Sunday night was a tough decision for me. Two major television events, overlapping each other; each with huge consequences that would drive social media conversation for days. Would I go to a bar with friends and yell at the TV for two-and-a-half hours watching the NBA Finals Game 7 between the Cleveland LeBrons and the Golden Skinned Warriors? Or would I watch from home so I could change channels to HBO and catch Game of Thrones Episode 9, the Bastard Bowl (official episode title “Battle of the Bastards”)? The battle between the noble Jon Snow and the sociopath Ramsey Bolton was six seasons in the making and the NBA Finals was seven games (or 13 years, or 52 years, depending on how you count) in the making.
Both nights of television were going to be historic. Game of Thrones’ "Battle of the Bastards" was being billed as the biggest, bloodiest battle in the history of the show. The show makers filmed 86 hours of footage for the battle alone. If Ramsey Bolton won, all the good guys left on the show would be killed and the rest of the remaining cast would probably get massacred by the White Walkers next season. If Jon Snow and Sansa Stark won, the good guys would actually score a victory on a show that treats heroism like a rash that has to be stamped out at all costs. On the NBA side, if LeBron James lost he’d be the underachieving guy who couldn’t bring a championship to Cleveland. If he won, he'd scoot up the big kids’ table with Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Forever. The NBA Finals won out, and I came home and watched Game of Thrones later. And while both had their charms, Game of Thrones was definitely more satisfying than Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and here are five reasons why.
1. The Bad Guys Got What They Deserved
After watching Ramsey Bolton (truly one of the most disgusting and awful villains on television since Schillinger on Oz) rape, commit patricide and feed his own family to dogs over the last five episodes, he finally got his comeuppance. He got taken out in the worst possible way; beat down publicly, embarrassed, and put to a bloody death by his ex-wife Sansa Stark. Watching Ramsey Bolton die felt cathartic, like, finally there was some justice in the world. By comparison, were there really any bad guys in the NBA Finals? I mean, I was as tired of Draymond Green's and Ayesha Curry’s antics as the next person, but they weren’t bad people. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t know that Steve Kerr had Mark Jackson flay anyone alive, or that Klay Thompson killed any Cavaliers player’s family with a bow and arrow.
2. The Women Were the Smartest People in the Room
Speaking of Ayesha Curry, her role in the NBA playoffs escalated quickly didn’t it? Steph Curry’s better half has been the subject of way too much sexist and vulgar criticism throughout the NBA playoffs for *gasp* having the audacity of expressing an opinion about the game of basketball while being a woman. Mrs. Curry may have gone too far in accusing the NBA of being rigged, but hard as it may be for some to believe as a fan, as a spouse of an NBA player, Ayesha Curry actually does have some valid insights to share about the game of basketball. Insights that, of course, will be totally forgotten in a flood of Crying Jordan memes after the NBA Finals. Flip to “Battle of the Bastards” on Game of Thrones, and the women were on top. Basically every single woman on the show was right, and most of the men were wrong. More importantly, every man on the show who tried to mansplain to the womenfolk how they were too delicate and naive to master statecraft or warfare ended up being proved wrong and getting bailed out by those very same women. I’ll take that over Curry-crying Jordan soufflé any day.
3. The Owners Were Finally Put in Their Place
You know LeBron James can’t stand Cleveland Cavaliers team owner Dan Gilbert, right? It’s all sweaty hugs and team pictures now, but LeBron knows that for all of his hard work, Gilbert gets a ring too. Gilbert, who helped cause the housing crisis, the NBA lockout and called out LeBron James' manhood in a Comic Sans rant after “The Decision,” is still the team owner and still LeBron James’ boss. No freedom there. During Sunday night’s “Battle of the Bastards” Game of Thrones episode, the entire leadership of the “Masters,” the former owners of the Meereen slaves, was taken out for attempting to re-enslave the entire city. No more owners abusing the bodies of the masses and taking all the credit. The best part? Grey Worm, the leader of the army, and a black man, was personally responsible for giving all of his former masters nice Colombian neckties. That’s how you spell freedom.
4. Next Season Still Matters
Games of Thrones succeeded Sunday night in doing something that is very hard to do for a television show after six seasons: Make you eagerly anticipate the season finale and the next season. What is going down with Sansa and Littlefinger? Will Jon Snow figure out what price he has to pay for a new life? Is there a member of the Stark family with a longer lifespan than a Star Trek Redshirt? This episode left you satisfied and looking forward to more. Game 7 of the NBA Finals? It’s over now. The Cleveland Cavaliers have brought the first championship to the city of Cleveland in 52 years. Only about 4 percent of the city’s entire population was both alive and living in Cleveland the last time it won a championship of any kind. All are saying they can die happy now, and Cavaliers fans are saying they don’t need to win anything else to be satisfied. Winning a championship after this long a drought doesn’t make you excited about next season; your itch has been scratched. If anything, next season, even if the Cavaliers win again, it will never feel as good as Sunday night.
5. Game of Thrones Won’t Make You Cry
I enjoy Game of Thrones. I thoroughly enjoy basketball. Both have their emotional ups and downs. I knew in Sunday night’s episode when Ramsey Bolton promised Rickon Stark that he could run for freedom, that it was a trick. True to Ramsey form, just as Rickon was about to be scooped up by his long-lost brother Jon Snow, Bolton shot an arrow through the kid’s back. I was furious. I was sad. But I did not cry. However, after watching Cleveland Cavalier and resident hoverboard-bad-boy J.R. Smith break down and cry during the postgame press conference, talking about everything his father had done and still does for him to make him a better man? I must admit. I had to check the pollen count in my living room. I’m sure that was the reason for my sniffles. Had to be.
Jason Johnson, political editor at The Root, is a professor of political science at Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera International, Fox Business News and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Follow him on Twitter.