Opening Day in southeast Michigan is a holiday. Downtown Detroit shuts down and turns into the only place to be every year. Today, 2011 MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander takes the mound to face the Boston Red Sox.
Neil Weinberg wrote a column in Monday’s Echo explaining every team in baseball has a chance for success every year, while citing the Arizona Diamondbacks. This year, the Washington Nationals could be a contender if they reach their potential. The Kansas City Royals could be contenders as well.
In last year’s NFL season, we saw firsthand what could happen to a team that reached its potential in the form of the Detroit Lions making the playoffs for the first time in recent memory.
Parity in the NFL is rampant.
The New York Giants won the Super Bowl just a month after scratching and clawing to get into the playoffs.
In the NHL, every year some new team is making their mark on the league. The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972, after being largely irrelevant until 2008.
One word can describe the MLB, NFL and NHL: competitive.
On the flip side, the NBA has become a complete joke of a professional sporting entity. Players are swapped to different teams as easily as they get shoe deals, but at the same time NBA commissioner David Stern pulls a fantasy basketball move and vetoes trades involving high-profile players.
We are seeing the dawn of NBA “superteams,” borne from Lebron James’ announcement that he will be headed to South Beach and join fellow superstars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.
Chris Bosh got the idea in his head that he wanted to be a part of the fun and requested a trade, which was granted, to the Los Angeles Lakers to play with future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. In a desperate attempt to shut down the monopolizing of franchises in the NBA, Commissioner Stern disallowed the trade, setting an ugly precedent in a league with terrible PR as it were.
So while superstar players and big market franchises get all warm and fuzzy with each other, middling teams like the Detroit Pistons are left in the dust. The only fans that show up at the Palace of Auburn Hills now are devoted season ticket holders and the drunk, fat guys gorging himself with $10 undersized beers.
The Pistons are attempting to build themselves from the ground up through the NBA Draft, but they lack a true superstar. In fact, the last perennial All-star they have had was back in the Joe Dumars and Isaiah Thomas era.
With young players like Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, the Pistons have found themselves a decent core to build on.
But don’t kid yourself. This team will never compete with the Heat or the Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Detroit is a dying city economically and will never support the All-stars that are needed in today’s NBA to compete in the playoffs.
Instead, the NBA’s field has been whittled down to a grand total of six teams that could be competitive for a title. As older players retire, that field will likely downsize to around four.
A league without parity, plus a commissioner without control over his league, equals an equation that will not be solved in the short term.
The solution is not going to be by changing the rules of the league. The solution is not by messing with the salary cap or creating an MLS-like “David Beckham Rule” where teams are allowed only two overpaid superstars.
The solution is to completely ignore the NBA until the league, its teams and players decide to become more competitive.
There is a reason hockey is making a big comeback as a potential alternative “third sport” in America. Even soccer is expanding their league and fan bases at record paces while attracting world-renowned athletes.