Once again we, the North American sports fan, are being locked outside of our favourite sports arena as the money hungry combatants battle it out for more cash. The NBA has joined the NFL in lockout mode—both sports leagues effectively thumbing their collective noses at the hard working proletariat that supports their business. And while I can certainly find something else to do with my time, and disposable income, it is those who need the games for their income who will suffer the most.
At least David Stern acknowledged this point when announcing the lockout—stating that it was the ticket vendors, the concessionaires, the ushers–those who work during a game to complete the experience for the fan and who need the money to either survive or else need it as a necessary supplement to their income who would feel it.
I can understand the NBA needing a new economic model—Stern stated that 22 out of the 30 teams were losing money. But I believe the mismanaged fault lies with two parties—the owners for spending more money than they earn and the league who have slowly been running this league into the ground.
The owners seemed to have no problem in handing out heavy contracts no matter how dire their financial situation. It’s one thing to sign a superstar to a massive contract and watch as that player’s ability quickly diminishes—like Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison or Richard Hamilton—it’s quite another to throw heavy dollars at players who have no business being in the high rent district—like Al Harrington, Hedo Turkoglu, Eddy Curry, Ben Gordon and Corey Maggette. These are the contracts that have led to the lockout.
But the league itself is also to blame for this supposed economic mess. One of the reasons that so many clubs are crying poor is because of their inability to put a competitive club on the court. Granted dim-witted management is always the major cause for mediocrity but the NBA’s marketing plan that lifted its star players and placed them on pedestals inevitably found its way into the games. When star players are given so much more latitude than ordinary players it creates an arena of uncertainty within the game, and the blatant favouritism can lead to something as vile as an official selling games. It is a natural evolution that when officials are instructed to play favourites fair play becomes a distant memory, and soon becomes part of the gamblers income.
So if only the top players, and the top teams, receive the league’s assistance then a chasm occurs between the haves and the have-nots. Then the fans stop paying attention, and paying money, to the have-nots. End result—a lockout.
The Western Conference has been represented in the NBA finals by three teams in the past 13 years. The Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks have been the team to come out of the west every year since Utah did so in 1998—when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls beat the Jazz in six games. It hasn’t been as apparent in the east as nine teams have won the conference but on only three occasions did the east team win the title. In fact the Lakers won five of the thirteen titles with the Spurs winning four. Two teams won nearly seventy percent of the time.
Did the NBA think that it was good for the long term health of the league if the large majority of its teams had little chance of being competitive? It’s more than talent and the game that keeps the fans interested—they need hope. While the NBA talked about parity in actuality they believed that dominance was the key to their business model. That plan had worked wonders for years but the league has evolved away and the fans now want a good, and fair, game above all else. They just aren’t getting it.
Now the NFL is a completely different story. Here is a league where everybody is making money. Outside of the lack of guaranteed contracts the players are taken care of (if only this was the case for many of the players from years gone by who are struggling to simply survive because of the lack of a pension fund for them). The teams are strong and healthy—not only from the multi-billion dollar television contract but from the multi-billion dollars earned from merchandising. There is no reason for this league to be in a lockout except the owners just want more of the pie. The players are simply trying to stand their ground as the owners attempt to steamroll them.
The NBA is a long way from an agreement and likely will miss games while the NFL will find a way to hammer out an agreement before any games are lost. The NBA needs an overhaul—the NFL just a tweak.
The MLB contract is up for renewal in December but baseball has long since learned the errors of its ways. Unlike the other professional sports in North America the baseball owners have learned not to challenge the players association and instead began working toward the partnership that each sport claims to desire. Slowly the game seems to be settling though it remains the only one of the four major team sports to operate without a salary cap—an issue when the Yankees can spend more than $200 million and are in the playoffs every year when Kansas City and Pittsburgh are forced to spend far less and never make it. Nonetheless, there will be no labour stoppage and the Yankees will continue to spend more than any other club.
The NHL will reach the end of its labour deal shortly before the start of the 2012 campaign. The gains and strides made from the lost year in 2004 (the salary cap) need to be augmented especially witnessing the free-for-all that took place on the first day of this year’s free agent period. Boss Bettman couldn’t be happy watching the money and the terms being tossed around—more than one-quarter of a billion dollars was spent in one day. This can’t be what he foresaw when the league shut down for the year.
Don’t tell me another lockout looms? Well, at least there is always golf and tennis.
…It appears as if the Blue Jays have recognized that this year’s club is not a contender and will return to its original plan of building for the future. When that future will arrive, however, is anyone’s guess.
…Apparently there was a heavyweight boxing match on Saturday night. Boxing has struggled as a sport for a number of years and the heavyweights, once the glamour division with worldwide interest, is strictly an afterthought. I watched some of the fight in replay mode on Sunday and I can definitely see why. There was a Russian building who moved like he was encased in cement fighting some guy who looked more like a runner than a fighter. Even the broadcasters were making fun of the fight. Any wonder why UFC is so popular.Tags: Bud Selig, David Stern, Gary Bettman, Lockouts, NBA, NFL, Roger Goodell