The Afternoon Before: Joining the chorus

A couple of basketball lockout notes this week. So yeah, I’m just like everyone else.

Love this adI make a living in baseball, and though I’m not crazy about everything the sport does, the power brokers behind the game have been able to learn from their mistakes for the sake of the big picture. The labor situation in baseball is about as good as it’s ever been, resulting in business as usual, even during a recession. They have a good thing going – no need to trip over their own feet.

The NFL gets it, too. Both sides were looking pretty bad for a while during the spring and summer, but when it came down to it, they knew they couldn’t miss any regular-season games. You barely even hear their lockout referenced now. They realized they had a good thing going, and worked things out during the window they had to not mess everything up.

Conversely, everyone involved with the NBA lockout can only be described as clueless for letting things get to this point.

They’re clueless for not learning from history. A lockout was a devastating way to usher in the post-Jordan era in the late 90’s. It literally took years to recover, you might even say until this past year. And just 12 years later, they let it happen again, sending them back to the drawing board, because they didn’t properly fix things the first time.

They’re clueless for not realizing that they need fans more than fans need them. Baseball is in the midst of its most exciting late-season run probably since 2004, football runs right through February, and hockey just started if you’re into that. The NCAA should be doing backflips; only die-hards typically pay very much attention to college basketball before the beginning of March, but they’ll probably pick up at least some NBA fans in need of a fix.

They’re clueless for not realizing that they have an image problem to begin with. Some of that no doubt comes from racism inherent to the sport’s relationship with the public, but they also bring a good amount of it on themselves. When people think of NBA players, the first thing that comes to mind is LeBron James’ ill-fated Decision fiasco, the victory party in Miami before the Heat had actually won anything, and an endless string of Adrian Wojnarowski takedowns.

They’re clueless for thinking they can provide a weak substitute and people would go for it. People are sick of hearing about these glorified playground scrimmages. Amar’e Stoudemire’s flights of fancy with some alternate league are laughable. Players tweeting about flitting off to Europe doesn’t help matters, and nor does LeBron’s lame media-abetted joke about playing football, as detailed by friend of SportsAngle Dan Mennella.

(Mind you, if LeBron were to actually play for the Bengals or something, it’d be the most hilarious thing in sports history. But there’s a less than zero chance it happens.)

Wonder what that kid is up to…

Most of all, they’re clueless for not realizing that an American public in the midst of a recession doesn’t have the patience for this. The jobless rate is still at an astronomical 9.1%, and people have no interest in hearing about how a bunch of billionaires and a bunch of millionaires can’t figure out how to divide up four billion dollars. Meanwhile, the ones that are hurt the most are the peripheral players: stadium workers, publicity staff, interns trying to break into the industry.

I’m just stunned by the ignorance and arrogance involved in letting it get to this point. There are obviously serious problems when there are teams making five to six times what others make, but again – they had a lockout 12 years ago. (At least that one had the above Sprite ad, a personal favorite.) That was their opportunity to install a revenue sharing system that other major sports have thrived with. For the league to have not preemptively fixed the issues they’re experiencing now is unconscionable.

It took me over three years after the 1994 baseball strike to even entertain the notion of going to a game again. As someone who can barely even look at James Dolan without getting sick, it might be a while before I pay to go back to an NBA game.

In time, this too will pass; an instant-information society has drastically shortened the shelf life of every news cycle. But this isn’t NFL football, where it’s an engrained part of American life. And with people starting to come to grips that there may not be any sort of season this year, by the time the NBA gets back on its feet, they may realize there’s not very much to come back to.

******

I wrote for Dime Magazine last week something I’ve been thinking about for a long time about how Michael Jordan has not translated his enormous capital with the American public into much of a post-playing presence. This is especially true when compared to, say, Magic Johnson, who has arguably been more successful with the resources he has with creating jobs in inner cities than the United States government.

Air tireIn what I’d imagine is merely a coincidence, Marc Spears at Yahoo Sports wrote something very similar to my piece a couple days later, specifically focusing on Jordan’s silence during the lockout. Never mind that Jordan has been vocal in supporting a revenue sharing system during negotiations.

Is it any great mystery why Jordan hasn’t been right out there with the television cameras on? Clamoring for what is basically a socialist system would essentially be the equivalent of crying poverty, not a good look for someone who sells the good life as part of his personal brand. We know Jordan’s position; revenue sharing would help him make an enormous amount of money despite, and in some ways because of, the small market the Bobcats play in.

I think it’s reasonable to wonder why Jordan isn’t more of a relative presence the way he was when he played – I mean, that’s why I wrote about it. But it’s not brain surgery to see why he’s not more of a presence during the lockout. It’s not a good look for him.

*****

WEEK 5 PICKS
Season record: 8-4-3

Last week: 2-0-1 – Won with Chargers and Bengals, pushed with Patriots. Lots of big lines this week, which are far tougher to pick than smaller lines, in my opinion.

Saints -4.5 at Bucs – I don’t like the Bucs’ chances of keeping up with the Saints in a shootout.

Panthers +4 at Falcons – Matt Ryan just isn’t an elite quarterback, to me, and they don’t have Julio Jones this week. Cam’s going to put up points.

Ravens -7.5 vs. Texans – Presumably still no Andre Johnson, who went nuts against them last year. I’d have to think the Ravens are just going to stack it up against Arian Foster. They’ve given up 57 points in four games.

Esoteric

2 Comments

  1. Someone brought up a good point about MJ’s relationships with his Brand Jordan players – CP, Melo, DWade and on and on. Or maybe MJ is smart enough to realize that any owner who speaks up, aside from Cuban, is likely to be reviled.

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