By: Shawn Davis
We do this for the fans. Our goal is to settle this so we can get back to playing for our fans. It’s about them, we do it for them. – Professional Leagues and Athletes
It’s not breaking news to know that the NBA season lost its first two weeks due to the labor dispute between the players and owners. They are far apart on a new collective bargaining agreement and there’s real concern whether the NBA will actually have games this year. Now the Christmas slate of games is in jeopardy as Commissioner David Stern stated: “If we don’t make it on Tuesday, my gut – this is not in my official capacity of canceling games – but my gut is that we won’t be playing on Christmas Day.” Panic anyone?
The quote that leads this piece makes me want to fart. Listen NBA, be real about what’s happening ok? It’s not about the fans – and it never has or will be – and that doesn’t bother me. The lie does! It’s about making sure you get the best deal for your pockets and I’ll never begrudge anyone for trying to maximize what they can take home during their athletic prime or what they can do to achieve the profit margins they’re looking for. Yet you sit there saying this whole thing is about “getting back on the court for the fans.” Just get your check while holding back the snickering among your peers!
Fans, you are not that important and I’m sorry to be the messenger. Why? Because the NBA takes for granted that you’ll be there when the ball is tipped in the air, whenever that is; there’s the saving grace for both parties. At the end of the day they’ll eventually settle this, the gates will open and the fanatics will return. Don’t mistake any of the posturing (or public relations stunts) as anything more than power moves.
This is big business people. This is a transaction. I’m not mad and neither should anyone else that follows pro sports. Why are fans upset? Well they make the mistake of trying to bridge what they do to what a professional athlete does; they personalize it. An office manager in New York tries to compare what they do to Carmelo Anthony working in the post, a truck driver in Los Angeles tries to find parallels between his workload and Kobe’s, etc. Yeah, that’s not practical.
Can this be changed? Hard to answer but you can look to the NHL for a point of reference. They lost a whole season in 2004-05 due to a labor dispute, lost their national television contract with ESPN and only recently have they begun to garner the interest – in America– they had pre-lockout. The Versus network stepped in to offer them a home because they no longer had a major broadcast partner to get their product to the masses – and the partnership has proven to be mutually beneficial. The fans eventually returned and it seemed that both the players and league officials showed genuine remorse over losing the season. With that said, it’s STILL a business transaction. Team owners were more than happy to lose the entire season in order to break the player’s union and then hand them a labor contract that went down like swallowing a spoonful of nails.
I don’t care about any owner/player in the grand scheme of things but when it pertains to professional sports, I’ll always side with players (for the most part). Especially in the NFL where players’ contracts are written on toilet paper but this is about the NBA so I’ll keep my focus there. Owners give talent absurdly asinine deals, seriously! A player isn’t going to say they’re overpaid. I wouldn’t, who would? I’d love to be overpaid!
There isn’t a person that gets excited to go to a stadium, turn on the television, buy a jersey, get tickets, or purchases a sports video-game to see owners at their desks. Last time I checked that doesn’t get anyone excited. Unless you’re on the set of “The Apprentice”, I guess.
A good portion of fans side with owners because of the boss-employee relationship they have in their daily lives. I see the parallel there but that’s where it ends. There aren’t many people on the planet doing the things, athletically, that Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin can. Those working in offices, sadly, can be replaced on the fly with anyone from the line forming around the corner. There’s a reason the masses pay to see sports and it’s because the athletic gifts showcased are rare and make for great entertainment.
Personally, I could care less if the season is lost because my favorite sport is the NFL and that won’t ever change with MMA, WWE, NBA and MLB rounding out the list. Who cares about the length of this labor dispute? Restaurants, bars, hotels, team staff, concession clerks, etc; I care about them. We cannot forget about the waitresses in Hooters either. Strip clubs aren’t going to run themselves people. Do you see how many tentacles this thing has?
Now why is everyone afraid because two weeks of the season is lost? Nothing of note really airs in the summer – except for bad reality shows – so why can’t the league start in late November and run through early July? You can still get in a full 82-game schedule and the horrendously long first-round playoff series, all the way through the NBA Finals. I hate seven games for the opening round (I miss the best-of-five and it’s one of the reasons the game isn’t as exciting to me; seven games are fine for the other rounds) but besides that why not push the league into the summer? I would. If I were in the players union, I would discuss this with the owners because they’ll try to hammer the players for losing two weeks of revenue over the cancelled games. Get on it, guys. The deal won’t write itself.
Athletes are detached from the problems that most of us face and people have to realize this. The inability to compromise shows a lack of awareness in reference to the problems occurring in the real world. People are struggling with mortgages, rent, food and others are being fired without having a cushion of unemployment benefits to help them. These are problems. Some are worried every morning about walking into their jobs, armed with the thought that it could be the day when the company “goes in a different direction.”
It’s a business and should only be viewed that way. No matter how much a fan cares, they always get the short end.