The quest for meaning & NBA ratings


Because I’m a white guy of a certain age (old) and have managed to stay alive, at least once every couple of years I run into someone who regales me with a 25,000 word soliloquy on why Bruce Springsteen concerts are so great.

At the end of the soliloquies I say something like “so, you think Bruce is an incredible performer and entertainer and he makes you very happy and the experience of being around thousands of other people who are similarly happy at the same time makes the experience even better and you and them all the more happier?”

“Well, yeah.”

It leaves me wondering why the simple explanation isn’t enough for them and why the 25,000 words are required. My conclusion is that there’s something in human nature where “it just makes me feel so damn good!” is not a satisfying explanation.

This crops up in various ways and though sometimes I find it annoying, I concede that it’s harmless. I don’t think the Nationals winning the World Series unified a city or anything else. But it made a lot of people happy and the afterglow of being around a lot of other people who are similarly happy is very nice. Enjoy it! Savor it! Nothing wrong with that. But here too that’s not satisfying enough for a lot of people and thousands of words about what it means are required.

Human nature can flip things around so that we search for meaning in a lot of places where it doesn’t really matter much but refuse to look for it in the places it might be useful. This is easily explained: in the “doesn’t really matter” cases it usually makes us feel good and in the “might be useful” cases it usually doesn’t.

I got an e-mail from someone very angry that I wasn’t pounding the gavel enough on Twitter about how awful the NBA’s regular season ratings have been and how I should be panicked about the ratings, that the NBA was awful and that LeBron James was extremely overrated.

I can conceive of disliking LeBron James but thinking he’s extremely overrated is unimaginable to me so I knew I was dealing with what I considered a crazy person. But I had the time and I have a bit of an asshole in me who sometimes likes fucking with people so I sent him this:

Hi, I have tweeted about the NBA’s ratings a few times but it’s early in the season and I haven’t seen any local ratings for the RSNs yet. But I’m not panicked and why should I be? It’s not my money and no matter how it plays out the national TV rights contracts are already inked for another 5 years. The NBA will not be canceled anytime soon.

My guess on what happens with the next round of rights deals for beyond the 2024-25 season is the rights fees will go up! But even if that’s wrong the NBA still won’t be canceled.

I don’t have strong opinions on the NBA product generally or about LeBron James, but at least over the next few years, the ratings don’t really matter in terms of how famous LeBron is. He’s going to be very, very famous regardless.

You already seem very angry about the NBA and LeBron so I hope this doesn’t make you angrier, but if what you’re hoping for is for both the NBA and LeBron to go away and go away soon, you’re going to be disappointed.

Rather than taking your anger out on me about not tweeting about the NBA ratings more, I think you should spend the time thinking about why you can’t just ignore the NBA. Why isn’t just ignoring it good enough for you? What does it mean that it isn’t? You want the NBA and LeBron to go away. What does it mean to you if that happens? And more importantly, what does it mean to you if it doesn’t? Because short of a career-ending injury none of that is going to happen.

To quote the great Bryan Curtis “The TV ratings do not matter to your life.” Mine either.

I haven’t gotten a reply yet.

Leave a Reply