Note: If you are the commissioner of a major pro sports league, your job is to not screw things up. Need an example? See Paul Tagliabue. People tune in to watch players – there is nothing dynamic about a well-spoken, bespectacled old man, unless he is warning of the coming apocalypse, or just pooped his pants in a public area.

NBA commissioner David Stern did not get the aforementioned memo. I’m willing to bet that most Americans don’t know who Tagliabue is. However, Tagliabue is responsible for ushering the NFL into its rightful position as the lotus of the American sports landscape.

Don’t get me wrong; Stern is a brilliant man, and has done great things for basketball for the most part. He rescued the NBA from the tape-delayed, cocaine-induced doldrums of the late ’70s through discipline and hard work. He cleaned up a league that was awash in decadence and headed toward the trailer park of obscurity, and led it to the beach house called the Dream Team.

However, let’s not forget that Stern had a little help. Assistance first arrived in the form of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Some years later a guy name Mike arrived and a funny thing happened: people watched. Stern made the smart move and hitched the NBA to these horses (and a couple of others).

The trio carried the NBA to prominence and in turn, prosperity, via TV. (I don’t know anyone over the age of 20 who can’t recite the NBA on NBC theme song. If they say they can’t, they are lying).

Well, NBA players are notorious for doing things like retiring after 15 years or so. So, when his “Airness” left, there was nobody left to fill the void. Many have tried, from Grant Hill to Kobe Bryant, to Stern’s dismay, all have failed to carry the league for various reasons.

Whether that is a result of Jordan’s greatness (which it probably is), injuries or off the court troubles remains to be seen.

Despite the low ratings since the changing of the guard, Stern is sitting on a veritable gold mine in the triumvirate of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade. Wade showed his Mike-like brilliance in last year’s finals. James has been hailed as the league’s savior since he was in the 11th grade and has lived up to the hype. Melo, despite his recent tribulations on the court, is a good citizen off of it, and the league’s leading scorer.

He should be doing a masterful job of marketing these three marquee names as he did with Magic, Bird and Jordan. Instead, Stern is far more concerned with post-game dress codes and his continual pissing contest with Mav’s owner Mark Cuban.

Look at the recent blunders the NBA has endured under Stern. The new ball. What? Who the hell changes balls in the first place, much less switches them back midseason? Is this a carnival? This is like the carny at the county fair that pulls the old switcharoo at balloon darts. You pop your three balloons. You think you are getting the big stuffed animal for the girlfriend, meanwhile he gives you the 4-by-4-inch” Guns N’ Roses glass album cover, then switches it for a Poison version.

The new technical foul rule, which I call the “I’m Steve Javy and 18,000 people came to watch me ref, not watch you play” rule is ruthlessly efficient. When did it become disrespectful to grimace after a questionable call? I know one thing: Rasheed Wallace could be suspended for at least three years if he continues last year’s technical foul pace.

I appreciate Stern’s attempt to remove excessive whining from the game. However, there is a difference between Reggie Miller complaining after every drive to the basket, (no disrespect to the word drive), and “T”ing up Sam Cassell because he looked at you funny (Sam can’t help it, he always looks funny).

People do not come to watch Steve Javy or Dick Bovetta. Trust me, the fans will put up with a little whining if it means great players can avoid ejection because of a shoulder shrug.

Stern is like Brooks from “Shawshank Redemption,” he’s been in his bubble for so long that things have passed him by.

I don’t have a problem with keeping Melo out of the All-Star game, although I think he should play. I do have a problem with the fact that Stern even gets to pick injury replacements. The All-Star game is for fans, not for the Comish to establish his control over the game.

I don’t know if the league’s hip-hop image is good or bad for the game, and I don’t care. I do know that it is the prevailing climate in the game.

So, short of banning everyone with 22s and bling (at least 80 percent of the league), Stern better learn how to adapt.

People forget that a young Jordan was chastised for coming out in a Jumpman warm-up suit for the dunk contest in 1984. He was seen as selfish and brash. I can’t help but think that we will look back on this and realize how petty it was.

Does anyone care if Allen Iverson wears a throwback and a platinum chain to a press conference? “Come on, we talking about a press conference, not a game, not a game.” I digress.

It seems Stern has lost control of his toy and wants to regain control of it by any means necessary. I say embrace what you have, and do what you did 20 years ago; sit back and enjoy the ride.

Devan McClaine is a journalism junior and Mustang Daily staff writer.

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