. For nearly a month, the Miami Heat have been unable to win consecutively through a stretch of twelve games. Do the Heat mentally check out? Is the game too easy or is there a sense of arrogance that the victories should just be handed to them? Or maybe it’s because the Heatles are not actually head and shoulders above the other elite teams in the National Basketball Association.

No doubt about it, the Miami Heat are an incredibly good team capable of unbelievable play. But maybe the young Indiana Pacers were an incredibly hungry team who physically matched up well against the smaller Miami Heat. Maybe the San Antonio Spurs are just a well-coached team comprised of excellent players. Maybe the Miami Heat are actually the “older” team in the finals. Maybe Miami has played well in losses, like Game Five in San Antonio, but are just going up against a tough squad. Honestly, there is no “maybe” about it but sometimes the cold truth just doesn’t grab eyes.

In order to retain their title of “champion” and to temporarily hush the cynics, the Miami Heat now must do what has recently been an impossible task – win two consecutive games. The lights that shine on the Big Three of Miami are back to the blinding levels of the 2011 Finals. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh will continue to quote clichés and proclaim their responsibilities but the Spurs, the other really good professional sports team in this series, will be ready to play “big boy” basketball.

The amusing part about all of this drama is that the San Antonio Spurs, the supposed arch-villain of headlines, are on the verge of giving the national sports media exactly what they want and need – an endless flood of storylines throughout the dog days of summer.

Quantcast