Why we’re still alone

Even better than the real thing

Plenty of pundits have inveighed against the increasing idiocy of basketball these days — because the players’ naked desperation to become the next slam-dunking superstar leads everyone to hog the ball, never pass, and thus destroy any possibility of the team functioning as, well, a team. Michael Sokolove wrote a terrific analysis of this in the New York Times Magazine a few months ago.

If you wanted more — and weirder — evidence of the NBA’s malaise, read a story on the cover of the Times itself today, in which Seth Schiesel reports on the fact that many young kids and teenagers think the video-game versions of the NBA and the NFL are more interesting than the real-life ones. They’d rather play those games than watch one on TV. And why not? In addition to being able to participate, they can actually play the game as it’s supposed to be played — with teamwork. As one teenager points out:

“I like Kobe, O.K.?,” Albert Arce said, referring to Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star. “But I like to play him because I can make him pass to the other guys. When I see him on TV, it’s like he doesn’t know how to pass.”

Perfect. Personally, I think we should just skip the inevitable transition point here, and emulate South Korea: Instead of televising actual real-life games, let’s simply broadcast video-game matches. I’d far rather watch a couple of skilful teenagers try to outsmart each other on the virtual court — using actual wits, strategy and timing — than watch the dreary cavalcade of freakshow eugenics that pro sports has become.

While we’re at it, hell, why not completely halt all broadcasting of anything remotely related to actual, real-life sports? Put deathmatches of the world’s top-ranked Halo, Counterstrike, and Unreal teams on prime-time TV. Then we’d actually have something worth watching!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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