- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The cockroach-sensitive group known as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is claiming victory in the NBA’s adoption of the so-called “cruelty-free” synthetic basketball, the one causing so much fuss among the players this month.

PETA’s back-slapping celebration could be as whimsical as its purported role in the basketball switch.

David Stern has noted the outcry of the players and says he is open to returning to the cow-made leather basketball, regardless of PETA’s appeal to save the skin of the cow.

Not that the absence of the leather basketball in the NBA is apt to save a cow.

The lucrative meat industry drives the wholesale slaughter of cows. A leather basketball is merely a byproduct of a high-priced steak, and a cow is dead in either case.

As it is, the enlightened folks of PETA are against the death of all creatures, even those in abundance that pop out of nowhere in the suburbs and cause death and destruction on the highways.

No one can shed a tear for Bambi as easily as the good folks of PETA, even if Bambi’s kin are reproducing at prolific rates and has no predator in the suburbs other than the automobile.

The call to cull the herds of suburban deer with a controlled hunt is inevitably a call to PETA to exercise its overactive tear ducts.

Common sense rarely intrudes on the religious-like faith of these truth believers.

The protectionist fervor of PETA even extends to rats and cockroaches, the two leading scourges of urban America that are usually despised. Yet with both pests, PETA urges the trap-and-release method of deterrence.

This fanciful approach probably would not be viewed as neighborly in the asphalt jungles of America, most overburdened with rats. Releasing a trapped rat several blocks from your home or place of business might be seen as foisting the problem on someone else instead of solving it.

PETA rarely lets these real-life facts get in the way of a humane solution.

That is not unlike its ability to take credit when none is merited, as with the NBA’s synthetic basketball.

On its Web site, PETA says it contacted the NBA last January and supplied the league office with all the information it possibly could need regarding the leather/synthetic ball dilemma.

Five months later, NBA made the switch, and PETA had what it claimed was a significant victory.

The NBA denies PETA’s role in the switch, and Stern’s recent second thought on the matter is a fairly persuasive indication of that.

The NBA higher-ups believe the new ball is better than the old one, although the players remain unconvinced.

Stern is certainly more motivated by the pleas of his multimillion-dollar entertainers than the never-ending carping of PETA, which imagines the pain of a live lobster or crab being tossed into a pot of boiling water.

Its imaginative imagination led to Whole Foods eliminating the “cruel” practice of selling live lobsters and crabs to its customers in June, even if there is plenty of debate on what actually constitutes cruel to the primitive insect-like nervous systems of lobsters and crabs.

PETA seemingly has a million of these fights, some sillier than others.

Its brush with the NBA is myopic, if you know anything about the marketing power of the NBA.

If the NBA ends up sticking with the new ball, it won’t be too many years before the leather ball becomes cool in a retro sense, not unlike the old jerseys of yesterday that teams trot out several times a season.

Those jerseys are big sellers, just as leather balls could become in the seasons ahead.

You could envision the NBA marketing gurus coming up with the novel concept of staging a leather ball night three or four times a season.

That prospect is no more peculiar than the Wizards donning their Baltimore Bullets uniforms on occasion each season.

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