Friday, April 29, 2011

Media should be included in voting for bj-league awards

It’s time for the bj-league to get rid of its voting system — players and coaches have votes but the media doesn’t — for the Best Five team and related awards. The current selection process reminds one of an elementary school popularity contest.

And that’s not a good thing.

Why the disgust Well, the league, to those of us who would like to see it evolve beyond its second-rate reputation, is doing itself an incredible disservice, adding teams each year but not increasing the number of individuals that can be officially recognized. The fact that there will be 20 teams next season and there is still only one Best Five team and not two or three, which is appropriate, demonstrates this: Showcasing the league’s rich crop of talent, foreign and Japanese, is not a priority.

The fact that there’s still not a Defensive Player of the Year awards shows how clueless and/or stubborn the league’s decision-makers are. Defensive is 50 percent of the game and should have been a part of the original awards back in 2005. It’s farcical that there’s still not a top defensive player award.

Furthermore, the fact that the league’s awards are all released on the same day shows a complete lack of media savvy and zero comprehension of the news cycle. Shame on the league!

One award (MVP, for example) should be announced each day, giving the media a better opportunity to report each story and enabling the public time to digest its meaning. Instead, everything is lumped together and quickly forgotten, and the chance for a number of well-researched stories are wasted as the news cycle comes and goes and then it’s time for the media to focus on something else.

Regarding the Best Five team, it’s worth noting that each year there’s been one Japanese player picked. Is it formulaic? Yes, and that’s obviously what the league wants.

Does that make the process legitimate? No.

In addition, it would be better to have an all-Japanese team, too.

A brief history lesson:

* The 2005-06 Best Five team was comprised of guards Yukinori Suzuki (Oita) and Matt Lottich (Osaka) and forwards William Pippen (Tokyo), Michael Jackson (Sendai) and center Nick Davis (Niigata).

* The 2006-07 quintet featured guards Cohey Aoki (Tokyo) and Rasheed Sparks (Takamatsu), forwards Lynn Washington (Osaka) and Andy Ellis (Oita) and Davis.

* The 2007-08 All-League group included guards Naoto Takushi (Ryukyu) and Mikey Marshall (Osaka), forwards Ellis and Reggie Warren (Takamatsu) and center Patrick Whearty (Sendai).

* The 2008-09 Best Five were guards Takushi and Michael Gardener (Hamamatsu), forwards Bobby St. Preux (Sendai) and Washington and center Jeff Newton (Ryukyu).

* The 2009-10 squad included guards Aoki and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (Kyoto), forwards Wendell White (Hamamatsu) and Michael Parker (Fukuoka) and center Julius Ashby (Tokyo).

* This season’s top five are guards Takumi Ishizaki (Shimane) and Wayne Arnold (Hamamatsu) and forwards Jeffrey Parmer (Hamamatsu), Parker and Anthony McHenry (Ryukyu).

If the league wanted to be considered a true professional league in the public’s eye, it would release all votes from every award category — Best Five, MVP, Coach of the Year, Most Improved Player, etc. — to show everyone what the numbers were.

This isn’t a pro-democracy gathering we’re talking about. It’s basketball, fun and games, boys and girls, and should be treated as such. Besides, releasing the information can lead to interesting debates.

Consider this: The Japan Football Player of the Year Awards, which featured the votes of 202 soccer writers, was announced in February. Popular national team player Keisuke Honda won the top honor. This story received major exposure in print and broadcast media, as well as on the Internet.

The bj-league’s Best Five and related awards, announced on Tuesday evening, barely received any coverage at all by the mainstream press earlier this week. Case in point: Wednesday’s Yomiuri Shimbun, a paper with a circulation figure in the millions, didn’t publish a story on it, and we’re talking about a league with 16 teams now, four more than the NPB.

Memo to bj-league PR director Akihiro Ejima: With the push of a single “send” button, an e-mail can be given to the league’s entire media list, requesting participation in the voting process. This would add a much-needed fresh perspective and take away the stale results that have become the norm.

It’s time for progress, time to transform the amateurish method for selecting all-league honors and transform it into a process that exhibits fairness and transparency. And hey, by adding a second and, maybe, third Best Five team it enriches the process, honoring a greater pool of talent.

That’s a necessary step in the right direction. And by involving the media in something that recognizes key individuals each season, this also gives the league a greater chance for beat writers to emerge in each of the league’s markets and help scribes and announcers become better educated to report on these things on a league-wide level.

Really, it’s a win-win situation if the league can embrace progress.