Soccer-inspiried dramatics are ruining NBA players

By By Nick Pappas

By Nick Pappas

As a basketball fan, there are players you hate for different reasons.

I hate Kobe Bryant the way the United States hated Russia during the Cold War8212;he’s the scary superpower who can ruin all hope for the future. I hate Stephon Marbury because he makes more money than an entire city block, all while sitting on the sideline with a big, horsey grin on his face.

Then there are the guys I hate because of their whiny natures8212;a group whose tears could fill the Great Salt Lake: Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker of the Spurs, Luis Scola of the Rockets and there are others. Dirk Nowitzki has permanent creases between his eyes. Pau Gasol has to wring out his patchy beard after every whistle blow. Not to mention the classic players I hated from my childhood, including Detlef Schrempf and Vlade Divac.

I tried explaining my searing hatred for these players to an armchair quarterback friend, and he called me out.

“Did you happen to notice the similarity between these players?” he asked while sipping a Mountain Dew.

“They all act like colicky babies,” I replied.

“Nope. All of them are foreign players. You’re a xenophobe. You hate everyone who isn’t American. You might as well be hanging out at NASCAR wearing an American flag zip-up jacket.”

With this, he drove off in his SUV for more Cheetos.

I couldn’t deny they all happened to be foreigners. Still, I was insulted. I hate the “War on Terror” and there have been moments where I am actually embarrassed by the United States, our capitalism and look-out-for-No. 1 attitudes.

The writing was on the wall, though.

The players I hate were born in other countries. It seemed an unlikely coincidence. I would have to start loving Bruce Springsteen and cowboy boots.

And then I realized what the hated bunch all had in common besides not being American. Basketball is growing as a worldwide sport, but it’s nowhere near what it is in the United States. There is one sport that all nations love so much they’ll throw bags of urine at the opposing team.

That sport is soccer.

Soccer is wildly more popular than every other sport combined. It can be played anywhere. Two goals, a round ball and the game is on. It’s the sport most kids from other nations play and see all the time. And that’s the problem.

I can imagine, dear readers, you might have never watched a pro soccer game. I wouldn’t blame you. I have had the bad luck of seeing more than a few. My opinion will likely create mockery in The Chronicle office8212;not to mention by other rabid soccer fanboys8212;but viewing soccer is like visiting a dentist with a twitchy meth problem.

If you do happen to find yourself strapped to a chair watching soccer, pay close attention to the way the players react to a foul. They fall to the ground as if their entire family died. They grab at the infected area and wait for a red card. And then they skip off the field as if nothing happened.

These NBA players are ruining the NBA in much the same way.

Growing up in soccer nations, Academy Award-worthy flopping is the norm. Ginobili just needs Deron Williams to breathe on him and he falls into the first row. If Andrei Kirilenko wasn’t on the Jazz, I’d likely hate him, too.

Soccer is bad enough as its own sport. The last thing basketball fans need is other sports acting more like soccer.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hang a Dale Earnhardt poster and to listen to “Born in the USA.”

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Nick Pappas