Friday, June 6, 2014

San Antonio Heat

In the first quarter of last night's first game of the NBA championship, the air conditioning in the arena stopped working. It was close to 90 degrees outside in San Antonio.  Inside it was sweltering.  A roving reporter had a gauge and said it was nearly 100 degrees on the court.

In the fourth quarter, the best player in the world, Miami's LeBron James, cramped up. With seven minutes to go he had to be carried off the court.   If you have ever cramped up after playing sports, you know what it feels like.  The pain is excruciating and you feel as if you literally can't move.  In the short run, there is nothing you can do.

Cramping was a problem I had when I used to play in weekend warrior tennis tournaments. If you won a match that was the good news. The bad news was that you had to play another one in an hour.  In a non atypical tournament I once played two matches on a Saturday beginning at around noon. And then played the semi-finals and finals on Sunday starting at 9 a.m.    Four matches in less than thirty hours. We would attempt to combat cramping by eating bananas starting on the Thursday before the event. The potassium was somehow good for preempting the problem.

(My tournament tennis playing took place thirteen years ago. This morning, after playing old man's doubles last night for 90 minutes I can barely walk--nothing to do with cramps, but old bones. Tis the truth. I practically needed a cab to get to the bathroom when I got up).

One would think that the Miami Heat and LeBron James would be familiar with anti-cramping techniques. They probably are.  However, they had no idea that the air conditioning would malfunction before the game and they would play an NBA championship game in a sauna bath.  So they did not take the preemptive steps they might have taken had they known about these conditions.

Last night I heard coaches and players talking about the hot conditions. They all said the same thing. And the pundits and NBA officials chimed in with similar wisdom this morning. "Yes" they all said, "the heat was a factor, but it was the same for both teams."

This is a flawed and fallacious argument. Those who study communication are often in the business of identifying fallacious communications.  This is a good illustration of one. Yes, it is true that the conditions were the same for both teams.   However, this is irrelevant when we consider if the outcome of the game was valid.  And that is what the interviewees are implying when they say, "It was the same for both teams."

A valid test is one that tests what it is supposed to test. An NBA basketball game--especially one played for a championship--is supposed to assess which is the better team.   Yes, it was 90 degrees for both teams.  That does not render the outcome valid.

Let's say the game was played in a pool.  True, the conditions would be the same for both teams, but NBA teams and players do not train to play in water. So, while the condition would be the same, it would affect the validity of the outcome.  Let's say they were playing on a slippery floor.  That would be the same for both teams, but maybe players on some teams are better at slipping and sliding. Playing on a slick floor is typically not an asset considered when one selects players to play basketball, but it could be an important factor in a game played in slippery conditions. So a victory by team A played on a slick floor would be irrelevant in determining the better team. Basketball is not like football when all teams know conditions can vary and need to prepare for these eventualities.

From what I heard last night, LeBron James is prone to cramping. Well, had he known the game would be played in a steambath maybe he would have had a bunch of bananas and consumed a gallon of water a day for three days.  The fact is that basketball games are not supposed to be played in a shvitz.

It is a shame that a championship game should be decided like that. When James went out the Miami Heat were up. When he left they folded like a cheap bridge table.  San Antonio won game one, but it was a different game.   Maybe they should play volleyball for game 2. It would be the same for both teams.

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