Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Because we're men and we usually miss the big picture (because we're too busy using our turn signal, excelling in math, and understanding the ins and outs of maritime war history - ha!), the fantastic column that Sarah Tolcser put together on Hardwood Paroxysm the other day has been whittled down to the usual elements men seem ("seem" - ha!) to care most about. The elements that seem lascivious in nature, and little else.

In linking to the article, Henry Abbott chose to focus on those gyratin' dancers that populate each of the NBA's 29 arenas, for each of the league's 30 teams, and he was right to do that. And if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to discuss it a bit further on our end of the blogosphere.

It should be noted - and this is the time where just about every man who's ever taken the time to write about one of these things anticipates and steels himself for the junior high insults that are bound to follow - that I'm about as big a drool machine as it gets. 29-year old haircut, and a 14-year old's brain underneath it. There is nothing about these women that I don't like.

Save for their presence at an NBA game.

We should be beyond this. At no point in either watching or attending an NBA contest do I really want to be titillated to the core by some woman wearing next to nothing. It's just a "pico de gallo on your ice cream, sir?" situation for me. I like both, just not together. I don't need my heart rate to go up, or blood to flow anywhere beyond the place that tells me that Tim Duncan(notes) doesn't seal the baseline like he used to.

I know that these women aren't cheerleaders. They're in professional dance troupes, meant to entertain, and technically not meant for people who are into that sort of thing (considering both sexes, well over half of the audience they perform for) to be viewed as sexual objects alone. We can appreciate the moves, the choreography, the outfits. Yes, boys can, too.

But S-E-X is the big bottom line, and I just don't understand the line of thinking that tells us, "there is a break in the action, so now half the audience shall be reminded of sex. One, two, three, four ..."

I just don't want it there, as much as I don't want you to send me a picture of one of these women while I'm trying to work, or a litany of links and/or pictures dotting your webpages. I've got news for you - if you start your day with or dot your afternoon with pictures of women (or girls, in some cases) for people to leer at, I don't read your site. The Big Lead? Deadspin? Sports by Brooks? Don't you feel like complete and utter dorks doing stuff like this?

And I don't understand the need to cram it into an NBA game. Maybe it's because I'm happy at home. Maybe because it's 2010, and I could probably find a Photoshopped picture of Golda Meir on a naked midget wrestler's body doing terrible things to four Japanese businessmen on some website devoted to that, completely for free. But even in my loneliest, sexless, most-hormonal, less-desensitized early high school years, I didn't want to see that stuff either.

Because it's 2010, I'm not going to call for these troupes to be abolished. Nobody should be asking for anyone to lose their jobs in this economy, and while I understand that these dancers are often paid wages you would not believe (these are essentially resume-building, glorified internships; these women aren't paid anywhere near what you'd assume), there is no way in hell I'm going to stand on the sideline, arms crossed, and tsk-tsk my way toward asking for these dance troupes to go away.

But I also know what it's like to be at press row, watching career women in business suits shuffle players off to sideline or radio interviews, work the sideline as reporters, work the press row as sportswriters, work work work just a few feet away, in those deadball situations you don't see on TV, from the dancers that are also working. And they are working, hard. These dancers put in hours. I take no pleasure in coming across as if I'm demeaning their craft, even if I find it an odd fit at a basketball game.

And I know how odd seeing those two different types of career women working side by side makes me feel. And I can't imagine it's a double-standard I'd ever get used to, despite the fact that women have been facing this double-standard their entire lives. Nothing to do with beauty, and everything to do with the fact that in 2010, for some reason, it is still acceptable for scantily-clad women to pander to men's basest instincts in the most public and PG-rated of situations.

Don't even begin to argue that there is a double-standard involving the athletes that take up most of the floor time at an NBA game. A good nine out of ten men will find these dancers attractive, and there's no way that number is even reasonably approximated for the athletes by people who find men attractive. Just cut that line of thinking out before you even start. Don't you know that it's different for girls?

In the end, as it is with most things I like to bring up, I just wonder if it has to be a line of thinking that changes more than anything. If the guys that are making up over half these arenas meet this stuff with a shrug, perhaps we could make these games a little less tacky.

After all, I'm not a prude. I think the suppression and shaming of sexuality is one of the biggest things wrong with American culture. I see no reason why the brief appearance of certain parts of a human body somehow turn an R-rated movie into one that will get in no major theatre, and I see no reason why nudity can't be shown on broadcast TV past a certain hour. We're adults. We can handle it. We won't start copulating in the high street as a result.

But I also don't need to Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria making terrible, unfunny, smutty jokes at three in the afternoon in a commercial during an NBA game, when there could be kids around. I don't need every commercial break bumper during a local broadcast to show a cadre of nearly-naked dancing women (again, what does this have to do with a basketball game?), and I certainly don't need the PR and "entertainment" mugs in an NBA front office thinking that I'm craning my neck during timeouts to get a look a Deirdre, who is studying psychology and whose favorite movie is The Notebook - when really I'm straining my eyes trying to look at what's going on in the huddle on the other side of the court.

They think that little of you, men. If the dance troupe's bus broke down, they'd just pull up a bunch of clips of monkeys smoking cigarettes or fat men falling off of trampolines from YouTube to show on the scoreboard above. Do you like that these teams are that cynical, regarding what you expect to see next, once Larry Brown calls a timeout to stop a 12-2 run?

I can't stand it. I was ambivalent, and now I'm just ornery about it. I'm certainly not horny about it. Gross. Both the unintended wordplay, and the idea behind it.

Again, I'm not stamping my feet. And I don't want anyone to lose their jobs.

I'm just wondering, in 2010, if we're just a wee bit better than this. I suppose the comments in this column will provide the answer for me.

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