I don’t pay much attention to the NBA, so I may be the last sports fan on earth to know this, but the rosters for the league’s all-star game on Feb. 18 were chosen by LeBron James and Steph Curry via a draft.
Instead of a a schoolyard dodgeball-style selection process, though, the two captains picked their teams in private, and many pundits erupted over that detail. “It should have happened at midcourt on live television just a few minutes before tipoff,” wrote Mark Stein in The New York Times. “Just like they do it on the playground. In the true spirit of the modern NBA, and the transactional frenzies it routinely spawns, LeBron and Steph should have even been allowed to swing a trade or two after making their selections. Sadly, though, you didn’t get to witness any such deliciousness.”
Obviously there were some reasons to hold it in private. As Stein pointed, out the NBA “did not want to risk embarrassing the last player chosen,” nor did they “want to put the captains in a position where they might upset teammates by passing over them.” I understand those rationales, and respect them, but I also think that being picked later than you think is justified can serve as a motivation. The NBA may not be ready for such a public spectacle, but I think bass fishing is.
I recall a Bassmaster Team Championship held on the St. Lawrence River in 1987 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of B.A.S.S. tournaments, with a winning team of Larry Nixon, Stanley Mitchell, Chet Douthit and Kenneth “Dusty” Pine taking home top honors. Now we’re celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary. I can’t think of a better way to mark that occasion than in a made-for-TV team event.
Even if it’s too late to organize one for this year, I implore the owners of B.A.S.S. and the tournament staff to consider the idea going forward. I wasn’t at the 1987 Team Championship, but I attended the 2008 Toyota Texas Bass Classic at Lake Fork, where four-man teams competed – two at a time, in the same boat – in a team format. I’m sure that a few anglers were frustrated by their partners’ inability to help the team or to follow through with a defined strategy, but on the whole it was one of the most exciting, cohesive events I’ve ever witnessed. The action on the ground, where anxious team partners waited for the scoreboard to update and fretted over things they couldn’t control, was a soap opera unto itself, and with the addition of BASSTrakk and Bassmaster LIVE it would be exponentially better.
Of course, I’d want the draft itself to be broadcast. That would be at least half of the fun. Whether it was 10 ten-man teams, 20 four-man teams or some other configuration, there would be tons of tension as anglers waited to come off the board in an ever-dwindling green room. Depending on where the tournament was likely to take place – or would a mystery venue be best – you’d see team captains avoiding eye contact with their friends as they choose other anglers. While these guys usually have only positive things to say about their colleagues in public, their actions might speak louder than those words in assessing who is really feared on the water.
Furthermore, this public draft would be a tremendous showcase for the talents and observations of Zona, Mercer and the Bassmaster LIVE crew. How great would it be to hear Zona explain why a certain pro is a “glue guy,” or to listen to him debate Mercer over whether it makes sense to take a supremely talented angler who many consider to be a “clubhouse cancer." We could hold mock drafts, which would give people like me more work, and in the future we could re-evaluate drafts from years past – who is the sport’s Ryan Leaf or Greg Oden and who was a late-round steal? Perhaps we’ll eventually see Kevin Costner playing the role of Brandon Palaniuk, Edwin Evers or Greg Hackney in the sequel to Draft Day.
The more I write about this, the more excited I get. Of course, I don’t have to be there, waiting among an ever-dwindling group of my peers, surrounded by empty chairs.