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The Extra Pass: What the NBA gets that the NFL doesn’t, plus Sunday’s recap

Feb 3, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Getty Images

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This past weekend, David Stern retired as commissioner of the NBA.

After 30 years, he left as quietly as someone of his stature could. Instead of choosing a time where the NBA was in the spotlight to have his final farewell, Stern left in the middle of Super Bowl hoopla, when the coverage of his departure could only be brief.

The peculiar timing did cast some light on a few things, though. Stern will of course be remembered for cleaning up the league and making it profitable where it once wasn’t, but through both triumphs and mistakes, he always understood that he needed to make the game accessible for everyone.

This isn’t a concept the NFL has fully embraced.

There were more than a few examples present during the big game. One that stood out in particular was when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck read the Declaration of Independence pregame.

Aside from the slight irony of playing a game in London during the regular season and then reading that document before the championship, the whole thing served as another reminder of what the NFL’s primary agenda currently is.

That being said, let’s make this clear: the military should absolutely be honored, and America should be celebrated. This is not the issue.

The issue is that without reasonable moderation and without at least some detachment from the NFL brand, those acts begin to lose some of their integrity and meaning. When they’re done with the type of frequency the NFL does them, it’s hard not to see it for what it is.

More than anything else, the NFL uses Super Bowl Sunday to remind you that football is America, and America is football. They are made to be indistinguishable.

Because of this, in no way does the Super Bowl feel like a worldwide event. It’s televised around the world, naturally, but you could see how the event as a whole is isolating for international viewers. That seems especially true when there is nary a mention of international players or anything really of that ilk whatsoever. The most international flavor we got from the Super Bowl was a fan in the stands briefly being able to wave a Canadian flag after the first score. That was about it.

The NBA of course has built-in advantages with basketball being a much more popular sport around the world, but the NFL is years behind the NBA in the efforts to appeal to more than just American viewers.

Stern has a lot to do with that. In addition to his commitment to women’s basketball over the years, Stern always made it a priority for every major NBA event to celebrate all participants — not just Americans, but the players and fans around the world. The globalization of the NBA makes it what it is today, and that’s Stern’s crowning achievement.

You may not have loved Stern or all of his decisions, but the NBA is now a global sport. Here’s hoping the NFL tries a little harder in the future to be the same.

-D.J. Foster 

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Celtics 96, Magic 89: This was Rajon Rondo‘s best game since returning from ACL surgery — 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting, plus 10 assists, but more than that he was orchestrating the game like he used to — and not so coincidentally the Celtics got their first win since his return. Jared Sullinger added 21 for Boston. Orlando trailed most of the game but went on a 10-2 run in the fourth to make it interesting, but that run came from the bench and when the starters came back in they couldn’t get it over the top. Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 18.

  1. jbcoyle56 - Feb 3, 2014 at 8:50 AM

    This article is pointless. How many countries around the world play football? 2. Yes, basketball may more popular abroad bc it is played in many different countries. I don’t think you can credit stern for introducing every country to basketball. Let’s look at what the NFL does get that the NBA and MLB doesn’t.
    Reasonable east coast start times of Championship games.
    Shorter season drives demand.
    Shorter season also makes the entire regular season relevant.
    The playoffs don’t drag on and on.
    Playoff games aren’t started at 8pm est. That makes the game ACCESIBLE to everyone.

  2. timberwolvesbrisin - Feb 3, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    The NBA honors veterans at EVERY home game, What are you talking about?

  3. sdelmonte - Feb 3, 2014 at 9:25 AM

    They read the WHAT before the Super Bowl?

    I have to say, I am quite American, but I find the NFL’s endless jingoism as offputting as any citizen of another nation might. I watch sports to watch sports, not to have the flag waved in my face. While this is not the prime reason I didn’t feel the need to watch yesterday’s Seattle Stomp, I can’t say I am upset I missed the USA! bullcrap.

    • zerole00 - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:02 PM

      Honestly, I was a bit offended that they kept trying to link Coke and Budweiser to patriotism. You’re f—–g beverages, one of which plays a role in our 30% obesity epidemic and the other of which is alcohol. I’m not saying pop doesn’t taste good, or beer doesn’t add a little fun to a party but don’t insult our intelligence by implying you’re helping our country.

  4. davidly - Feb 3, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    There’s a word for the marrying of state and corporate power, particularly when it involves elements of the defense industry.

    • detectivejimmymcnulty - Feb 3, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      And that word is Halliburton ;)

      • davidly - Feb 6, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        He. Dunno — their just in the petroleum infrastructure branch of the overall, uh, operation. Then there’s the financial sector. Propaganda and, most recently, e-tech branches, one of the former of whose platform we are ironically using right now to talk about it. Freedom indeed.

  5. dinofrank60 - Feb 3, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    I’m surprised the NFL didn’t send squads after anyone who didn’t watch the Super Bowl. No wonder Goodell is insistent on trying to force everything on fans; he thinks it’s his duty to shape your “experience”.

    Can’t just watch a ball game anymore…

  6. antistratfordian - Feb 3, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Being “American” is one of the NFL’s core competencies.

    • zerole00 - Feb 3, 2014 at 6:02 PM

      Not from a business perspective.

  7. ranfan12 - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    I thought was going to be something about taxes. NFL is listed as a non-profit organization despite banking billions…

  8. balfe13 - Feb 3, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    Yeah, they definitely isolate the international viewers; have you seen how few people outside the U.S. watch the Super Bowl?… Come on, man.

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