Homicide’s credibility, worth pays price for social network self gratification

For a man with a lot to say, Corey Williams’ medium of choice is an odd one.

The Melbourne Tigers import was the centre of attention during his side’s clash with Perth on Friday night, entering the game on the back of accusations that he’d defaced a courtside banner belonging to the Wildcats at an earlier practice session.  

The ill feeling between Williams and the Wildcats was made manifestly clear when the latter’s chief executive, Nick Marvin, told The West Australian: “Corey clearly has no respect for the Perth Wildcats fans and uses every opportunity to disparage us… We’ll reserve our right to respond by the way we play.”

Williams had the opportunity to respond not just through his on-court performance but also through half-time and post-game interviews with One HD sideline reporter Caty Price.

The Corey Williams of previous seasons would have relished the chance to counter Perth’s claims and talk trash in front of a national television audience. Alas, the Corey Williams of previous seasons has seemingly become so infatuated with the notion that his colourful antics are beneficial to the media-starved NBL that he is now behaving as if it is his raison d’être for being in the league.

Sure, he continues to play excellent basketball and has boosted the Tigers’ playoff chances.

That, however, is currently secondary to the excessive self-promotion that has reached a level equivalent to a boxer who, on the eve of a televised bout, engages in contrived conflict with his opponent for the sake of driving pay-per-view buys.

The only difference is that Williams is seeking to drive the number of followers he has on Twitter. Rather than respectfully answering Price’s questions, Williams treated the reporter with a sexist disdain, patronisingly telling the “sweetie” that if those watching at home wanted to hear the truth about the pre-game accusations cast at him, they must instead subscribe to his social network ramblings.     

In other words, he paradoxically had so much to say that he preferred to articulate it through a medium that only allows 140-character posts.

Unlike the boxer who receives the financial spoils of an increased buyrate, Williams’ goal brings nothing but the self-gratification that obviously comes with tweeting: “770 friend request in less than an hour? Let’s make it 1000 and that’s even a better look people!”

The irony of Friday night’s happenings is that Williams truly believes he was conducting himself in a manner that was for the good of the game. As one of his post-game tweets claimed:  “Sumtimes the game needs pranksters. Things like this only make it fun, entertaining and memorable…”

What the game truly needs is strong relationships with its media partners. The NBL’s presence on One HD has provided an enormous fillip for the league, yet Williams sees the network and its audience as ancillary to his own ego. In his mind, the means of degrading a reporter are justified by the end of attracting more people to his Twitter account, where the sexist comments continue through tweets such as “wild cats [are] too sensitive like women” and “Man the fuk up.”

Perhaps instead of manning up Williams should wisen up, because at the moment the only thing “Homicide” is killing is his own credibility and the opportunity to maximise his true value to the league through media platforms other than his own BlackBerry. 

Corey Williams hasn’t been the only NBL player to cause controversy on Twitter this season. Then Sydney import Taj McCullough tweeted this comment straight after his side’s loss to Townsville. It was soon deleted, but not before Scibz’ Spiel got a screen shot.
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Forgetful fixture critics need to draw upon lessons of the past

It’s understandable why fans of the National Basketball League would like to have selective memories.

Amid the flurry of teams collapsing, cheques bouncing, and supporters simply choosing to walk away, highlights for the league have been as sparse as the stands at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the schedule for the 2010/11 season has come under attack despite being a marked improvement on recent efforts.

In fact, basketball writer Daniel Eade, in his column on backpagelead.com.au, went as far as arguing: “I don’t think I could imagine a worse fixture for the upcoming season.”

It doesn’t require an imagination to comprehend a worse fixture than this season’s – a quick glance in the rear vision mirror would suffice.

Eade laments the fact that the season won’t be opening “with a bang” due to the Melbourne-Sydney clash on 15 October being scheduled for The Cage rather than the Kings’ much-anticipated return to the Kingdome.

But wasn’t it only eight months ago that New Zealand and Cairns tipped off the year in front of 2,428 fans at NSEC? Not much banging going on there.

The opening round of the season won’t just be about the Kings – it will also symbolise the NBL’s return to free-to-air television through One HD. A Sydney-Melbourne blockbuster, whether it’s held at The Cage, Kingdome or Seamus McPeake’s kitchen, is the ideal showcase for the sport in front of a curious and, in some cases, novice, audience.

While it’s unfortunate that Sydney’s homecoming against New Zealand the following night will be on the end of a double header (meaning fans’ first impressions may not be of a team playing at its optimum), the question of who the Kings should be facing is irrelevant. The mere spectacle of the club returning to its old stomping ground ensures it will be highly marketable with more media hype and bums on seats than any other home game against the Breakers could attract.

There’s a reason why the South Dragons opted not to request a derby against the Tigers for their first ever home game, nor on Boxing Day in their second and third seasons despite the enormous success of the 26 December 2006 fixture. Those dates alone are drawcards. Why waste a marquee event – in Sydney’s case a meeting with Melbourne – on a date that can be used to elevate the status of an otherwise ordinary match-up?

Also, contrary to Eade’s claim that “every team should be playing multiple games each week whenever possible”, the spacing between contests is a welcome relief from the ludicrous situation whereby clubs would play as many as three games in four days before having two weeks off. It allows clubs to promote and emphasise each home game rather than having them lost in a cluster that, for a league with minimal media visibility, only the most hardcore fans can keep up with.

Finally, Eade questions Larry Sengstock’s comment that the focus on weekends was in line with feedback from fans. “Was this a questionnaire? Did the NBL send out surveys? I never got one,” he asks.

Perhaps, Daniel, it was the feedback known as disastrous crowd figures over recent seasons.  Crowd figures that were particularly poor during the Wednesday night timeslots you suddenly yearn for. Crowd figures that are the very reason you’re so concerned with the fixture in the first place.

How quickly we forget.

Excuse me Sir, could I have some independence with my McPeake?

 

When each of the National Basketball League’s club owners unanimously voted in favour of an independent board on November 8 2008, the light at the end of the troubled sport’s tunnel finally began to shine.  The shackles of selfish owners acting in their own interests, rather than the game’s, were about to be broken. Or so we thought.

One of the members of the independent board, now named the “Board of Basketball”, is Melbourne Tigers owner Seamus McPeake, who has been entrusted with the role of representing the league’s clubs. The decision to trust McPeake to act in this manner may soon be regretted if his recent interview on Melbourne radio station SEN is anything indication. Asked if the Melbourne Tigers had any influence on the future of Australian basketball, McPeake premised his answer by saying that his power was equal to any of the league’s other owners. He then went on to explain, however, that the Tigers have lodged a non-compliant bid to be part of the NewNBL. This is not because the club couldn’t meet the financial criteria. Rather McPeake, knowing the South Dragons hope to play a handful of home games at The Cage from next season, has told the NBL that his team’s participation in the league is conditional upon them having exclusive rights to their venue. 

There is no logical justification for McPeake, as a member of the independent board, to have taken this action. No one knows better than him the financial fruit of playing at The Cage, for his club is one of the few who actually makes a profit. By permitting the Dragons to use The Cage, and therefore escape the exorbitant costs of Hisense Arena, the NewNBL would be providing the club the opportunity to be more financially viable, which, subsequently, makes for a more stable league. That is a prospect which should be music to an independent board member’s ears.  McPeake, however, has instead decided to act with the same self-interest that has already dragged the league into a nadir by seeking to protect his own backyard.

Venue rationalization began in Australian Football decades ago, and is now being seen in Rugby League. Why? Because it obviously makes economic sense. It may have eliminated a sense of tribalism, for the only thing distinguishing the home team from their visitors is the colour of their shorts, but in the age of commercialization this has been rendered ancillary to a club’s ability to survive.

If the Board of Basketball is serious about independence and the game’s best interests, it must ignore McPeake’s shameless attempt at blackmail. Basketball needs sensible management more than it needs the Melbourne Tigers.

Watershed Weekend For Hoops

Spirit: an intangible myth

Sydney Spirit supporter base: see above.

 

Round 5 proved to be a watershed moment for the future of the National Basketball League/ “NewNBL” for two reasons.

 

Firstly, the abysmal turnout of 1,476  people in the 10,500-seat Sydney Entertainment Centre last Friday night should be the final nail in the coffin of the dying franchise formerly known as the West Sydney Razorbacks. The game’s stakeholders should deliver this nail when they vote on the league’s revamp on November 8th.

 

On the court the Sydney Spirit are admirable. They are well coached and considering they would be one of the few clubs under the salary cap, Rob Beveridge’s no-frills team deserves credit for even being competitive with the Perth Wildcats, let alone beating them. But off the court is another story, and when the game’s new independent board issues criteria for new licenses, win-loss columns and on-court intensity will be rendered irrelevant. Put bluntly, Friday night’s turnout has brought further embarrassment on the embattled league and if they are serious about introducing an elite competition next year that will be attractive to sponsors and broadcasters, the NewNBL cannot be represented in the country’s largest market by an under-resourced and under-supported club such as the Spirit.

 

The Spirit last week attacked Dragons coach Brian Goorjian for his comment in the Daily Telegraph that for the league to be successful in Sydney the return of the Kings is essential. The club’s insecure co-owner Greg Evans said of Goorjian:

 

“I think he should spend his time coaching the Dragons instead of marketing a dead franchise. Goorjian would be well advised to live in the present. That’s what were doing, as Sydney’s sole NBL representative team.”

 

Evans is right. Goorjian wasn’t living in the present when he made his comments. He was looking to the future – something the Spirit will not be part of.

 

The second watershed moment coming out of Round 5 that the voting stakeholders must take notice of was the 9308 people who attended the South Dragons Vs Melbourne Tigers derby at Hisense Arena on Saturday night.  The biggest crowd in Melbourne for 7 years was the silver lining in an otherwise gloomy NBL season, and is the one occasion where the league can genuinely prove to mainstream on-lookers that a return to the halcyon days is not beyond them. In fact, these Melbourne derbies at Hisense Arena are very much a reunion for basketball fans, as we gather together in our droves and rekindle the ‘good old days’ of Melbourne Park and the Glasshouse. To voluntary remove this occasion from the league’s calendar just for the sake of “following the A-league” and implementing a 1-team-per-town policy would be laughable. Let’s not be sheep and plagiarise Frank Lowy’s reforms. Let’s do things our way so in the future, when other sports are on their knees, they can say “let’s copy what basketball did.”