There's no getting around it. So far this year, the NBA Playoffs have been terrible.
Don't get me wrong: the Lakers and Celtics have been on a whole 'nother level, and the entire postseason could be redeemed with a legitimately fascinating NBA Finals the next two weeks. But until then? It's not your imagination: It's all been pretty much unwatchable.
Through 79 NBA playoff games, only eight have been decided by three points or less, which means that, in 2010, the chances of getting a playoff game decided on one of the final possessions has been somewhere around 10 percent. Maybe that's an unfair way to judge the competitive balance of a given season, but it's indicative of what we've seen so far. Ninety percent of the time, there's been very little suspense to what's transpired.
Before Sunday night's Suns-Lakers game, the margin of victory in the Western Conference playoffs had been 8.1 points, with a whopping 10.8 point-differential back East. So, basically, teams are averaging double-digit victories in the 2010 postseason. Beyond that, we've had four sweeps—including three in the conference semifinals—and there's a good chance that the East could wind up a sweep, with the West ending in five games. And for all the valor of the Celtics' sudden resurgence, there have also been completely inexplicable disappearing acts from the likes of Cleveland, Orlando, Dallas, San Antonio, Atlanta, Utah, and more.
Put it this way: So far in 2010, the playoff games have played out like an audition tape for Mark Jackson's announcing career. Tedious, predictable, and fatally uninteresting. The sort of stuff that makes you ask, "Can I have those two hours of my life back?"
As far as a broader narrative's concerned, sure, the Celtics' run has been pretty surprising, but not exactly "novel." Should we really be that surprised that the past two title winners—and two of the NBA's most successful franchises in history—are on pace to meet in the Finals?
But enough about that... Beyond the tedium of the games, the playoffs have still been a lot of fun. Sort of how TNT's Inside the NBA is usually more fun than the games that precede it, some of the surrounding coverage has been 10 times more entertaining than the games.
And maybe more than anybody, two independent bloggers have stood out from the pack as the most consistently hilarious, indispensable resources for NBA playoff coverage. They don't even do this professionally, but as a hobby. A really, really awesome hobby. Meet Jose3030 and Doc Funk.
These guys have saved the playoffs for me. The games don't even matter—everyday, you can come in and find some new, hilarious material from Doc and Jose.
But I wanted to know more about them, so I reached out and interviewed both. Because as much fun as they've spread over the past few weeks, it's still a lot of work. How they'd get into it? Why do they do it? How do they balance it with the rest of their lives? Like, day-jobs?
We'll start with Jose, one of the Internet's true saviors, and an honest-to-God new media juggernaut. You probably recognize the name "Jose3030" as that random name that's always getting a "Hat Tip" at the end of blog posts across the web. And really, to anyone that writes about sports on the internet, Jose's a legend. Almost anytime something crazy/weird/interesting happens during a live sporting event, he's there with a quick screengrab of the play in question. Or a .Gif. Or a YouTube video. They aren't always his, but if something out-of-the-ordinary happens in an NBA game, you can bet that within minutes, Jose3030 will track down some proof. Like this graphic snafu from ABC:
As Doc Funk explains Jose's presence on Twitter, "Jose3030 is an absolute must, but that goes without saying. I'm convinced he has a time machine. One of these days, he's going to slip up and post a screen grab before it happens."
The whole time I've been working for SB Nation I've wondered, "Who is this Jose3030 guy?"
So I asked him. How'd he first get involved with the internet? Jose explains, "My father bought me a computer when I was 13 and I went to WORK, son. I started on local Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) and after that, the hotness was the Internet. I had a Wyclef website in 1997 dedicated to The Carnival LP which I edited the HTML all by hand and I transcribed all the lyrics of the entire album."
"That was my first start in 'Music / Video / Audio' because not only did I have the lyrics, I had the audio in Realplayer 2.0 format for folks to download and listen to. It was amazing, really, how this new medium would transform the world in my eyes. I remember we went to a computer store and I saw a computer with a TV tuner card and playing a TV show and I was in awe. I knew I'd have one. Later on, I streamed the Chappelle Show online for all to see. even Dave Chappelle himself would send folks to my site to check out the videos."
These days, his IT fluency translates to any number of highlights from his Twitter account. For one thing, his work with .Gifs is pretty awesome. To the left, LeBron's controversial jump-stop on continuous loop. And to the right, maybe even better, Celtics' coach Doc Rivers' reaction to the play in real-time.
For sports bloggers, Jose's always been an invaluable resource for audio and video, but over the course of the playoffs, he's almost become a destination by himself. Every morning after a game, if you check Jose's Twitter and Twitpic profiles, chances are, you'll find something pretty hilarious. In light of his productivity, my question was two-fold: How does he possibly get to work on time, and how does he manage to stay awake for all these games?
Jose answered, "I work in IT for a Government agency. My role on the Internet doesn't interfere with it at all, except for me going to sleep a TAD bit later than I'm supposed to... In the playoffs, since games aren't on every night, I tend to "cheat" one night and then go to sleep way earlier the next day, etc. You can't cheat sleep every day. Trust me, I've found this out the hard way. I've got to be at work at 8:15 and I leave pretty religiously at 6:30-6:45am."
And while most of what Jose does eventually gets washed away as just one of a million highlights from a given night, you can't underestimate the timeliness aspect of his work. At various points on SBNation.com, he's been described as "peerless," "indispensable," "amazing," and, my favorite, "Most. Valuable. Tweeter."
I asked him for his reaction to the cult following he's developed around these parts, and elsewhere on the internet, and he answered, saying "I'm honored, I really appreciate all the folks that say that about me, perhaps as equally much as they appreciate me."
And why does he do all this? "If it's funny, you need to see it... And I want to be the one that made it happen." How awesome is that? Basically, if something happens during a game that makes you or your friends laugh, there's a good chance that Jose caught it, too, and within 15 or 20 minutes, he'll have a picture or video up, freezing that moment in time.
He's been a big presence on Twitter for a while now, but beginning this postseason, he started a blog called Brain on Funk, and almost every night since, he's been churning out hilarity with his LOL-cats-style NBA photos and captions. But as awesome as the blog's been for the past six weeks or so, it took him a while to find the right formula. As he explains, "I had a blog I started on January 1st of 2009 at the same address. It was primarily movie, music, and video game reviews. I kept up with that for about 8 months or so before I just got tired of criticizing things that the rest of the world enjoys."
He continues, "Ultimately, I wasn't satisfied with what I was doing. I had various stupid ideas over the next 6 months or so. Like recapping every Washington Nationals game... Wow, that was dumb."
(Funny: I, too, once had the idea to recap every Nationals' game for a blog. It'd be like live-blogging a hurricane of failure, I thought. After trying it, it was, indeed, like live-blogging a hurricane... in the middle of the ocean. In hindsight, I have to ask, since nobody really noticed or cared, did the 2009 Nationals season really happen?)
What he's doing now isn't always "appropriate," but it's consistently hilarious satire. Compared to other bloggers' CNN, Doc likened himself to The Daily Show. And that's actually pretty apt, because The Daily Show is awesome. (And yes, we're running all sorts of inappropriate Doc Funk captions the rest of the way... If you're easily offended, feel free to move along).
As Doc explained it, he had an epiphany after floundering in the blogosphere for a while. "I was too preoccupied on trying to please other people and worrying about things like page views and SEO. 'Oooh, Andy Reid's competence is questionable right now. I BETTER CAPITALIZE.'"
"After doing a little growing up in my personal life, I had an epiphany of sorts. I was going to do what I thought was funny. No more page hits, SEO, watermarks, and copyrights. I want to laugh and hopefully there are some people out there who share my humor. I wanted to create a site you could read an entire post in 2 minutes or less before you continued on your way to more serious matters." And for that reason, amidst of sea of redundant analysis of a largely-uninteresting postseason, he's been a breath of fresh air.
As he continues, "Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie, then run by JE Skeets (and now Trey Kerby) would have daily caption contests. At the time, I couldn't post from work due to things like 'security' and '3 hour lunches' but I would check back each and every day. I frequently thought 'I could come up with something funnier than most of these comments.' That's when the light-bulb went on. 'Yes, I'll combine the highbrow humor of LOLcots with my passion of watching Kevin Garnett yell at things.'"
As far as his background, like Jose, he works for the government. He continues, "I'm currently employed by the United States Department of Defense. Most of my co-workers are 10 years my senior, so sports is one of the few things we can connect on. I don't care about your kids, but did you see Andray Blatche flirt with a triple double last night?"
He says he hasn't told many of his co-workers about the blog, explaining, "I'm honestly afraid of the reaction it will illicit. I'm not sure profanity is legal in Virginia yet."
As far as "new media" is concerned, people like Doc Funk is part of what makes it so awesome as a companion to live entertainment. He explains, "There are few things like reading the unfiltered comments of a thousand people observing the same thing you are and yet coming up with incredibly clever quips, comments, and observations."
"I used to be big on watching games at a bar. Now, I'd much rather prefer to have a few drinks at home while incessantly hitting F5 on twitter." And it's really true. If you follow the right people, watching the tweets can serve as an addictive, hilarious compliment to watching the games.
It all rests on inside jokes and knowing humor, but if you're a hardcore fan, it's pretty easy to pickup on the jokes. Like, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade both exaggerate injuries all the time:
Or, the Clay Bennett-David Stern union is just, plain evil:
So, who should you be following? Doc Funk weighs in: "Following the SLAM [Magazine] pack is an absolute necessity. They will help make both live games and the offseason more enjoyable: @langwhitaker @russbengtson @marcel_mutoni @mdotbrown @stackmack. There are a few others, but this is your starting 5." And of course, as previously noted, @Jose3030 is a must.
And really, that's as good a start as any. From there, you can find more hilarity via Re-tweets, and increase your circle as you go along. It's not that complicated, and it's definitely worth the effort.
None of this is meant to detract from the contributions of more traditional media. I'm not saying you shouldn't watch the games or read the columns afterward (like mine!). This isn't some metaphorical victory in that mythic battle of new media vs. old. But, more just a heads-up to fans... If you don't want to watch the games but still want to find the most creative playoff coverage out there, you could do much worse than the twitter feeds like Jose3030 and Doc Funk's blog.
It doesn't reflect on the NBA in any meaningful way except that some years, it just happens this way. No different than a down year in the NCAA Tournament. You can't have eight weeks of instant classics every year. But it's instructive as to what the internet can provide. People bemoan the rise of "new media" and the niche-coverage that's emerged over the past few years, but at times like this, it's perfect.
When drama disappoints, comedy reigns. And that's how two smart-ass government employees, with no credentials beyond a Twitter account, can wind up Kings of the Internet for a few months.
Sneer and call their work "frivolous" or "inappropriate" if you want, but that damn sure beats "tedious, predictable, and uninteresting." The playoffs may suck this year, but if you ask me, these guys are undeniably awesome.
And now, for no good reason, some brilliant Kobe photoshops that Jose gathered from around the web (click to enlarge):
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