February 20, 2013

Which all-star game is the worst?

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Ice Hockey

With the NBA’s all-star game wrapping up on Sunday night, now seems like the perfect time to question which mid-season expenses-paid vacation for the stars is actually the worst in North America. Well, actually, I shouldn’t even have to say in North America because it seems that only leagues on this side of the Atlantic have these sorts of things – excluding the KHL, which puts on their all-star game outdoors, which is a fantastic idea.

You could argue that there aren’t any European all-star games because soccer is the main sport over there, but that hasn’t stopped MLS from collecting its stars for a mid-season exhibition against a European team.

So, to start the debate, we have to eliminate the best of these games: Baseball’s Midsummer Classic. Not to say it’s an excellent game or anything, but the fact that something is on the line and guys are actually competing out there makes it actually worth watching. Many will poo-poo the fact that it decides home-field advantage in the World Series, but that little bit of added drama keeps the game relevant.

The NHL’s all-star game isn’t a real representation of actual ice hockey thanks to its scorelines often reaching double-digits, but the fantasy draft idea that they employ to select teams is a great one. It’s an idea that I have written before that the NBA should steal, but that would just make too much sense. The main problem with this game, like the MLS games in the past, the defenders are often chosen based on their offensive ability, not their defensive chops.

Now, we get to the two biggest offenders of all-star games: The NFL and the NBA. Both are extremely guilty of having players simply put up zero effort on defence.

In the NFL, it’s understandable. None of these guys want to get hurt or hurt another player in a meaningless game. Why are you going to be running and hitting as hard as you can when you’re really just there to enjoy a week in Hawaii? Throw in the fact that nobody is allowed to blitz and the coaches can’t have nearly enough time to really teach guys a playbook and you get a score that looks like it came from the Arena League.

You also have to remember that it’s not even the true best of the best there at the Pro Bowl. Since it’s a week before the Super Bowl nobody from those two teams are allowed to compete, eliminating some really good stars. Then you must factor in that this game is at the end of the season, when players have already been subjected to 16 or more games of bumps, bruises and other maladies.

And as for putting out an accurate representation of the game, there are barely any running plays. The last thing linemen want to do is charge forward and bang heads while the last thing backs want to do is absorb some more hits.

But believe it or not, the NBA all-star game may be worse. To start, you have a bloated roster and the coaches have to try to get every guy into the game for roughly the same amount of minutes, regardless of play. Even worse, they are considering adding another spot or two. Why?

Like in most all-star games, the defence is an absolute atrocity. There are alley-oops, big dunks and uncontested three-pointers galore – until midway through the fourth quarter. And that’s the biggest slap in the face for fans. If you’re going to actually play defence in the all-star game, just don’t turn it on late and actually start fouling like you want to win. We want to see a genuine effort through the full 48. I’m not saying start playing a full-court press, just try to put your hand in a guys face when he’s shooting a three in front of you. It just makes your sport look bad.

Really, it seems like a coin flip choice as to which is worse, the NBA all-star game or the NFL’s Pro Bowl. But there is one thing that I’ll settle right now: I’m glad that the NHL cancelled its all-star game. It’s just one less meaningless exhibition that grinds the league to a halt.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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