First of the month rant — November: Nobody will miss the NBA during work stoppage

Posted: 11/03/2011 in basketball, first of the month rant
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The NBA season was supposed to begin earlier this week and one thing is abundantly clear:

Most people can care less that the league is mired in a labor dispute and not playing basketball games.

Most of the people I communicate with regularly are sports fans and none of them are in anguish that the NBA schedule didn’t begin on Tuesday.

College basketball starts next week so fans in need of a fix will certainly have another option. Of course, the games are usually more competitive and compelling at the college ranks too.

The way I see it is the NBA is in a no-win situation. The league just isn’t held in high esteem like the NFL and both sides are seen as greedy millionaires that are acting like clueless idiots during a horrible recession.

The NBA owners forced this lockout – similar to what the NFL did earlier this year – but the players union has been unable to educate the public the way NFL players were able to do.

Part of that is because the public at large doesn’t care why the NBA is experiencing a work stoppage. The league has backup players who make more money than NFL stars so there is no way the players will ever earn the public’s sympathy.

The people who do care overwhelmingly think the players should accept what it being offered and get back to work – though playing games for a living isn’t viewed as labor by the masses.

Owners want to revamp the system and figure the players will cave once they miss a couple paychecks. The entire November schedule has already been canceled and it appears there won’t be any games played before Christmas even if a settlement is reached sometime this month.

The people who are really hurt by the impasse are the working stiffs employed by the clubs and the game-day employees who depend on the league for a living. Heck, I can include myself in that group since I make a significant percentage of my writing income during the NBA season.

I won’t reveal here how much that was last season but let’s just say my monthly take was higher than what many newspaper sportswriters make. I’m not talking entry-level kids just out of college but guys covering pro teams and college sports too.

But guess what? I’m not necessarily saddened by the work stoppage either. It’s been kind of nice this week to have spare nights to do what I want as opposed to being held hostage by the Milwaukee Bucks playing the Sacramento Kings, or some other NBA snoozer.

That’s a big part of the problem with the NBA – the product is fantastic in the playoffs when the lousy franchises have all called it a season but it is largely substandard during the regular season.

The Dallas Mavericks were an amazing story while sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the playoffs and eventually beating the Miami Heat in last season’s NBA Finals. People were thrilled to see Dirk Nowitzki finally earn an championship ring and it seemed everybody who doesn’t live in South Florida was just as happy to see LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh come up short.

Zach Randolph and the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies were another fantastic playoff story by upsetting the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the opening round and taking the fourth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder to a seventh game before falling in the second round.

But the problem with the NBA is that the momentum doesn’t carry over. When the season finally ends in mid-June, there isn’t a “can’t wait for the next season to start” feeling as there is with the NFL.

The train of thought is more like this: We’ll tune in Christmas Day for the marquee telecasts, pay token attention at the All-Star break to see who is having a big season, and start tuning in occasionally after the NCAA basketball tournament ends.

Then everybody buys in at playoff time when all the players up their performances – and we suddenly all remember why we dislike Jeff Van Gundy’s mouth and Craig Sager’s wardrobe.

But paying attention to all 82 games isn’t a priority for most sports fans. If Kevin Durant or Kobe Bryant goes off with a 50-point performance on national television, that’s fine. But most people could care less how the Minnesota Timberwolves or Washington Wizards are faring on a nightly basis.

So the NBA can go ahead with the labor stoppage and act oblivious to what the public feels. But most people just aren’t going to lose a lot of sleep over there not being an NBA regular season.

If there is a settlement that saves the season, the diehard fans will be ecstatic. The rest of the sporting populace then has to decide how much interest to have in a shortened season and inferior product.

And if there is a settlement, I’ll be happy to miss out on free time and deal with the New Jersey Nets playing the Charlotte Bobcats or the Cleveland Cavaliers playing the Houston Rockets.

Why? Because I’ll be paid to care.

I’m greedy that way … just like the owners and players, all I care about is my personal bottom line.

Otherwise, count me in with the rest of the folks who are shedding no tears over the NBA’s absence.

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