Today the NBA lockout finally brought the loss of regular season games. Most of us knew this was coming. If so many people seemed certain that the entire 2011-12 season will be canceled, why would the NBA think twice about scrapping the first couple weeks?
This depressing “news” is utterly unsurprising for a couple of reasons.
First, the owners have seemed so intent on appearing obstinate, settling with the players in time for Game No. 1 of 82 would make them look like penny-pinchers. Or worse, liars when it came to the financial hardships inherent in the previous system that have supposedly crippled the majority of the league’s teams. Second, unlike the NFL, the NBA could easily get away with a shorter regular season, as long as the Association is back in business by Christmas.
That still may happen, although that outlook looks more naive by the day. But if you’re looking for updates, analysis, or even complaints on the matter, you’ll have to look elsewhere after Oct. 10, 2011. Until I hear an official announcement from David Stern that the lockout is over, I will no longer mention the NBA in this space.
From this post forward, the NBA will be known as “The league that won’t be mentioned.”
Not that I was exactly competing for a Pulitzer in my coverage of subjects like Basketball Related Income, otherwise known as “BRI.” 53/47, 51.5, 50/50? Couldn’t care less. The teams won’t open up their books, making their claims of millions lost dubious at best and the division of revenues irrelevant. All we know about negotiations between the owners and players is what they decide to tell us afterward, and that’s simply a case of Stern said, Fish said.
“We offered the players a 50/50 deal. Well, no offer was actually made, but it was implied. Informally, as such things are commonly discussed. But we still want 53 percent, as do the players. We’ve made many concessions. We remain very far apart in our discussions.”
“We have made many concessions to the owners. We’re looking for a deal that works out in our long-term interests, but there is a wide gulf between us. As players, we must remain united. We are prepared to do what it takes to protect players now and into the future.”
I absolutely love watching basketball, which like all basketball fans makes me inherently frustrated by the public murkiness of the negotiations (along with how it seems like the two sides only meet once every couple weeks for a day or two — at the most). But just because I take an interest in things like TV ratings/deals, attendance figures and, oh yeah, wins and losses, it doesn’t mean I have the capacity to care about public negotiations marred by secrecy and clumsy PR tactics.
It doesn’t mean I love the sport any less, and I’ll probably grow more interested in college basketball in future months than at any point since the mid-’90s. To me, there isn’t anything more exciting in sports than the sight of a great pass, dunk, 3-point shot, blocked shot or steal lighting up five players, an entire bench of reserves, 17,000 fans, dozens of arena vendors and ushers…
Sorry, I got caught up in the PR scam perpetrated by both sides tonight, the idea that the real shame in all this is the loss of income for the auxiliary employees — the ushers, security guards, vendors, chefs, waiters, waitresses, custodians and all the others who make part-time money as a result of NBA games. But as Ethan Sherwood Strauss pointed out, “nobody really cares about stadium workers.” Strauss was mostly talking about writers who really just want to watch and cover the games, with his thoughts summarized in the following passage:
It is impolitic for that writer to post, “Forget the pretzel guy, I’m so screwed if there’s no NBA!” It doesn’t help that most fans reflexively hate the sportswriting class (I believe public opinion has swung against everyone except Joe Posnanski). By lamenting the struggle of underemployed concessioneers, the writer can cathartically vent while disguised as someone the readers can side with.
Instead of venting and possibly projecting, like some basketball writers, the owners and players are using these workers in a calculated attempt to gain leverage. But we all know the deal here. The owners think they can grind the players via a few missed paychecks and the threat of a lost season. And the people who work in the arenas are considered lucky to be almost as close to the action as the fans who pay hundreds of dollars for tickets.
And two weeks of games missed is only the beginning. That’s why I’m crying uncle now. I refuse to get any more emotionally or intellectually involved in a process that doesn’t just mock my existence as a fan and observer of the sport, but also would like nothing more than for me to obsess over their so-called meetings in order to further their goals.
No delusions of mainstream media grandeur here. This site does okay compared to the average regional sports blog, but the publicity I generate is less than the equivalent of one bean in a Costco-sized jug of Jelly Bellies. But after both sides forced the journalists covering this nonsense to sit in a hotel lobby for a full day’s shift today, I can’t help but think that the less attention focused on these people, the better.
While I tend to side with the players in this matter, since the owners seem most willing to let the season slip away and I’ve never witnessed the beauty of a Joe Lacob alley-oop to Peter Guber, this isn’t a battle between good and evil — it’s between selfish and shortsighted. So with apologies to the journalists paid to cover these meetings and all the misleading quotes that result, I simply can’t insult myself by following hard caps, soft caps, luxury taxes and every percentage point gained or conceded.
Read the room, NBA. 2011 isn’t the time to strive for the best possible deal. Consider yourselves lucky there are as many people who care about your league as there are. Until this lockout is over, I will no longer be one of them.