Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NBA should be wary of lockout consequences

On Monday, the NBA cancelled the first two weeks of the NBA season. Color me shocked – I thought they would cancel a lot more games after two days of negotiations failed to bridge the “significant” gap between the players and owners.

Is everyone as sick of these league lockouts as I am? Are we really going to have to go through this every few years in every league? This year alone started with the potential NFL lockout, now the NBA… and this one isn’t going away any time soon - and I do expect more cancellations.

Why am I being so pessimistic? Because right now the two sides won’t budge, and a gap can’t be bridged if neither side will compromise. In fact, the only way to come to an agreement is if both sides accept now, rather than later, that they will each have to make some compromises – that’s how negotiations work.

What should terrify owners is the hole they will have to dig out of with this lockout, especially is the entire season is cancelled. Last season was the best in the history of the NBA in terms of revenues and TV ratings and with the economy the way it is, a prolonged lockout will have dire consequences. It took some time for the NBA to recover from the 1998 lockout, and that was when the economy was in a much better place. This time around, it will likely take a lot longer for the league to recuperate.

As it stands, the league – players and owners alike – is showing it doesn’t really care about the fans. The owners want us to believe that if they get what they want, it will improve the balance of the league – as if the “have” owners care about the “have nots.” Do you think Los Angeles Lakers care that the Charlotte Bobcats can’t compete with them? Come on, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

The NBA could learn something from the NFL – and I know they are sick of hearing that. For starters, the NFL had it right when they came to a deal before any games were cancelled. Secondly – and probably more importantly in the long run – the NFL achieves parity with their salary cap. The players and owners all make their money – and a lot of it – yet small markets teams manage to succeed. Look the Green Bay Packers, last year’s Super Bowl Champions – they are the smallest market professional team in the U.S.

Some NBA teams report that they are not turning a profit. NFL teams make money, and the league doesn’t have guaranteed contracts. Do you think that’s just a coincidence? The excessive guaranteed contracts that NBA owners give players – make no mistake, the owners are largely at fault for these – are killing the league. Teams stuck with gigantic contracts for players who are barely on the court can’t rebuild, and the cycle is never ending.

Should fans side with the NBA players who believe they deserve millions to play a game, or the owners who have enough money to pay them? It’s hard to decide –millionaires (players) or billionaires (owners)? I’m taking the easy way out: I’m on the side of the fan who spends an inordinate amount of hard-earned money and time to be entertained, and who doesn’t need to be reminded that what these millionaires “deserve.”

The NFL is the most popular league in America; the NBA wants to be, but if they continue to cancel games and ignore the fans, they’ll never recover from this lockout.

That being said, a lockout-shortened season can only help my aging Celtics, so this could be a good thing for Boston fans – always looking for the silver lining!

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