In the Cheap Seats
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

June 21, 2005 - When Fox Sports came up with the Fox Box -- the graphic element at the top of the screen that gives game information (time, score, etc.) -- it was one of those simple innovations that improved viewership immensely. But, hasn't it gone too far? Once you get the box at the top, the scroll at the bottom, a movie preview in the righthand corner and a weather warning in the lefthand corner, if you look real close, you can still see the game. But, just barely.

Surprisingly, Rasheed Wallace has not made a "guarantee" that the Detroit Pistons will win Game 6 of the NBA Finals tonight. Actually, Wallace doesn't "guarantee" anything, because he doesn't put anything behind his words. If he were to, say, give $1 million to a charity if the Pistons lose, or promise to quit the game of basketball -- then that's a guarantee. As it stands now, he's just posturing in the spotlight.

Speaking of hollow words ... Remember Tom Hicks' promise that the Rangers would have payroll flexibility to improve the team after they unloaded the contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmiero and Juan Gonzalez, and sold the naming rights of the stadium to Ameriquest? The only flexibility so far has been Hick's elbow as he reaches into his back pocket, takes out his wallet and stuffs another couple of million in there. That $60 million or so must be going somewhere, because Hicks sure isn't putting it back into the team, i.e. the pitching staff.

Here it is mid-June and still no Barry Bonds. Yes, there is justice after all. Bonds insists he has never used steroids, but since the MLB put in testing procedures -- even the watered down one they currently use -- his power numbers have plummeted and his injuries have put him on the disabled list. Those are both signs of someone who has cycled off of steroids. In a court of law, Bonds would be proved innocent, however -- at least in California.

Back to the NBA ... It doesn't matter whether it's the worst defensive team in the league (the Suns) or the best (the Pistons), it seems that every team cries, whines, gripes and complains about every single foul called against them. If Commissioner David Stern is serious about making the game more fan-friendly, he must start with improving the officiating and cracking down on all the lip service that goes along with it.

Stern was criticized by some left wing finger-pointers for hiring a former George W. Bush campaign aide to help clean up the league's image. Those on the left said Stern is simply trying to cover up the NBA's tattoos and corn rows, which some believe doesn't appeal to the middle-age white guy. As one of those white guys, I can tell you, it's not the color of the NBA that is unappealing -- Shawn Bradley is as white and as awful as you can get -- but it's the pace of the game that turns people off. Scoring less than 80 points in a 48-minute NBA Championship game is inexcusable, and we've had it four times in five games.

Bring back the 70s and 80s style of basketball, when you had the fast-break, fluid game perfected by the Lakers, Celtics and 76'ers. Then, you'll get the TV viewership which is so vital to every professional league.

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