Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

All-Star Games Turn into Gold

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

All-Star Games Turn into Gold

Article excerpt

FOR the past decade or so, the Midas-like National Basketball Association has been on a roll. One salable idea or development has followed another, turning its courts to gold.

The oft-cited triggering agent in this renaissance was the joint arrival of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in 1979. Just as important, though, was the infusion of people with vision, inspiration, and energy who came on to fill the office jobs. Foremost among them is commissioner David Stern, who recognized untapped potential in many areas, including the annual midseason All-Star Game. What once was a rather ho-hum event has been converted into a fun-filled showcase, which has become a model for others in the sports-entertainment business.

The league's 43rd all-star game will be played Sunday in Salt Lake City. But before that, there will be shooting contests, an old-timers' game, and something called a Jam Session, an interactive festival of 50-plus basketball-themed challenges. Casual fans who may not appreciate the overnight synergy of the NBA's all-star squads can admire the individual talents and root for players in the slam-dunk championship or the long-distance shootout.

In other major professional team sports, football and hockey, all-star games are problematic, partly because of the physical nature of the sports. With no checking, the National Hockey League's game does not always resemble the genuine product. Case in point: the Wales Conference crushed the Campbell Conference in an almost laughable 16-6 goalfest on Feb. 6 in Montreal.

The very next day, the National Football League held its all-star game in Honolulu, the Pro Bowl's regular site. The risk of player injury prevents the game from being scheduled until a week after the Super Bowl, and probably few players go all out then. In an incident perhaps reflective of player attitudes, Super Bowl MVP Troy Aikman departed the Pro Bowl early to attend a charity meeting in Dallas. The league fined the Cowboy quarterback $10,000 for his unexpected departure.

The NFL could drop the Pro Bowl and probably few would notice. …

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