Friday, January 17, 2014

The Anti-Tanking Manifesto (Why it's Misdiagnosed, Useless and Shameful)

Bill Simmons was maybe the first person I heard it from. The concept of "tanking" - where teams intentionally lose to help themselves in the upcoming draft. It was back in college when Simmons was busy writing columns that would influence me and a generation of future bloggers/sports websites.

It used to be something I frowned upon. Teams trying to lose? It sounded pathetic and limp. Who dare intentionally try to sabotage a season for the hope for getting a player who won't singlehandedly turn a team around. It sounded more like a private idea before Simmons announced it and promoted it every year.

A decade later, here we are. Tanking is a full-blown public term of endearment. Fans openly root for tanking. It's discussed at the beginning of a season. Now that it's hit home with the Lakers, it's made me even more vocal about why it's such a ridiculous concept.

Maybe it's because of how I'm wired. I'm a competitor and I have been since Day One. Get the best grade on a test. Do your best in athletics. Bring your A game and don't settle for less. I root for my teams to show effort all the time and win or lose, I'll respect it.

The Colts didn't need to "Suck for Luck" - their season was doomed the minute Peyton Manning was hurt so they were going to suck anyway because they didn't have a backup plan or a capable backup.

Tanking goes against that. It's openly rooting for your team to suck. It's praying that grown men go against everything they've been wired with. It's supporting an organization that's intentionally putting out an inferior product and daring you to still pay for it. It's a weak-minded concept that, while embraced by basketball folks and discussed as jokes, encourages fans to get used to losing.

It's like suckering folks to play the lottery hoping they get a payday not realizing they're wasting their money. So supporting tanking means giving an organization the right to take your money without caring that you indirectly give them fuel to continue their losing ways.

Some weak-minded folks in this poll here.

Second, tanking also doesn't guarantee anything in the NBA. Having the worst record means you have the best CHANCE at somebody. How many times have I seen it fail? The 1996-97 Boston Celtics were terrible and had the best chance to draft Tim Duncan No. 1.

Just read the graph at the bottom of this article. The worst team has only won the lottery THREE times in 23 years. The second-worst? Four times. So tanking doesn't even accomplish what it should even 25% of the time.

Third, tanking doesn't account for when your team just isn't good enough. Consider the Lakers. How is this team without four guards and a hobbled Pau Gasol is supposed to be better than the West/East's elite? On paper, there's no way they can compete and on the court, they can't either. They run and gun, they have energy, they have a good shooters in Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry but what else?

If the late Dr. Jerry Buss and Red Auerbach could see this crap, they'd roll over and come out swinging from the graves.
They put up 118 points to Cleveland and LOST. They put up 114 points to Phoenix and LOST without Nick Young, who got ejected for defending himself and swinging on Goran Dragic. Technically, if they tanked, they should've lost by 30-40. They just aren't good and it probably will be the first time since 2004-05 that they won't make the playoffs. Boston will probably destroy them tonight with Rajon Rondo's return.

Maybe I'm too serious but maybe I'm not. I have an English degree and I'm nitpicky when words are misused. Tanking means giving up. Tanking means trading away great players with value for sorrier players. Tanking means going through the motions. Most of the time, we don't really see that. Most of these teams that you think are "tanking" - yes including my Lakers - just suck.

A team given any other name makes it sound prettier than it is. So save your snark, your glowing sarcasm, your embarrassing Tank for (Insert High Draft Pick) campaigns. Call it what it is. It's not tanking if your team just sucks or the front office is incompetent and even embracing it as a concept goes against everything we want from sports.

Now if there's any team in sports that's actually tanking? It's the Houston Astros. A team with a low payroll that's somehow raking in the profits. That, my friends, is an owner who cares very little about making his product better while he stacks his pockets. That's tanking. Deliberate sabotage of a team 10 years removed from being a World Series contender so the owners can make money.

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