Or they look at me strangely, as if I asked, “What would you do if your life was so destitute and boring you had to stay up and watch the Clippers and the Bucks after midnight in November?”
If I’m a lawyer for the players’ association and a deal is somehow struck at some point to avert the cancellation of the entire season, I would insist on language that says the next collective bargaining agreement does not expire July 1 but instead on or about June 10. Right in the middle of a riveting NBA Finals, when both sides might actually have some leverage with the American public.
Because most of us don’t care that Jerry Buss and James Dolan and Ted Leonsis and their super-rich owner peers can’t figure a way to divvy up $4 billion with Kobe, Carmelo and JaVale McGee. Most of us don’t watch until Christmas day and then we don’t pay serious attention again until after the All-Star Game, about the time the playoff races becoming meaningful.
When NBA Commissioner David Stern announced Tuesday that the league will have no choice but to lop off the season’s first two weeks by Monday — adding that no further talks have been scheduled — the collective thought among most fans probably fell between “So what” and “Let me know when you cancel the playoffs.”
Before Stern and union chief Billy Hunter and their entourage of blazers trim more games and move toward the endgame, they really need to ponder hard the detonation of a season and realize a simple fact before the button is pushed:
The only thing worse than millionaires and billionaires unable to agree on a piece of the pie in this sorry American economy is an overinflated sense of your own worth. No one outside the NBA bubble gives a damn about your fight — or, in some places, whether you even have a season.
You’re not merely courting financial doom; you’re courting something even more costly to a sport’s long-term growth: lasting apathy.
Before they become the first major North American sports league to detonate a season since the NHL in 2004, memo to players and owners: There is no worse time to be playing chicken with each other.
For the first time since Michael Jordan’s Bulls, consumers are starting to warm up to the NBA again in overwhelming viewing numbers. For the first time since Kobe and Shaq were teammates, there is a bona fide villainous team full of star power: the Miami Colluders of LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh. Love or loathe the Heat, we watch.
The major media markets — L.A., New York, Chicago and Boston — all went to the playoffs last season. New likable stars such as Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose replace the old, stuffy guard of Tim Duncan and the Spurs, and somewhat compensate for the retirement of Shaq.