No sympathy and no tears for the NBA now, just as there haven’t
been any for the NFL in the months since it has declared itself
By Monte Poole – The Oakland Tribune
No sympathy and no tears for the NBA now, just as there haven’t been any for the NFL in the months since it has declared itself temporarily dead.
And it’s not that those who love basketball and football don’t care that America’s leading businesses in two of its favorite sports have gone dark.
Yes, the NBA lockout Friday morning joins the NFL lockout that began in March.
Yes, it’s unprecedented that two such instrumental and influential professional sports leagues are simultaneously suspended.
Yes, it has created some anxiety.
But there’s no point to going full conniption or even partial mourning when not a game has been missed. The NFL went underground after the Super Bowl, and the NBA waited until the Finals to delete itself from the sports map. The regularly scheduled NFL season is more than two months away, the NBA season nearly four months out.
The leagues are not being seen at a time when it’s customary not to see them.
It’s the games that attract us, that put us in front of our TVs, send us to the ticket windows and have us yelling our lungs into the next county. The games take us and shake us, breaking our hearts or tingling our spines or leaving us thrilled beyond description.
We surely would scream for games were either sport already in season, and we might even be on edge with anticipation now if not for matters slightly more important.
Matters like our own employment and solvency. Nearly 10 percent of able-bodied Americans are jobless, and many of those still getting a regular paycheck wake up each day wondering how long it will keep coming.
Can’t buy a ticket without money, can’t earn money without a job, can’t get a job when so few are available.
Matters like keeping a roof overhead. Homeowners are throwing up their hands and abandoning properties at an astonishing rate because they are unable to afford astronomically rising payments. Foreclosed homes are on every block, often in bunches, eyesores on display, visible as stray cats.
Then there are matters like deadlocked local, state and national governments, keeping millions in administrative limbo, as well as epidemic layoffs of public safety workers such as cops and firefighters.
Should we be more alarmed about whether there will be pro football or pro basketball months from now – or whether someone will respond when we call 911?
The lockouts are a stark reminder that sports are not mere games but big business – and that big business is asking for sacrifice, usually from the bottom. Then, too, businesses in 2011 are being smacked around by a constipated economy, industry evolution and greedy stockholders, a three-punch combination that can be lethal.
At the least, Larry and Linda Fan are left reeling. So pardon them if they don’t have the time and energy to follow, much less educate themselves in, ongoing hostilities between millionaire athletes and billionaire owners.
There are, for the record, a few things to know:
1) NBA players are, in the grand scheme, considerably better off than NFL players. They get guaranteed contracts and they have superior overall benefits.
2) NBA owners are slightly more intransigent than NFL owners, rightfully insofar as they would kill for a revenue pie as fat as that being shared by the NFL.
3) A majority of NBA owners say they are losing money. Not all are exaggerating.
4) Whereas the NFL is like Teflon in its amazing capacity to withstand assault, even when self-inflicted, the NBA is more like silk, ever vulnerable to anything less than optimum conditions.
5) Principals in neither league know little about real sacrifice.
NBA conditions in 2010-11 were very optimum, with spikes in TV ratings and web traffic. LeBron James made himself a fantastic story line. The postseason was fabulous. The league was stronger than at any time since Michael Jordan was a Chicago Bull.
Now it’s finding loose stitches and tugging at them.
Look, every lockout is, to a degree, an attempt by the owners to save themselves from themselves. And always, owners end up burning money on bad contracts.
It’s easier to survive that approach in the NFL, where any owner who poisons himself knows the league has an antidote. NBA owners want something closer to what NFL owners already have.
Fans, however, don’t care about that. They don’t want the details of discussions, and they tune out updates reporting progress or setbacks. The financial stakes are, quite simply, beyond the comprehension of many and beyond the circle of concern for all.
They just want the games. And they’ll be heard if games are missed.
Meanwhile, they endure. They know it will get better. They’ve seen enough sports lockouts to know they represent one instance when death is merely temporary.