Whether David Stern’s latest deadline of 5 pm EST is real or merely another negotiating tactic, the countdown to NBA Apocalypse ticks closer and closer to its end.
While the threat of decertification, dwindling offers, and nuclear winter loom on the horizon, I find myself wanting to recant my previous position and place my support firmly with the players—if you do not believe you are being offered a fair deal and have the means and conviction to holdout this season, then basketball be damned, ride this thing out.
My new thought process goes back to why we watch the NBA in the first place. Presumably it starts with a love for the game, though civic pride is as good a reason as any for those of us fortunate enough to live in an NBA city. But we stand in awe of NBA players—we cheer them on—for their ability to perform feats us mere mortals could only dream about.
Though it may not be as thrilling as leaping seven footers in a single bound, a prolonged standoff with ownership and any concessions won from a group that is seeking nothing less than total victory would be another feat beyond most of our capabilities.
To quote the great Bethlehem Shoals:
“But if millionaires don’t have labor rights, then really, who the (expletive deleted) does?”
Most of us lack the athletic ability to dunk on giants, and for many, our deficiencies extend to lacking the financial means to make such a stand when we feel we are getting a raw deal.
Over the past year, in a volatile job market, I’ve seen someone get hours and pay cut in half while still being expected to produce the same service/product on the same deadline. Another person keeps their head down as coworkers lose employment for things like going above management’s head for luxuries like air conditioner while working through one of San Antonio’s hottest summers.
From my view downtown I see our own city’s version of the Occupy movement. And without getting too much into politics or their methods, I believe at its heart there is a message about the lack of leverage the American workforce has in today’s economy and in government.
There is a train of thought that NBA players could find no finer employment, even under the strictest ownership deal. And that this is the owners’ business, and as employees, they should fall in line. But the players stand unique in that they are the product. As easy as it is to say the players could find another job, the NBA could just as easily find other players. It just wouldn’t be the same.
I’d like to stop short of saying stick it to the man, but instead suggest we not demonize the players for exorcising their rights to negotiate what they think is a fair deal. Or try and pressure them into taking one to serve our own ends. At this point, the players have conceded on the money split and are fighting for how that money is distributed. Regardless of the system, the superstars are going to get paid. That was never an issue. The bottom rung will forever be just happy to be there. It was always the middle class that would feel the brunt of this lockout and the next CBA.
Millionaires are millionaires, and the plight of the player does not measure up to what many out there have gone through. But we do not watch the NBA to relate to players, we watch because they play a game we love, and do things within that game that we wish we could do. The same holds true here.