Guess what, guys? We don’t feel sorry for you.
Go to the bargaining table, make a deal, and then wake me up when the playoffs roll around. As a fan (and not even that big of an NBA fan), it’s hard to pick sides in this fight. We all know these players make way too much money dunking basketballs, and at the same time, we all know team owners are rich as hell – yet they price-gouge fans on everything from hats to jerseys to $10 beers at the arena. It’s one group of very rich people against another group of very rich people. It’s hard to pick a side, because I don’t exactly relate to their rich troubles. This time, though, it’s different. The players are making it pretty easy to side with the owners.
Now, you might expect me to give some well-thought-out reason for siding with the owners, like, those expensive bills they have to pay in a sport that doesn’t make a lot of money in most seasons. You might expect me to say that the players really are overpaid for the work that they do, and that the owners are right to cut players’ pay. Well, no, on both fronts. I side with the owners because the players, or at least the players representing the players, look like a bunch of clowns. They don’t demand respect, and when all is said and done, they won’t get it.
Here’s where the NBA labor dispute is right now, in case you haven’t been following it (and I hope you haven’t). First, NBA Commissioner David Stern cancelled the preseason, because owners and players weren’t even close to a labor agreement. Then Stern cancelled the first two weeks of the season. Both sides know they are far from agreement on a new deal. At the heart of their disagreement is how they’ll split revenues. Last I read, the players union wants 53 percent of revenues, while owners want something closer to a 50-50 split. Regardless of how close or far away both sides are, Stern and the owners are willing to cancel games to force the players’ hands.
So last Friday, the commissioner, who was beginning the rounds of what seemed to be an all-day, Sarah Palin-style campaign tour, threatened to cancel games through the Christmas season. After Stern made the threat, NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and President Derek Fisher called it a tactic “with no real purpose but to sway players’ sentiment,” according to The New York Times. Of course I believe Stern made a threat to sway players into making a deal. What was so freaking funny was the way the players handled their response.
The ensuing press conference was great theater. Behind NBA spokesman Derek Fisher (standing at a podium with a nice suit on, reading his statement) stood maybe 15 NBA players, wearing everything from white T-shirts to sweatpants to sideways ball caps to tank tops. Here were these players demanding respect, yet they looked trashy. If I were Fisher, I would have told them all to wait in the back, it looked so bad.
Fisher and LeBron James are the only players who have been wearing suits throughout this process. Did anyone see Carmelo Anthony’s yellow flannel the other day? I wonder if La La picked that one out for him.
Fashion shouldn’t have a lot to say in a labor negotiation, but in this one, it’s having an effect. Had the players come to the press conference dressed in suits, looking like the serious businesspeople they want us to believe they are, they may have demanded some respect. The players do want to be respected in this labor disagreement, right?
“Everybody knows it’s not our fault,” Bulls guard Derrick Rose said about the lockout, while promoting his new line of shoes. “They're not thinking about anything we're saying. They're not taking into consideration anything we're trying to give them.”
If I were you, Derrick, I’d get the players together and make sure everybody dresses the part of a professional during this process or nobody’s going to listen. Millionaires slumming it in sideways hats and white T-shirts? Gimme a break.
To this fan, it looks like the players are too lazy to take their negotiations regarding billions of dollars seriously. Dress like the pros you are, and maybe, a small NBA season can be salvaged. That will be good for everyone involved, especially those everyday folks who earn their livings on jobs the game provides. I do hope, for their sake, the two sides can get together and strike a deal. The economy is bad enough as it is.
For now, though, we fans should all sit back, relax, and not get caught in the soap opera. It isn’t worth the brain damage. As I said, wake me up if, and when, the playoffs begin.