The first game of the 2015 NBA Playoffs was the dud of a Raptors Wizards series. The game went to overtime and was bested by a team who could only muster 94 points to win. It was derided by its unwatchability of play, as both teams shot under 40% from the field and below 30% from three-pointers.
But you were probably just watching it wrong, maaan. The tenants of Guy Debord have provided a blueprint for the right way to watch this first round series and it goes by the name Situationist.
As Debord explained in his The Society of the Spectacle spectacle is mass media at its most glaring superficial manifestation. The elevation of the spectacle gives the leadoff to a spot with two teams with obvious issues. Both the Raps and the Wizards had terrible post-All Star Game records and limped into the playoffs.
The NBA is asking fans to treat all series as equal opportunities to determine who the Champion will be, but the 4-5 spot rests teams stuck in higher mediocrity. The commodities conflict with each other, with one commodity claiming to be the only one and imposing itself over all the other commodities. This is especially true with this matchup. The similarities between the teams are apparent: good but not great backcourts, big men who don’t do well in the post, streaky bench units and coaches not known for their creative thinking.
The presumption that this is as good a series as the 3-6 or even a 1-8 series is pure spectacle on the part of the NBA. If the teams were good enough they would have pulled ahead to a higher seeding and the lower seeds at least would have had the rooting interest for the underdog, the 4-5 series is an exercise in extra games.
The technique of detournement was developed as a way to turn the expressions of capitalism against itself, usually by turning slogans and logos against advertisers. The Air Canada Center was littered with free t-shirts designed by Raptors Global Ambassador Drake. The most eye-catching portion of the t-shirt was the number 6 on the back to indicate the former area code of Toronto. Drake’s design and use of “The 6” in slang created a new commodity out of a mandated service provided by the province. What other turns of local flavor will now be turned for consumption?
When Paul Pierce taunted the Raptors via media by saying the Toronto team doesn’t have “it” it was repeated continuously. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri in a rally before the Air Canada Center told the crowd “We don’t give a shit about ‘it’.” For that, he was fined $35, 000 for using an obscenity in a public setting and the Raptors were fined an additional $25,000.
Paul Pierce trolled the Raptors into a $60,000 fine, then beat them in Game 1.
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) April 19, 2015
Situationists define psychogeography as “the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment (whether consciously organized or not) on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” One thing to consider as the series stays in Toronto is the area known as Jurassic Park. The area surrounding the arena is known for the massive amounts of crowds that come to gather and watch the televised version of the game. They are not in the live crowd, they gather, cheer, wearing the fan gear of a team to stand outside and watch a game on a (albeit very large) television. A frequent favorite of television productions is to flash a camera reaction from the fans in Jurassic Park. It’s not that these reactions aren’t sincere, you have to assume the commitment to going to the arena just to stand outside probably files you under the super fan category, but the comradery of the group who has committed to the cult life of a JP-member is different.
The division of fans inside the arena and fans outside the arena certainly has limits of the privilege of class, but the excitement of the outside fans matches the energy of a crowd watching the game within a couple of feet. The Raptors have found a way to turn a large television into appointment viewing and by having the broadcast take frequent trips to the crowd, have made money off of the promise of Jurassic Park. As much as the fans can subvert the trap of high-ticket prices, they’re still having their fandom taxed. As free fandom is shown to be the power of the Toronto ticket price, how far will the Raps organization go to keep the fans at a distance as well as get their money?