When explaining the importance of stimulus-response in communications, my partner, Ed, likes to use the expression "the message sent is not always the message received." As an example, Ed will cite former President Nixon’s now infamous "I am not a crook" comment when defending his Watergate actions. While Nixon’s intent was to communicate that he’d had nothing to do with the third rate burglary, his words suggested the exact opposite in listeners’ minds.
All of which relates to the image and reputation train wreck that is the New York Knicks.
On Monday night, Chris "Rep Jr." Cody and I had courtside seats to the Knicks stirring, one-point overtime win against Utah, an interesting rebound in light of the team’s ugly Saturday night brawl against the Denver Nuggets.
In observing the goings-on in the three-ring circus that is a contemporary Knicks game, I noted:
1.) The players incessantly taunt, menace, verbally abuse and stare down one another throughout the game. Their "in your face" machismo is genuinely scary when viewed up close and personal. Based upon Saturday night’s altercation between the Knicks and Nuggets, one can see why such violence occurs. The roughousing, manhandling, near strangulation and, at times, outright mugging is unreal.
2.) The City Dancers are way over the line. They’re a group of about 15 young women who skip onto the hardwood floor during breaks and shimmy, gyrate and cartwheel their way through a song or two. To say their moves are sexually suggestive does the City Dancers a disservice. These women know what they’re doing, a fact not lost on the predominantly male crowd. But, what sort of message does this send to the young kids in attendance, especially the girls? Talk about anti-role models. These ladies could make the Bada-Bing dancers in the Sopranos blush with envy.
3.) Our courtside seats were both a blessing and curse. While we loved being so close to the action, we were continually pushed, shoved and jostled by little kids snapping pics of the action on their cell phone cameras. No matter how many times the seated fans complained, the pint-sized paparazzi would re-surface time and again, pushing and shoving people out of the way so they could grab a pic of Isiah, Malik or Steph.
So I got to thinking about the ladies and the lads.
They’re actually just responding to the stimulus sent by the players who, in turn, are allowed, if not encouraged by management, to strut, swear and swagger their way through game after game.
It’s a vicious cycle. Fans pay big bucks to watch thugs beat up one another on the court, leer at scantily-clad ladies as they strut their stuff during breaks and suffer as street urchins elbow their way closer to courtside to snap players’ photos.
Knicks management has sent the message that all of this boorishness is A-OK, and the fans have received the message loud and clear.
How much longer will it be before one player actually kills another, the dancers go topless and the puny photographers use their cameras as weapons to clear a path for a clean pic? The NBA is sending all the wrong signals, and fans seem only too happy to act upon them. I wonder what the sport’s inventor, Dr. James A. Naismith, would make of all this?