I’m talking about the absolute lack of respect that the Bulls get from the national media covering the NBA playoffs.
At first it was amusing, watching The New York Times scramble to give props to the team and to players like Nate Robinson, as the Bulls won their first playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. Or, to hear some commentators, even as the Bulls trounced the Nets, refer to them as having “outlasted” their Brooklyn rivals.
Then, the Bulls’ started their second series against the Heat. And I really started to really get my rage on.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Bulls trailed Miami by seven. The announcers stopped paying attention, and started a discussion of the Golden State Warriors. Bit by bit though, the Bulls pulled even with the Heat. Then Robinson sank his 20-footer, which put the Bulls ahead by three. But the announcer, thinking nothing had changed since he checked out of the game, updated the old rather than the new score. He quickly corrected himself but it was too late: the game had indeed changed, and the Bulls went on to beat the Heat.
Of course the game has changed quite a bit since then. The Bull’s second match with the Heat was disastrous and the third disappointing. Push has come to shove.
Some commentators get that the Bulls win wasn’t a fluke but a result of their hard work learning how to beat a player like LeBron James and a team like the Heat. But by and large, indifference to their play has been replaced by an insistence, at least on the part of some commentators, to talk about the Bulls in terms of the team’s “passion” and “grit“.
And that has me seeing red.
Don’t get me wrong. The Bulls do play with a lot of passion. And sure, with all their injuries, it must be painful duty in the paint right now.
But these are professional players and this is playoff ball. That the Bulls have gotten this far is because they’ve trained to get here, and not just because they care or have passion. That’s like saying a nurse is great at his job because he’s just a genuinely caring person. That might well be the case, or it might not. Either way, it’s entirely beside the point.
Similarly, the Bulls are a good team because in addition to whatever passion lies beneath their red jerseys, they’re also incredibly talented. They have discipline. They work hard. They didn’t get to the playoffs because they’re gritty. They’re got there because they have a phenomenal coach and because they’ve learned how to play as a team.
I don’t know what will happen tonight at the United Center. I know the Bulls have the skills to win. And if anyone still doubts that, today Joakim Noah was named to the 2012-2013 NBA All Defensive First Team, the first bull to make it since the 1997-98 season, during the so-called Jordan years. Chicago has waited a long time for another basketball dynasty, for what some of us think, even if he’s been sidelined all season, are the beginning of the “Rose years”.
I just wonder when – if ever – the rest of basketball nation is going to catch up.