FALCON POINTS

Why the bubble has been a sports fan's dream come true

Photo by Getty Images.

The NBA playoffs are under way, with all day basketball. The NHL playoffs are also in full swing, and after a play-in round, we are getting three or four games a day.

From a fan's perspective, they have both been rousing successes.

While it sucks people can't be at the games, both leagues have done a terrific job of managing the events. The quality of play has been better than expected after a long layoff, and we have seen some incredible moments.

The feared Covid spread has not happened, so the bubble concept is clearly working.

The leagues themselves are losing millions with no fans, but they are at least getting TV money. The good news? If they have to start next season without fans, they now have a workable model.

With many people stuck working from home, it is possible to get work done and watch all the games at the same time. It is also a betting person's bonanza.

Many were skeptical that this could be pulled off, but Dana White was doing it for months with the UFC. Constant testing, limited contact and social distancing have worked like a charm.

In the case of the NBA, the 8-9 seed play-in was a huge success. Who got in to that matchup came down to the last shot of a game only made it better. In the NHL, the play-in round gave teams like Chicago and Montreal - who would have missed the playoffs in a normal year - a chance to earn a spot in the big tournament.

In essence, what we have seen is very much like the first week of the NCAA Tournament, which is one of the best sporting events of the year. One game after another, exciting action and all of our favorite players.

It would be cool to see both leagues maybe implement a version of this going forward. Yes, it waters things down to have so many playoff teams, but the atmosphere has been incredible.

The NFL should consider something similar, but they seem committed to the baseball model. Despite some Covid cases, that has worked well also. There was never going to be a scenario where there would be no one getting sick. Considering how few outbreaks there have been, it has to be considered a success as well.

So all in all, sports have returned, and they have been worth the wait. The bubble has worked. The set up has worked. The playoffs are working.

The leagues have made the best of a bad situation, and somehow made it even better.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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