The WNBA draft never looks like a sports event. It looks like a scene from a hotel jazz club. There is none of the beery pandemonium and emotional overkill that happens every summer when the men have their draft. The league's president, Laurie Richie, doesn't have to read the players' names over a chorus of boos. There aren't 20 people reaching for hugs and half-hugs and there's no irrational sense that, despite the financial bonanza, a bunch of guys are going to fight for all of Panem. Indeed, the presiding mood at the WNBA draft is less Hunger Games and more "Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Dee Dee Bridgewater."
The basketball centerpieces and matching tablecloths notwithstanding, the women treat you to a classier, more straightforward evening.
The quiet shudder that made its way around the NBA a couple weeks ago had something to do with a uniform tweak. The league unveiled sleeved jerseys and announced its lab rats would be the Golden State Warriors. Debuting this occasional experiment on these particular guys was both a punishment and ontological bad luck: They may be sixth in the Western Conference, but when it comes to exploitation they're the last straw.
Wednesday was Halloween in Paris, too. And one reason to love Paris is that it's the sort of city where it's often hard to know whether it's October 31 or the start of Fashion Week. This is worth mentioning because something happened on Wednesday, in Paris, and it was so delightful, gratuitous, weird, and apt that to witness it really was to kind of WTF-ly spit out your Gummy Eyeball Martini.
This week, you see, is also the BNP Paribas Masters tennis tournament — the Paris Masters. Typically, the action unfolds at the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy, a sports and music fortress in the 12th arrondissement right next to the Seine. But for a few magical minutes Wednesday evening, the Paris Masters was taking place on the Death Star. What transpired during those minutes wasn't part of some kind of public-relations rollout on behalf of Disney, which owns Grantland and had just bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion. It wasn't even any kind of art prank. It was merely the current no. 2 player in the world heading to the packed court in a Darth Vader mask.
And now: a collective “You’ve got to be kidding me.” For weeks, whenever we saw Billy Hunter and David Stern -- respectively, National Basketball Players Association executive director and NBA commissioner -- they were in suits, the suit being, of course, the attire of business, and business being, for 149 days, what both sides of the NBA lockout said they meant. That the lockout lasted as long as it did proved they meant otherwise; and, anyway, on Hunter, a suit always asked, “Where’s my Pineau des Charentes?” Mostly, he and Stern wore suits because what else would they have worn to such high-stakes, high-profile negotiations?
Well, on Saturday, at close to 4 a.m., after a reported 15 hours of hammering out a deal that would end the lockout, we discovered exactly what else. Hunter and Stern sat at the center of a long conference table at a midtown Manhattan law firm. They weren’t in suits. They wore just about the last thing you’d expect from two people who have been as entrenched as they claimed to have been. Both men sat at that table wearing a piece of clothing that totally belied the incompetence and complacency and intransigence on both sides of the lockout, the heartlessness, cluelessness, ruthlessness, and indifference to the sport itself. They wore the tasteful opposite of boardroom business, and they did so in a move that, under the circumstances, can be understood as an act of desperate cynicism, a calculated plea for gratitude, sympathy, and hugs.
At 3:40 a.m., Billy Hunter and David Stern ended the NBA lockout in sweaters.