I didn't get to watch any of the NBA championship which ended a few days ago. I would have liked to see some of it, but I was not able. I have been able to hear a bit about it on the radio, and read some about it on the internet.
Much of what I have heard and read has been, well, kind of conflicted--on one hand, there has been a lot of respect shown to the winning team, the Spurs, as being a team which has been consistently good for several years, and for being a real team, and for not having the kinds of behavioral issues which seems to plague many other teams, while on the other hand, I don't recall ever hearing so much lamenting about how boring a team is, and how dull their play is, and how bad the series was played overall. Their star player was refered to as a "charismatic black hole" on one radio show.
There may be some cause for thinking the series was dull. The Spurs swept the final series, and did it seemingly easily. Their opponents, the Cavs, were clearly unable to hold their own against the Spurs.
Nor is it something that is only seen in sports. In chess, the most popular players have usually been the attackers and risk-takers--Tal, Alekhine, Morphy, Fischer, and Kasparov. There has usually been much less enthusiasm, though maybe not respect, for the more cautious and defensive players, such as Petrosian, Capablance, and Karpov. I have a recent version of the Chessmaster series of programs, and it has a collection of classic games. I remember looking through it, and finding very few games by Petrosian, and only one win. Petrosian was the world chess champion for six years, and was among the top chess players for many more years. To so disregard his play seems a little odd to me.
But I digress...
This isn't to say that being good must of necessity mean being boring. The Bulls of the 90s were among the best teams of all times, and they were not boring. In chess, Kasparov is easily one of the all-time best players, and his style of very dynamic and aggressive.
But these are matters of style, not of good or bad play. In fact, there does at times seem to be a burder, and an unnecessary one in my opinion, is placed on people--the need to be dynamic and charismatic, someone who will draw to his performances who would normally not watch such activities.
One show I listened to made reference to the sale of NBA merchandise, and whose player's stuff sells most. The Spur's star player wasn't among the top ten, and if I remember correctly he was down around 15. He has been around a while, has proven for many years that he is one of the best players of all time, but players who haven't done half of what he has are more popular then him.
Maybe we should expect a certain level of sophistication in spectators. While no doubt wanting new people to discover and like something we like, perhaps it is time to accept that sometimes newcomers will not always like what they see, and may even conclude that it is boring and not worth the effort. I admit such an attitude could be borderline snobbish, but maybe it's also necessary. We do not expect fans of pop music to also be able to appreciate opera. The two music forms are not necessarily exclusive, but they are very different. Someone whose music listening has been primarily the bubble gum of pop would probably find opera much more difficult, if not outright dull.
The NBA is not opera, and nor should it be. But at the same time, it should not apologize when its best players do not draw people like they want them to. Perhaps the problem is as much or more the spectators as it is the players.