Last week, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made national headlines when he incurred a $500,000 fine for disparaging remarks he made about the quality of officiating in the NBA.
Cuban who has made a substantial fortune in the corporate world lashed out at the NBA”s director of officiating, Ed Rush. According to Cuban, Rush is so incompetent at what he does that Cuban “wouldn”t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen.”
It wasn”t enough that Cuban was slapped with the largest single fine in NBA history. The higher-ups at Dairy Queen heard what he said and challenged the billionaire to actually manage a metro Dallas Dairy Queen for a day, to see if it is as easy as he made it out to be.
As most of you know, Cuban happily accepted Dairy Queen”s challenge and worked behind the counter yesterday, dispensing Reese”s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzards to wide-eyed 15-year-olds. Predictably, the whole event was a media circus, and just as predictably, Cuban has received a storm of criticism for his actions.
A number of people have come out and called Cuban just about every name in the book, with some of the more printable ones being “selfish”, “immature” and “nave.” They can”t believe that he would incur such an enormous fine, and they are even more taken aback by his blas attitude Cuban dismissed the NBA”s fine as a slap on the wrist and matched the fine with a donation to charity (which is what he always does when he gets fined).
I have a differing opinion from the Cuban-haters. Not only do I find the idea of Cuban working at a Dairy Queen to be hilarious, but I agreed with his assessment of NBA officiating. Furthermore, I think he”s the best thing possibly the only good thing that the NBA has going for it right now.
There was a time when I loved watching pro basketball. That was about 10 years ago, when a team scoring 100 points in a game wasn”t cause for a heart attack. It was back when guys who were handed multi-million dollar contracts could actually shoot, and when overmatched high schoolers (read: Tyson Chandler) attended college for a few years before turning pro.
Those were the glory days. Over the last 10 years, I watched the NBA devolve into a league where 82-75 snoozers between (fill in Eastern Conference teams here) are written off to “good defense.”
I almost completely lost interest in the NBA. But then, Cuban came along and took over the Mavericks a few years ago. He brought a cocky attitude and an enthusiasm that had been missing from the league for years. He also brought a deep pocket and a willingness to spare no expense to make once-moribund Dallas a winner, and the proof is in the pudding: The Mavericks advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year and look like a contender again this year.
Pro basketball is fun again in Dallas, and a big chunk of credit should go to Cuban. Players seem to like playing for him, and the fans in Dallas love him. Cuban sits in the stands with the average, paying customers and cheers as loudly as (or louder than) anybody else. In an age where most owners sit in luxury boxes and hold fans hostage for new, publicly-funded arenas, Cuban is a breath of fresh air. He”s good for pro basketball no, he”s great for pro basketball and I hope he”s around the NBA for years.
And, if that doesn”t work out, there”s always the lucrative world of ice cream, right?
Arun Gopal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.