ESPN can fix tanking without the NBA’s help.

ESPN has grabbed the tanking horse by the reigns and has been riding it for weeks now. We hopped on for a while. Our take was very capitalist. Tanking is a bad managerial decision. If owners and GMs want to manage teams poorly, they will fail and why should we care? Arturo cut right to the heart of the matter:

ESPN is a media company that televises games. Tanking is inherently bad for ESPN.

The NBA has a television contract with several outlets, including ESPN. At the start of the season the entire schedule of televised games is decided. Of course down the stretch there are games that don’t matter. Was anyone tuning in to watch Charlotte games after I don’t know … 20 games? The NBA shares revenue from national television and certain teams get slotted in TV spots long before we know if they’ll be tanking.

In the NBA there are too many problems with management. A big part is you can buy your way in, and there is no real accountability. The Maloofs are terrible owners and terrible people and they’re still in control. Trying to fix the bad management in the NBA doesn’t seem possible and trying to fix tanking in the NBA is trying exactly that.

However, television companies could take another route. They could refuse to put up with tanking. What if after a certain mark in the season (how about the All-Star break, we use it for everything) TV stations are allowed replace “bad games” and the team they replace doesn’t get paid? Then they can replace the game with another game that people want to watch. There might have to be rules on rotating which games can be used as replacement games to prevent teams like the Lakers from getting all of the replacement games. Then you take the money that would have gone to the team that gets replaced and give it to the teams that replace it (and maybe to their opponent if they were not a bad team.) So if teams doing poorly still want television revenue they need to make sure they’re playing well enough so that broadcasters still want to show them. That would of course mean no sitting stars.

No one likes watching tanking teams. We’re not going to stop it for a very simple reason. Tanking is a stupid idea (for the most part and please don’t act like most teams tanking are doing it effectively or the “right way”) Using logical rules and methods to stop teams from being bad won’t work because those teams are bad precisely because they are illogical! What we can do is refuse to watch tanking teams and refuse to pay them. If they want to sacrifice their season to try for a better pick, fine! Then they get to sacrifice their television revenue and no one has to watch them fail.


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