Three Dimensions are Better than Two

aba.jpgFor those basketball fans who don't like the NBA, an exciting new basketball league is here. Make that old league. The American Basketball Association is back. For those who don't watch Will Ferrell movies, the ABA is a league from the 1970s most famous for its red, white, and blue basketball and Dr. J's Afro. The original league eventually merged with the NBA, but now another league with the same name has arrived. Actually, they arrived in 2000, and eight years later they've almost finished the league web site!

The original ABA brought us the 3-point shot and the slam dunk contest. The new ABA has countered with the 3-D rule, which allows teams to get an extra point for any field goal when the 3-D light is on. The rules are a little confusing, but apparently the 3-D light goes on whenever there's a steal in the backcourt. This is a great idea, though I think I would like it better if it were more random. If I were commissioner, I would let one lucky fan control the 3-D light every game, and then let chaos reign.

There are other interesting rules. Shots from beyond half court are worth four points. Nobody can foul out, though the other team does get extra free throws when a "6th Foul Player" commits a foul. Overtime lasts only three minutes, and if a second overtime is needed, the first team to score ten points wins.

Speaking of overtime, according to the official rules, "all team members are allowed to play" during overtime. Apparently, this just means that anyone with six fouls can play, but I initially took it to mean that every player on a team could be on the court, which would be just fantastic. Think about it. You'd have 12 players from each team, plus coaches and any other team personnel, all on the court at once. Now, that's excitement. By the way, I think if a mascot gets a basket, it should be worth five points.

If I was in charge, this "all team play" wouldn't just be during overtime. It would also take place whenever the 3-D light was on. Suddenly, at any moment (remember, under my rules, the 3-D light is controlled by a possibly drunk fan), you'd have full team-on-team action, as everyone on the bench rushed onto the court. And when the 3-D light went out, the teams would have 20 seconds to get any extra players off the court. Otherwise, they would be forced to play in 4-D, and nobody wants that.

Here's the best thing about the ABA. 35% of the games in 2006-07 did not actually take place, because the road team didn't bother showing up. In the ABA, not only do you never know who will win on any given day, you don't know if there'll even be a game. Now, that's suspense.

And you can always tell a league is successful when their web site includes a web form for those interested in having their own franchise. It only costs $10,000 to get an ABA franchise. (In contrast, it costs $12,500 to open a Subway franchise.) Just fill out the form, and you too can be an ABA owner.

There doesn't seem to be much discretion in choosing owners either. At last count, there were 45 teams. There's even a team from Beijing, although to make things confusing they don't play there. They played first in California, and then began playing in Singapore (The Singapore Angels of Beijing?). In Singapore, they would host other ABA teams for 2-game home stands. This worked well, though, according to Wikipedia, some opposing players complained that the team hotel also doubled as a brothel. Other opposing players didn't complain.

Beijing isn't the only big city with a team. There are also teams in Beaumont, Texas, Shreveport, Louisiana, and Anchorage, Alaska. To be fair, many big cities are represented, including the NYC Internationalz, the South Chicago Ball Stars, and the Montreal Matrix. Luckily, Boston has a team (the Blizzard) that plays in the suburbs, so I might get to see a game this year. Las Vegas even has two teams, though, unfortunately, some opposing players have complained that the team hotels also doubled as brothels.

Despite all the craziness, the ABA is trying to set itself apart from the NBA when it comes to fan relations. All players are required to sign autographs after each game, and the ABA is especially concerned with how their players behave. There is "zero tolerance" for taunting and baiting, and "players are expected to demonstrate professional conduct at all times."

Well, except when the 3D light is on, because then all bets are off.

    A periodic humor column, disguised as a blog. New columns published on Tuesdays or not as the case may be.


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