Thursday, April 3, 2014

May 20, 2014 - The NBA Draft Lottery Live on Pay-per-View and the WWE Network

Much has changed since we last put digital ink to Archie Manning's Bastards paper.  

2014 has sparked the formation of the foremost sports travel concierge in the industry: VIP Fan Experiences LLC (now accepting bookings for you and your group's sports vacation).  Further, Twitter stock rose, fell, rose again, and fell again, prompting people everywhere to question whether it truly will maintain prominence in the digital publishing industry.  

As the calendar turns to Spring, the NCAA tournament nears conclusion, the baseball marathon has begun, and the Masters is set to tee off without Tiger Woods (RIP); the basketeball and hockey playoffs are about to begin. This year's NBA playoffs will not include the Los Angeles Lakers, who are crashing to the bottom of the league standings set to begin a rebuild of questionable duration.  This very subject prompted a discussion yesterday on the train back from a White Sox game concerning the legitimacy of the NBA draft lottery, a process the Lakers will be taking part in for only the third time. Ever.  

The person I was discussing the aforementioned topic with was convinced that there was too much at stake for the NBA to rig the lottery, in the face of several suspicious outcomes from its very inception in the Patrick Ewing "frozen envelope" draft.  This same person also asked me if I feel that the NBA is fixed in the same manner as the WWE.  For the following reasons I concluded that the NBA is distinguishable from the WWE in that actual games themselves do not have predetermined outcomes, but that the draft lottery is either fixed or manipulated when the process leads to an undesirable business outcome:

The NBA and WWE are in the same core business: providing entertainment to their fans thereby increasing revenue for the company. Both are television programs driven by advertising revenue. 
The two businesses differ in that one has an interest in maintaining an integrity in the outcome of its competitions because research suggests that people would not watch if they knew the games themselves were fixed. The current audiences for the 4 major professional sports leagues are too large to risk the potential backlash that would come from fixing the outcomes of the actual contests themselves. 

Contrast this with professional wrestling in the 1970's and early 1980's. At that time the entire industry attempted to maintain a tongue in cheek aura of legitimacy but the industry as a whole was fragmented into regional promotions with no top-down regulation. Once the McMahon's gained control over the majority of the industry it had nowhere to go but up. So they brilliantly began to privately acknowledge the falsity of the outcomes while promoting the characters as legitimate athletes (they most certainly are). 2 entire generations of wrestling fans have grown up knowing (rather than merely speculating) that the outcomes are predetermined story lines scripted by television writers and the audience has increased. 

With the NBA's entire audience expected to believe the outcomes are real there is too much of a downside to fixing the actual games themselves. Rogue referees like Tim Donaghy and the like that have been linked to game fixing have done so for their own personal benefit, not on directive of the league. Likewise you do not hear any player (active or retired) intimating that he was directed to intentionally negatively impact the outcome of a game. 

As this relates to the draft lottery however, the legitimacy of the league is not compromised by fixing the draft lottery any more than it is by vetoing the Chris Paul trade. Both are black eyes on the credibility of the product, but nowhere near to the degree that manipulating the outcome of the game would be.  Contrary to what NBA spokespeople say, the league is not hiding the fact that the draft lottery is easily manipulable; and therefore implicitly acknowledges that it may not a 100% legitimate exercise. If it were, the entire process would be played out on live television just as the state lotteries are conducted. 

Conducting the process behind closed doors and only revealing the outcome in a packaged presentation allows for the elimination of undesirable outcomes and retrial if necessary. 
If you need hard evidence on whether the draft lottery is completely legitimate look no further than the fact that you cannot place a bet in Las Vegas or in an offshore sports book on who will "win" the number 1 pick in the NBA draft. That should tell you all you need to know. It is in the best business and entertainment interests of the league to occasionally manipulate the destination of players it perceives to be potential future stars.

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