There was a time, not all that long ago, that players actually gave a shit about making and playing in their leagues' respective all-star games. The NBA All-Star Game, while always bereft of defense, was a platform for grudges to be played out and legends to be enhanced. Ask Michael Jordan, who was frozen out of the game by his own teammates back in the '80s! And the NFL's Pro Bowl actually used to feature blocking and tackling with intensity above the currently deployed 0.03 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Baseball still tries to sell us the American Dream of a world where players see representing their league and defeating the opposing league as the be-all and end-all, but even that sport needed some "Exhibition Viagra," adding the inane "Winner's league gets home field in the World Series" stipulation, which is about as contrived an enhancement as you can concoct. Why not just make it like a "Loser Leaves Town" match and say that the losing manager will get fired from his regular job? Now THAT would be fun.
Yeah, All-Star Games still exist, but largely for corporate ticket holders and degenerate gamblers. (On an unrelated note, I LOVE the OVER in the Pro Bowl this weekend.) Never has that been more apparent than in the past 24 hours or so.
Within the next few days, the Pro Bowl will be played in Hawaii, and within the next few weeks, the NBA will stage its All-Star Game in Toronto. We'll start with the NFL and the Pro Bowl. Just know that if you intend to invest the three hours this Sunday night to watch that glorified powder puff game, you will be watching several seventh and eighth alternates duking it out for...I don't even know what they're fighting for. More than 130 players have been selected for this thing, and that's after more than 40 of the original selections dropped out because of injury, making the Super Bowl or general lack of interest.
Also, it's not AFC versus NFC anymore. It's Team Irvin and Team Rice, as Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice are honorary coaches and select the teams. So I guess you're watching to see who's better at picking a team filled with second- and third-shelf NFL players. Because that's the eternal debate in every barroom in America, I guess. Just know that if this is your selection for viewing on Sunday night, you're going to be watching a game in which the second player selected in their playground style draft was Eli freaking Manning — he is the FRANCHISE.
Meanwhile, the NBA has its own All-Star head scratcher going on, as it was announced yesterday that Cleveland's new head coach, Tyronn Lue, would coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars. The rule states that the head coach of the team with the best record in the conference will coach that conference's All-Star team (unless that person coached the All-Star Game the previous season), so technically that person is Lue.
However, Lue just took the Cavaliers job six days ago after
LeBron James plunged a Valerian steel sword the size of a flagpole into David Blatt's back the team decided to let David Blatt go. Lue's record since taking over the job is 2-1, which I'm guessing will easily make him the All-Star coach with the fewest career wins while coaching in the game. Lue, of course, was Blatt's top lieutenant as an assistant, but more so he was the de facto head coach in waiting whenever LeBron decided to give Blatt the heave-ho.
By inviting Lue to be the coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars, the NBA is essentially rubber-stamping its approval of how the Blatt firing — he was 30-11 on the day he was fired!! — went down. Of course, Lue is just as giddy about this undeserved All-Star Game as he was when he stepped over Blatt's lifeless coaching corpse to take the Cavaliers job:
"It's going to be a great honor to represent the Cleveland Cavaliers and having a chance to do this. I know my coaches are excited, and I know it's going to be a surreal moment."
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Hell, Lue didn't stop there. He actually used his new platform to stump for his power forward Kevin Love to make the game as a reserve, saying, "There's no way to me he shouldn't be an All-Star this year." Of course, there's a better than puncher's chance Love gets dealt before the trade deadline, but why let that conjecture get in the way of a good All-Star lobbying effort, right?
So be ready, America. The Pro Bowl featuring Eli Manning and the NBA All-Star Game featuring LeBron's Super Fantastic Back-Stabbing Puppetcoach are coming your way over the next few Sunday nights! AMERICA!!
Me, I'll be watching Billions on Showtime.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.