The NBA Lockout

By Matt Melton

Jeremy Sickel and Geoff Ratliff, Editors

There is not a single professional sports fan that enjoys discussing their favorite league’s labor issues or financial problems. Not one fan who would rather talk about the comings and goings of lockouts and union reps, over trade rumors and the night’s matchup at point guard. The only good labor discussion is the one that ends the labor discussion.

To all my fellow NBA fans, we will get there, the lockout will end.  Basketball games will resume with eye-popping dunks and goosebump-shivering swishes, it will all be back. Even Charles Barkley will be back on TNT, eventually. These are facts; I think.

Whenever someone asks me whether I prefer professional or college sports, my first response is to laugh. Why would I ever prefer an inferior product to a superior one? Professional players are far better than college players. It is my duty as a sports consumer to follow the best product on the market. And I say this as a season ticket holder for my local Division I men’s college basketball team.

The NBA is, however, making it very difficult for me to continue to make that argument with a straight face. It’s true; basketball has been through this before – with the lockout during the 1998-1999 season – and the NBA survived. In fact, that 50 game sprint of a season was quite enjoyable. We all know football just went through a lockout this past offseason. We witnessed millions of fans actually long for an NFL product that was never gone. Even baseball managed to survive the unthinkable, after giving us the “World Series That Never Was” in 1994.

The problem that I see with the NBA is that no one seems to care.  Yesterday’s SportsCenter might have dedicated 30 seconds of airtime to the lockout. Today’s sports section will devote a couple of paragraphs, giving us a cut and paste job from the AP newswire. And tomorrow’s headlines will read the same way — negotiators meet, little or no progress is made, rinse and repeat.

With each passing day, the league is becoming more out of sight, and even more out of mind. That’s the real problem this time; with this labor battle – apathy rules the day. If the league and union do battle in a forest, and nobody is there to see it, does it really happen? I want the NBA to return, and I know it eventually will, but I fear that I can continue to live on without ever giving the NBA another thought again.

The NBA cannot ask a family of four to spend, on average,  upwards of $300 to attend one game, and then so irresponsibly not figure out a way to fairly split $4 billion in revenue between the owners and players. The owners and players cannot ask fans to be patient through this process, while they spend their time in meeting rooms shouting over each other, or even worse, ignoring the other party altogether.

Derek Fisher, as head of the players union, I implore you to accept the only solution that makes sense – Commissioner David Stern’s offer of a 50-50 split. If you don’t, fine by me, and fine by America. The question really will become “How many games can the Lions actually win this year?”

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