“A.B. Sees” is a column by Aidan Berg about basketball.
While the NBA has been green-lighting cringey content ideas to make up for a lack of games, the NFL has dominated the real-life sports cycle with coverage in the lead-up to its draft on Thursday. At a time when the NBA Playoffs should be captivating viewers everywhere, the only outlet for fans who desperately miss real sports is throwing themselves into studying for what promises to be the strangest draft in a long time (and that’s saying something).
This has always been the dynamic between these leagues: Due to its inherent spot at the top of the American sports hierarchy, the NFL has always been more popular than the NBA despite the fact that the latter is a much better-managed league filled with forward thinkers instead of the NFL’s traditionalists.
It weirdly makes sense that a pandemic has suspended the NBA indefinitely as it reaches the most important part of its season and cleared the way for the NFL to command the landscape of sports consumption. Once again, the more functional league is losing out to the accepted power.
However, if there’s a second-most obvious dynamic between these franchises, it’s that the NBA doesn’t make the same mistakes the NFL does.
While Roger Goodell pretended not to know about the seriousness of concussions or the existence of a video showing Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancee, Adam Silver took the unprecedented action of forcing Clippers owner Donald Sterling out of the league after tapes surfaced of him spewing racist rhetoric.
Where Goodell bungled the Colin Kaepernick protesting situation by caving to our so-called Commander in Chief and contributing to the silencing of NFL players’ free speech, Silver supported NBA players and coaches for speaking their minds — after all, they have the same rights as anyone else in this country.
Now Silver has the chance to come out on the right side of things again. The NFL Draft will be happening remotely this coming Thursday, and with its track record, it’s a good bet the league will screw something up. With the NBA Draft (hopefully) occurring in the next few months, probably under similar circumstances, Silver and Co. can look at everything that goes wrong with the NFL Draft and adjust their plans accordingly. Here are some things to keep in mind:
How will the notoriously old and traditionalist NFL handle an all-tech draft?
If you want a full rundown of how the draft will be conducted, I suggest you read this highly informative piece by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.
There will be three different connections for each team to manage: a video conference between the 32 teams, a broadband connection with the league office and a secure connection with team staff. Since everyone will obviously be working from home, the league has worked hard to ensure strong connections, equipment and reliable backups at every location.
General managers, the ones who generally make final draft decisions, are generally in their 40s, which isn’t old by any means and may help with any technical difficulties. However, when you consider the age of other people involved in the personnel side of things across the league (yes, I am referring to Jerry Jones), things start to seem a little more dicey. I would not be shocked if a lack of technological understanding on the part of decision-makers played a huge role in how this draft plays out, perhaps resulting in teams going over the time limit allotted for each pick.
We also know from the above examples that the NFL’s crisis response is not exactly ideal. If concerns about an outside force hacking the draft prove legitimate, I have my questions about the NFL’s ability to respond effectively.
The NBA, meanwhile, is led by a lot of people who have demonstrated they understand new-wave technology, as evidenced by its adoption of analytics, and has a front office that has showcased its chops in potential disaster situations.
How will the NFL incorporate fans?
One of my favorite traditions of the NFL Draft is Goodell getting rightfully and emphatically booed every time he comes to the podium to announce a pick. Goodell will continue to announce the first-round picks this year but will now be doing so from home.
I’m not sure how the booing would continue, but the NFL is looking into ways it can incorporate fans into the broadcast, with one suggestion being that fans could send their own videos to an ESPN portal. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad idea in theory, but I have confidence that the NFL will slip up and allow something that puts a damper on the show to fall through the cracks.
Not only is the NBA savvier about these kinds of things, it also has a more positive fanbase in general than the NFL. I’m looking forward to seeing how the NBA can improve on the NFL’s methods to get fans engaged.
What might the NFL do correctly that the NBA can steal?
Charity work is always a positive for any organization, but that’s especially true when a massive pandemic is killing thousands of people and putting a lot more out of work. The NFL will be advocating for six different healthcare charities, which is actually a good decision on the part of the league.
But again, the NBA can improve the idea. It can allow the biggest donors to announce picks for their teams or set an example by providing a base donation that others can add to. The league can echo the videos it had star players make when the quarantine first went into effect, but this time have players talk about a donation they made and why other people should also offer support.
Whatever the NBA’s decision-makers decide to do, you can bet that they’ll be watching on Thursday to see how they can get the leg up once again.
“A.B. Sees” runs every other Friday.