Morning, friends! Let’s talk snitchin’.
Do you live in the suburbs? If you do, you might already know about NextDoor. It’s a social media network where you’re connected only to the people in your immediate area. In theory, it’s supposed to promote community; in practice, it quickly devolves into a cavalcade of busybodies snitching on one another’s lawn care. As long as you don’t take it too seriously — or you aren’t a target — it’s some of the most fun gossip-reading you’ll find these days.
The NBA is ensconced in its Disney bubble now, and as part of that monumental $150 million undertaking, the league has set up its own version of NextDoor, a “tip line” — a.k.a. a snitch wire — to take anonymous reports on players and officials who might not be adhering to strict quarantine protocols.
Our Chris Haynes indicated Monday that no one had yet called the line, but on Tuesday, reports surfaced that “multiple” players had received warnings as a result of dimes dropped on them. NBA drama is the best sports drama, hands down.
The Snitch — er, Tip Line is just one more fascinating element in this strangest of all NBA seasons. Let’s look at this from multiple angles:
The safety aspect: First and foremost, and all joking aside, safety is the crucial issue here — safety of players, safety of officials, safety of everyone inside the bubble. This isn’t like snitching on your neighbor for leaving his Christmas lights up too long; Christmas lights can’t infect your whole street.
We all know what’s at stake here, in descending order of importance: the health and well-being of everyone involved and everyone they know, the viability of future sports endeavors until we have a vaccine (2021?), the entire infrastructure of the NBA economy for the next 12 months, and the resolution of an NBA season. Against that, a little slap on the wrist for failing to wear a mask or whatever isn’t such a big deal, is it?
Then again, safety isn’t the only issue at play ...
The Bro Code: You know the old line: “snitches get stitches.” What happens in the bubble, stays in the bubble. Bros before Coro … na, or something. Pick your cliché, and you can apply it right here. A whole lot of players see something deeply wrong with tattling on your friends, even for the noblest of reasons.
Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, who’s not in Florida, advised his fellow players not to use “the snitch hotline.” And on Tuesday night, Shaquille O’Neal told the NBA on TNT audience that “I don’t condone snitching” — and given his history getting snitched on, you can see his point. (No, I’m not going to link it for you, you’ve got to find that story for yourself.) If the Tip Line’s going to work, some players are going to have to get over their aversion to snitching.
The, uh, competitive edge: Here’s where we get weird. What happens if, say, the night before Team X plays Team Y in a deciding Game 7, the tip line gets a call reporting that Team X’s star player was seen drinking out of everyone’s beer mug at a Kissimmee Applebee’s? Or that Team Y’s star was spotted, shall we say, entertaining some visitors who did not clear quarantine? How will the NBA ferret out real calls from false ones?
So far, the league has only handed out warnings. But how many warnings does it take to earn a fine? How many fines does it take to earn a suspension? We need to know! Can we have a scoreboard to track this, please?
The ring: This is the bookend to the safety issue, the second-most-important element of the bubble. These guys aren’t giving up months of their lives just for an exhibition; they want that ring, and this bizarre Frankenstein’s monster of a season represents a rare chance for the most focused among them to snag a Larry O’Brien Trophy. So if they have to rat out their brethren to keep the infections down and the season alive, you bet your Disney World FastPass they’re gonna do it.
Put another way: LeBron James isn’t going to let some silly code stand between him and a legacy-defining fourth ring. Everyone right up to his own mother ought to watch their step around LeBron.
Folks, I am not joking when I say that the transcripts and audio of the NBA Tip Line need to be part of a League Pass package. The NBA would cover every bit of its bubble costs if that were the case.
Going to be a weird couple months, isn’t it?
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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