Imagine that you are coaching a team in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It is a tightly contested match-up going into halftime and you know precisely the adjustments you are going to make for the second half. After conferring with your assistants on how to address your team, you walk into the locker room only to see your players with their eyes glued to their cell phones. How would you react?
As it turns out, this is not an uncommon sight in NBA locker rooms. Players openly admit to checking email, sending text messages, and browsing social media right before games, at halftime, and minutes after games end. Although NBA rules ban players from posting to social media during games, no such rules prohibit the use of cell phones.
The MLB and NFL differ from the NBA in this regard. Athletes in both leagues are prohibited from using any personal electronic devices at any point during games. Superstars such as the MLB’s Pablo Sandoval and the NFL’s Troy Polamalu have been disciplined for their in-game cell phone use.
I commend the MLB and NFL for taking a firm stance on cell phones. I am also baffled that the NBA has not taken a similar stance. If I were an NBA owner or executive, I would view cell phones as a major distraction and ban them outright during games.
NBA players, however, are content with the way things are. They argue that if virtually every other working person can check their cell phone while on the job, they should be able to as well. This is a fair point, but NBA players are by no means your average working people. There are countless scenarios in which NBA players, and professional athletes in general, are held to a higher standard than the rest of us, and this is without a doubt one of those scenarios. NBA players owe to their teams and their fans to be 100 percent focused each and every game. If they need to avoid their cell phones for a few hours to achieve that level of focus, and I am certain that they do, players should be willing to do so without any official rules.
Nevertheless, players are unlikely to put away their cell phones during games unless they are forced to. Checking our cell phones has become so habitual that we sometimes do so unconsciously. That is why, for the sake of their investment and their fans, NBA owners need to come together and consider following the leads of the MLB and NFL.
My uncle, the strength and conditioning coach at Providence College, does not allow athletes to bring their cell phones to his weight room. When I asked him why he has this rule in place, he said, “Multitasking is multi-mediocrity.” If an athlete is constantly checking his or her cell phone while in the weight room, he or she is not working hard enough to reach his or her strength goals.
Likewise, if an NBA player is focused on his phone before the game and at halftime, he is not doing everything he can to prepare himself for the game and help his team reach its goals.
It may be “fair” and it may be habitual, but cell phone use during games brings mediocrity, and mediocrity will not win you Game 7 of the NBA Finals.