Stern’s NBA farewell act could turn out to be mega-flop
Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 4:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 4:19 p.m.
There were two major announcements in the NBA’s offseason, news that will hover over this entire new season that began just days ago: David Stern’s impending retirement as commissioner and the no-flopping rule.
The no-flopping rule is designed to reduce and, in a perfect world, eventually eliminate the theatrical extremes to which players will go to deceive referees into calling fouls. Think of “flopping” as the kind of exaggerated emoting you might see in European soccer, or a silent film from a century ago, or from an old Jerry Lewis movie. Or in professional wrestling.
The NBA describes flopping as “gross over-embellishing.”
A recent Associated Press story about the new no-flopping rule stated that in the offseason the league sent teams a video of flopping examples. It included Danilo Gallinari flailing and holding his face after running into a screen by Pau Gasol. Another example showed Dwyane Wade flinging his leg out on a jump shot and falling to the floor when making incidental contact with Mikael Pietrus.
Stern has been NBA commissioner since 1984, since before Reggie Miller and Vlade Divac at NBA arenas became what Wesley Snipes (“White Men Can’t Jump”) and Omar Epps (“Love and Basketball”) would become on movie screens — convincing basketball actors, before flopping degenerated from the Stanislavski Method into Moe-Larry-Curly slapstick.
Stern appears to be an erudite man, and as such he might love drama — high-brow theater, serious film, opera and ballet — in which thespians aspire to the highest levels of their art. Professional basketball itself might be viewed as world-class performance art.
But, obviously, while Stern might love fine acting, he clearly hates bad acting. He hates acting that’s so bad, everyone except refs can tell it’s acting. He hates acting that’s so bad, it’s laughable, embarrassing, sorely absent the requisite suspension of disbelief.
Under the new no-flopping rule, according to the recent AP story, after each game, “officials will ... review plays that could have included an egregious flop.”
First-time offenders will receive a warning. Second offense will cost $5,000. Third offense: $10,000. Fourth: $15,000. Fifth: $30,000. It’s unclear what happens after five flops. Perhaps a mandatory one-year enrollment into the Actors Studio in New York or maybe a concentrated two-week seminar studying the techniques of Lawrence Olivier and Marlon Brando.
It remains to be seen how all this plays out. Shane Battier, a renowned flopper since his college years under Coach K at Duke, said in the AP story he’s worried about a “flop czar” who might favor offensive floppers over defensive floppers.
But you’ve got to think players of all flopping stripes will adjust, evolve, become more subtle. Better actors. Perhaps hire the likes of Jim Brown or Carl Weathers, people with street cred, to coach them in the finer points of athletic acting.
It’s not likely NBA players are simply going to stop trying to draw imaginary fouls or cease exaggerating marginal ones committed against them. After all, is there any team sport in which some attempt at deceiving opponents and officials doesn’t exist?
Basketball at the NBA level is virtually impossible to truly, accurately officiate anyway, but you’ve got to think it’s not the flopping, per se, that Stern despises. It’s the fifth-rate talent that flopping exposes that shames his sport.
The NBA commissioner hates bad acting so much that he was apparently willing to start the season with the no-flopping rule sharing the spotlight with his momentous retirement news.
What does this say about Stern? He’s serious. To his long list of accomplishments as NBA commissioner, he wants to add an end to flopping before his career’s final horn sounds.
But it would seem that Stern’s retirement announcement itself is guilty of gross over-embellishing. Granted, a standard two-week notice might not be appropriate for someone of Stern’s stature and achievements, but he announced his retirement becomes effective on Feb. 1 ... of 2014.
That’s a 15-month notice. That isn’t so much a retirement notice as a self-aggrandizing start of a farewell tour, as if he were a rock star, or a spectacular and beloved athlete, someone who actually plays the game, someone whom the fans must see one more time.
But no, it’s just the David Stern No Flopping Farewell Tour. Not exactly a must-see act.
Robert Rubino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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