NBA: Nothing But Airheads
With the dreary economic backdrop of large unemployment and another recessionary dip looming ahead, players and owners have decided to sit out a while because they cannot decide on how to split up $4.3 billion. Most middle-income families fear of losing their jobs, not making the mortgage payments, or not being able to pay their kids’ tuition bills. It’s very hard to believe that these average folks have the patience to put up with this self-indulgent behavior from the NBA. Even President Barack Obama has something to say about this petty labor dispute: the country is simply in no mood.
One thing’s for sure: if the lockout continues and games start to be cancelled after Christmas, a time when most fans expect to hear of and watch basketball, fans may become so disgusted with the two sides that it will force them into some sort of reluctant settlement. Such public ridicule and scorn from the fans, according to Michael Wilbon, will be the deciding factors that move one side away from its position.
The owners seem to be content with missing most of the season, since many franchises are in money-losing markets anyway, while the players think that they have some sort of secret bargaining leverage over the owners. It’s the billionaires vs. the millionaires, a battle that draws blood from most Americans’ ears.
Public ridicule is a major, underlying factor that has those invested with the league very nervous. For starters, the NBA has always been jealous of the NFL. The NFL has revenue streams, television ratings, and a more obsessive and intense relationship to its fans than the NBA will ever have. With league-wide profitability at stake towards the end of the summer, the NFL was able to reach an agreement and make sure that there would be a season this year. If the NBA fails to reach a collective bargaining agreement and ends up cancelling a large portion of its season, this gap between the two leagues will grow even wider, and popular sentiments for the NBA will drop even more.
While owners and players strive for popularity similar to that found in the NFL, they fail to realize that they simply cannot equate to the widespread market of football. During the NFL lockout, fans wanted one thing: the return of football by any means necessary. To them, cancelling a week of Sunday football would have been equivalent to a national emergency. While millions of fans clamored for football, at the end of the day, only tens of thousands will clamor for the return of basketball. The NBA thinks it’s bigger and more liked than it really is.
There’s also the stereotyped and complex issue of race found within the argument of NFL and NBA differences. While both leagues are predominantly black, the NFL has never been perceived as a “black league,” due mainly to the media’s focus of white superstars like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre who lead their teams. Players in the NFL have more anonymity when they step foot onto the field with their helmets, representing more than themselves and making less money than NBA players. In basketball though, there is a larger focus on role players and superstars that have more say in whether the team wins or loses. Their ostentatious lifestyles are the object of public disgust.
These perception issues have been the leading cause for the NBA to fall short of the NFL’s consumer market. Realistically, owners and players will not give much focus to fans’ perceptions of their selfish behavior. But at the end of the day, an angry public at the NBA’s bickering over filthy riches will do harm to basketball’s future ratings. Once the NFL winds down, and the missing NBA season will be more noticeable, owners and players will be surprised when they realize that a lot of people won’t care.
The NBA needs a reality check and needs to understand that it is not the NFL. For public image purposes, the owners and players cannot afford to drag this lockout on any further. In these tough economic times, nobody wants to hear superstars complaining about not receiving their desired multimillion dollar contracts. For the sake of the NBA’s future, perception, and fans, a deal needs to be reached sooner rather than later.
Players need to come to the table and ease their demands, because after all, these owners can afford to hold out longer than the players can. For the parties involved, their thoughts are, “Who will budge first?” For the general public, at this rate, their thoughts are more like, “Who cares?”
The sooner the NBA realizes this, the better.