There was an interesting situation in the NBA this week as the San Antonio Spurs basketball team decided to give four of their starters a game off because the team was in a particularly grueling part of the schedule. The NBA commissioner decided that such an action deprived fans the opportunity to see those players and that a fine was in order.
I think it’s a pretty difficult situation for which to find a solution. I think the coach in question, Gregg Popovich, has a point in that three of the four players given the day off are older veterans with injury histories, and that giving them the road game off enhances their ability to last out the season. I also think the commissioner has a point in that fans paid a fairly hefty price for those tickets with the hopes of seeing the star players.
As a St. Louis Cardinals fan I’ve been to Busch Stadium many times when people in the stands around me were from fairly far away and in town for their once a year trip with children to see the team. When the manager gave Albert Pujols or one of the other stars the day off this was a major disappointment for these fans.
There is no doubt the commissioner has the right to impose fines on the coach or the team for this decision. It is well within the duties outlined for that position. The question I ask is whether the league has the right to punish game-day decisions? Should the NFL impose a penalty on the San Francisco 49ers when a I’m disappointed to not see Alex Smith play this week against my Rams? If Danny Amendola is available to play but the coach decides to sit him to prevent further injury does the commissioner step in with a fine?
I’m of the opinion that the league should not try to govern these sorts of decisions. If the Spurs sit some of their players then that’s their business. If it bothers enough fans then they will suffer in dropped attendance. Once the league starts getting involved in player-personnel decisions they are creating a dangerous precedent.
I don’t think it’s an easy line to draw for the commissioner and I see how people can argue that the integrity of the game is at stake. The reality to me is that every coach is out there making decisions in an attempt to win the championship. If that means sacrificing your chances in a particular game to enhance the chances of overall victory that’s a choice best left to the coach, not the commissioner.
What do you think?
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
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