Last week I wrote about the logical reasoning behind the owners hardball strategy against the NBA union. I argued that a sustained lockout was profit maximization in it’s purest form, that the owners held such a bargaining advantage over their counterparts that there was simply no point in giving ground.
But what I glazed over in that argument was the perspective of the ticket buyers and the TV watchers, the not so inconsequential emotional loss that fans will suffer over the shifting of a few percentage points on a ledger sheet. It’s that very element that I intend to address right here.
Now I preface this by assuring you that I want to be optimistic. I want to write about a bridge to compromise, a path forward. The problem is all I keep thinking about is a path to nowhere.
The owners have essentially made an ultimatum that a 50/50 BRI split is a prerequisite on system issue tweaks. The players were not willing to give away such a concession and so the talks broke down and so now it appears both sides will lose more money as the cancelled games begin piling up. But of course the real losers in all of this? That would be us.
As fans we have invested so much into the NBA over the years only to find now that our loyalty and passion (not to mention our money) has earned us no reciprocal allegiance from those who hold power over the product we yearn to be entertained by. We are, in fact, a complete non variable in their equation.
What we find instead is a group of callous owners motivated by greed facing off against a cadre of naive players. These players may think they are fighting the good fight but I believe they are just delaying the inevitable and once they start “feeling the pain” as Spurs owner Peter Holt allegedly said, they will likely back down.
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In this way ego has gotten the better of them. While perhaps not as fully culpable as the owners, they are due their share of blame as well, if only because they too are taking for granted the fans loyalty and passion.
Both sides know there are few things that stir our emotions more than an elegant mid air improvisation, a thunderous dunk over a seven footer, a last second fade-away that splashes through for the win. They know we smile every time see a Steve Nash no look bounce pass or a Dwight Howard volleyball rejection.
It’s what the owners and players are counting on. They believe that whatever harm may be done now in the short to medium term fans will inevitably gravitate back to the game, and in essence, the product. And they’d be right.
Whether it’s two months or two years from now, people who love basketball will want to watch it played on the absolute highest level by the greatest athletes in the world. And make no mistake, there is no finer version of Naismith’s invention than the show put on in arenas across the country from the beginning of October to the middle of June.
But odds are increasing that because of the lockout we may face almost an entire fall and winter with no association hoops. And while those of us paying attention have seen this coming for months the advance notice doesn’t lessen the sting one bit.
In the end, all we’re left with is a bitter dichotomy of emotion that can expressed in a simple sentiment we’ve probably each been muttering to ourselves for weeks now:
I love basketball. I hate the NBA.
At least until I don’t.