With the NBA’s 2011-12 season still hanging precariously in the balance throughout the summer months as little is done on either side of the player/owner divide to bargain civilly to end the imposed lockout, the typical happenings of the league during the offseason continue on quietly in the background, while the players vs. owners battle takes center stage throughout the next few months leading up to the (now possibly in doubt) new season. Though perhaps a little more focus than usual bubbles up on minor headlines around summer league play, as well as a heightened attention towards the possibility of big-name players heading overseas to compete in foreign leagues rather than face sitting out potentially an entire season, all the rumblings in the offseason this year certainly make for a more lively experience for fans, who have by now gone through the process once already with the NFL.
By now, we’ve seen this scenario played out in extreme detail before; players want more money, owners want more money. Someone has to give. As of yesterday, the first strike in this lockout however has been from the owners, who yesterday jumped into the shark-infested waters of litigation, filing suit in New York City to claim that the players plan to decertify their union, and then plan to follow up with an anti-trust suit of their own against the NBA’s 30 owners. It’s certainly ironic after seeing the path that the NFL lockout took (heading into decertification, then a lawsuit engaged by the players), to witness yet another sports league heading into the courtroom, especially once the final legal tally for the NFL is added up, and the eventual outcome being settled outside of the legal realm, but for those of us who love a good sports story mixed with some drama, by all means, why not go through it all again just to watch more rich people squabble over millions?
Tuesday’s legal filing certainly puts the owners in the drivers’ seat as far as any courtroom battle goes, but as we just saw a few weeks ago with the end of the NFL lockout, legal action seems to merely be a side show and a waste of money grandstanding your ’cause’ before both sides eventually settle down, meet face to face, and hammer out a deal that has both sides as rich as they were before. The fans certainly know that there are billions on the table in these disputes, and it’s more than likely that both sides will make concessions for the sake of getting back to the greedy game of raking in dollars handed out by ticketholders and TV Networks, even if it costs them a few bucks here and there. Where the biggest change has been from the NFL to the NBA lockout however, is that NFL fans were genuinely concerned at the prospect of no football (being the biggest game on the planet, revenue- and viewership-wise). Now we have a repeat scenario whereby a couple key components have changed. 1). people are growing beyond tired of paying attention to the rich and the even-more-rich bicker back and forth, and 2). the hard fact is that people simply don’t care about the NBA like they do the NFL. Find any sports blog or article talking about the NBA right now, and the feedback from the general public is that we have football back, the NBA game has lost appeal with the rise of the individual in the game, so let the NBA owners and players call their bluffs, and meanwhile we won’t really care whether the NBA opens the 2011-12 season or not.
Judging by the outcome of the NFL lockout, while the tactics used in the NBA lockout may differ as to who strikes first and who emerges with a slightly better deal in the end, I think that we can likely expect that with so much money sitting on a table, eventually a deal will get done, even if it means losing some of the 2011-12 season. Admittedly, it’s almost exciting to see happenings in the international basketball world as players seek other possibilities in the face of a work stoppage in the U.S., and for most I think it would almost be amusing to watch the NBA owners and players collectively lose money while the fans got to sit back and enjoy their football without distraction. While the fans certainly would have been the big losers in the NFL debate, the NBA owners and players need to realize that it’s them that stands to lose, not us, this time around. Better to call off the legal dogs, make your concessions and get back to playing ball, because in the end the fans won’t come crawling back to the NBA like we will for the NFL.