Most fans probably have a secret fascination -- an appetite for some kind of sports junk food.
My secret is the NBA All-Star Game, that flying circus of individuality run amok that comes to the Capital Centre Feb. 3.
"If they played the NBA All-Star Game in my backyard, I'd close the blinds," said a friend. "It's the epitome of everything that's wrong with the NBA."
The NBA's midwinter shootup is for people who lick the icing off the dessert before they face up to the vegetables. Its childlike, indulgent taste, a vacation from adult realities of team play, pressure and victory.
In other words, it's for me. I've stayed up until 3 a.m. to watch NBA All-Star Game replays.
Perhaps my problem is that I was dropped on my head as a child. That is to say, at an impressionable age I was exposed to the All-Star games of 1961 and 1962 when Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Cousy all played on the same East squad -- and lost both years, 153-131 and 150-130, to Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor and Bob Pettit.
To this day, I believe that the NBA owns the only All-Star game that means what its name implies. The NFL's Pro Bowl is a poor joke and baseball's All-Star Game is merely a nice succession of cameo appearances and curtain calls.
With its sense of pure play and adventuresomeness, the NBA classic is the only showcase that offers a distillation of its game's best moments of grace.
Instead of a strategic battle, we are offered a jam session with 22 eccentric virtuosos all trying to light up the night with their musical inventions.
It is no accident that of all the pro all-star bashes, the NBA has the only one where nobody would dream of in venting an injury or begging off.
Any dude who ducks this gig is certified jive.
That should particularly be the case this year, since the fan voting has selected two starting teams that are dominated by spectacular and shameless soloists.
Who could ask for a better confrontation at guard than 6-foot-7 George Gervin (East) against 6-8 Earvin Johnson? Both are offensive innovators with pterodactyl wing spans who play defense like dime-store mannekins.
What more splendid matchup of soaring muscle could be requested than Julius Erving (East) against Marques Johnson? Erving has the best ratio of points to minutes in NBA all-star history (75 points in 96 minutes). Johnson, the Nacogdoches Body Snatcher, may, for multiple skills, be the NBA's best all-around forward.
At the other forward, we are offered the NBA's two garbage collectors supreme. John Drew and Adrian Dantley are the men from Glad, always delighted to collect two points that are just lying around like refuse. Drew collects gimme points everywhere, while Dantley is a magician of litter under the boards.
And at center, we have the two best -- and most stylistically opposite -- centers in the NBA: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the shooter, and Moses Malone, the rebounder.
For hoop fans who never met an offensive rebound they didn't like, it is of note that inch for inch Abdul-Jabbar is the worst and Malone the best in the NBA among pivot men in this category.
The 7-foot-1 Jabbar averages 3.3 offensive rebounds per 48 minutes, while 6-9 1/2 Malone gets 9.7 (dwarfing the NBA's next best figure of 6.9 by Chicago's Mark Landsberger).
Only one confrontation is a mismatch: Lloyd (Been Set) Free with his 31.3-point average, against the East's Eddie Johnson, who is on the starting team primarily because of a ballot box stuffing campaign in Atlanta.
It is the all-star game's great blessing that the coaches' vote -- to be released this week -- picks the remaining six players on each team. If the fan vote elected the whole 11-man team, it would be far worse than any of baseball's ballot travesties.
If the fans (and the promotion directors who get out the vote with giveaways) had their way, the East's reserve guards would be Atlanta's Armond Hill and Washington's Kevin Porter. Both have played so poorly that they have lost their jobs and can't even start for their own teams.
Rounding out the East team would be Larry Bird (good), Atlanta's Dan Roundfield (not quite so good, compared with Elvin Hayes, who is on the team, or Cedric Maxwell) and a pair of centers who should stay home -- Darryl Dawkins and Dave Cowens.
Dawkins, who leads the NBA in shattering backboards (two) and talking trash (ad nauseum), is a distant second on his own team to 7-1 Caldwell Jones in rebounds, blocked shots and overall value. Does Dr. Dunkenstein have to slash somebody's throat with shattered glass before the media stops hyping him? Even sub Steve Mix would be a better choice from Philadelphia.
Cowens, a fine team player, simply has a new and reduced role in his 10th season. Bird and Maxwell are Boston's leading rebounders and scorers. Cowens complements.
It is New York Knick rookie Bill Cartwright (seventh in points, ninth in shooting percentage) who should back Malone at center.
The judgement of West fans was much better. Their votes would have added Lonnie Shelton, Walter Davis, Jack Sikma, Dennis Johnson, Paul Westphal and Gus Williams to the starting five -- not a bad bunch, although top-heavy in champion Sonics.
Swen Nater and a Kansas City guard -- either Phil Ford or Otis Birdsong -- are the main oversights here.
Once the NBA coaches' vote rounds out the customary sensible teams, the rest will be left to that mysterious chemistry that has ruled the previous 29 NBA All-Star games.
For instance, in the six games in which Russell and Chamberlain played together -- always against over-matched West centers -- they lost three times, even in '62 when they split time for 54 points and 36 rebounds.
Yet when Russell played against Chamberlain -- even when Wilt had Pettit, Baylor. West and Co. -- Russell won all four times.
The hidden clue to NBA All-Star games has often been the imprint of one dominant personality, usually that of a player who had a unique overview of the game.
Russell was 5-1 in games when Chamberlain wasn't a teammate. Far, more dramatic was Oscar Robertson, who although he changed from East to West to East and back to West, had an 11-1 record in all-star games.
Amidst all the glitter and showmanship, the NBA All-Star Game has demonstrated that nothing affects a superior basketball game like one guiding hand, one orchestrating mind.
If the NBA's current problems in TV ratings can be traced to one cause, it may not be the lack of great individual talents, but of central winning personalities. Of the NBA's five leading scorers -- Gervin, Free Dantley, Malone and Erving -- only Dr. J. has ever led a team to the championship round.
Perhaps this will be the year when those superb, unselfish rookies -- Magic Johnson and Larry Bird -- begin to return that feeling of genuine basketball sensibility to a sport that can only be carried so far by mere ability, no matter how breathtaking.