And there is another secret part of the NBA's demise among those who follow sports in America. The decision to allow players to enter the professional ranks straight out of high school has signaled to the nation that the league places little value in education. Is it any wonder the hapless Artest had nary a prayer of keeping up with the likes of Lauer? Perhaps the very concept that a highly paid professional would feel free to run into the stands to chase down some moron who threw a cup of beer at him is proof positive that many of today's players lack the training and maturity necessary to match their high salaries and star status.
Obviously it would do every professional sports league some good to examine how the NFL turned its image around. Support for professional football was twice that of even baseball -- the "national pastime" -- in our survey. And by attending an NFL game, one can start to see why. Notice the extreme effort made by NFL teams to involve players in community programs. Fans are constantly reminded that the team and its players are supportive of charitable causes and community groups.
And as for interest, the NBA has created a "parity" system that allows hope to spring eternal for virtually any team and a season that bores viewers by going on too long. One year's big loser can easily become the next year's champion. That's why the whole world will be watching the next Super Bowl played in Jacksonville, Fla., while attendees of the NBA finals will yawn their way through games held into the early summer, possibly donning bullet-proof vests and protective helmets.