Friday, March 30, 2007

Turn that Shit Down

I've heard, from what I would consider to be a very reliable source, that a new edict has come down from David Stern. This particular "request", in the Mafia sense, is that those companies who are making NBA-licensed videogames make a move towards soundtracks with more musical "diversity".

Which basically means "put something else in your games aside from that rap music", to the tune of having 70%-80% of your soundtrack be explicitly something else. There hasn't been any word as to how soul and R&B are classified under this system, or whether hip-hop will be separated from the rest of the soundtrack, to be played mono in a system that allows them to retain their dignity, while keeping them from unsettling potential listeners.

This is just a further step down the road that Mr. Stern has been herding the NBA towards for the last couple years. He's trying to make the league more palatable to the people who are the main consumers of the NBA, who also happen to be middle-aged white men (or at least the popular perception goes). He hired one of Bush's old campaign advisors from Rove's happy family and next thing you know, it's crackdowns on retro jerseys and videogame soundtracks.

These decisions are especially conspicuous because the NBA is the most race-concious of any of the major sports because of the cultural differences between the majority that play the sport and the majority that consume it. Recent and subtle examples can be taken from the previously-covered-here trade between Indiana and Golden State, where Indiana fans lauded the exchange because they were losing "thugs" and "snapperheads" to gain "more fundamental" players with "high basketball I.Q.s". (The latter being the major sign that there was something else going on here, since if somebody's seen Lil' Duns play and thinks he's a "smart" basketball player, I'm going to want to check the lead levels of your drinking water.)

The decision to regulate NBA-related soundtracks makes even less sense than many of the previous ones made by the commish because it's not like the success of rap and hip-hop is constrained to the young black male demographic. While middle-aged white men are buying the good tickets for NBA games, this doesn't match with the people who play videogames, especially sports-based videogames, not to mention rap music. So, considering that fans of both sports videogames and rap music tend not to answer to a single demographic*, handing down orders from on high about diversifying the soundtracks comes across more as a part of a bigoted agenda than as a logical business decision. It's patently obvious that Dad Rock isn't going to make more games sell, so why else would the decision be made?

I don't think that David Stern is racist. I do think that he has embraced the generification of the NBA to the point where he's squeezing the individuality out of the league and creating a situation where he could legitimately be critiqued as somebody who wants to surpress "hip-hop" culture. Maybe he doesn't think that's a particularly bad thing, as long as the league continues to do well. I don't begrudge the NBA success; I'd just like to see it doing well without pushing people away in the process.

* - Videogames and rap are, after all, enjoyed by young white males, young asian males, young black males and young latino males.

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