Here we are, day 96 of this juvenile pity-party we are now affectionately referring to as the NBA lockout. Thanks to the patheticness (yep, made that word up) of what both David Stern and Billy Hunter are mis-labeling as real negotiating, I am stuck penning another lockout update column (despite earlier reports that I would rather jump off the Santa Monica Pier).
This time around, let’s cut the politically correct according to published reports BS and talk about two things, (a) the most important group in the negotiations and (b) the most effected group in the negotiations. They are, in fact, one and the same group.
The lockout could be likened to a lot of things (e.g. any number of scenes from Mean Girls), but here’s the easiest way to break it down.
Your cell phone provider calls you and says, “Thanks for being a great customer and paying your bill every month. We can’t decide how we want to use your money to pay our employees, so we’re going to discontinue service until we work it out.”
As if that’s not preposterous enough, here’s where the implicit arrogance of the NBA trickles into the conversation:
“And as soon as we work it out, we fully expect you to continue spending your money for our service as if we didn’t completely disconnect you for an extended amount of time.”
Is there any company on earth that would even consider temporarily discontinuing their product (basketball) – which is where 100% of their revenue comes from – so they can figure out how said revenue will be distributed? Imagine that staff meeting…
Owners: I’m not making enough money.
Players: No, I’m not making enough money!
CEO: That’s it! Let’s stop making and selling our product.
Voice of Reason: But isn’t that where all this money we’re arguing about comes from?
Voice of Reason: So, if we stop selling our product, where’s the money going to come from? …
Voice of Reason: And if we stop selling our product, what are our customers even paying for?
Owners: But I’m not making enough money!
Players: No, I’m not making enough money!
CEO: Done! We’re going to argue about imaginary money from unhappy customers for a product we’re discontinuing. Perfect solution!
And that, ladies and gentleman, is a snapshot of the NBA lockout. What these NBA executives (on both sides) are clearly overlooking is how their only paying customers are going to react to such an idiotic business decision.
As a quick reminder to the League, we, the fans, provide the NBA with approximately 100% of their revenue. Every week of the season, we spend our time watching ten 20-something millionaires we’ve never met take a round, orange ball and try to put it in a cylinder more times than their opponent… then, after the game (or games), we watch some guy named Chuck, who looks like a round, orange ball, disjointedly tell us why one team wasn’t able to get the ball in the cylinder more than the other team.
Many of us have mastered the ability of evading work in favor of browsing blogs (like this one) and managing our imaginary teams. When pay day comes around, we drop our hard earned money on overpriced arena food, even more overpriced tickets, and most overpriced of all, official NBA merchandise (as if a mesh jersey is reasonably priced at $250+).
The NBA thrives on addicted customers who have integrated basketball into every area of their life (like most of us). If we miss games this season (we will), that will be the NBA sending every one of us to rehab, forcing us to detox from our addiction and face the world without the NBA. How many of us will relapse when if they work out a new CBA in the near future? That remains to be seen, but I can guarantee it won’t be anywhere near the 100% return rate they are counting on.
In just a few months, the fans have gone from I can’t wait for NBA basketball, to I’m so angry about this lockout, to I just don’t effing care anymore. It’s essentially the basic stages of any breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend you’ve ever had. You go from caring too much, to absurd levels of anger, to complete indifference. No matter how it went down, you eventually get over it and move on.
And that is exactly what’s at stake for the NBA – the fans moving on, realizing that basketball is entertainment, and there are a whole lot of entertainment substitutes out there. I love the NBA, but if this lockout carries on without any resolution in sight, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a phone call and a quick apology from the NBA to repair this relationship. Something tells me I’m not the only one who feels like this.
The clock is ticking…