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Commentary: No Tears For The NBA?

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A fan holds up a sign referencing the NBA lockout during the first half of October's South Florida All-Star Classic NBA basketball game in Miami. (AP)
A fan holds up a sign referencing the NBA lockout during the first half of October's South Florida All-Star Classic NBA basketball game in Miami. (AP)

Owners and players are scheduled to meet again today.

Are anguished fans camping outside the bargaining session to beg for a resolution to the NBA lockout? I haven't heard about it.

I'm not suggesting that nobody cares when or even whether this lockout ends. Lots of people do care. Many of them are basketball fans. Some of them are gamblers. Some of them sell food, drinks, memorabilia, or taxi rides or rent hotel rooms in the vicinity of various basketball arenas. They're getting clobbered financially because the NBA owners and players haven't come up with a business agreement under which they can stage their entertainment.

But during various baseball work stoppages, fans of that game have sworn never again to attend a game. I know one who followed through on the threat.

When one such work stoppage erased the 1994 World Series from the calendar, some said they felt the empire tremble.

Though the most recent NFL troubles passed relatively quietly, historically fans deprived of pro football have railed against the appearance of replacement players and called down the wrath of Bronco Nagurski and Papa Bear Halas on both the players and the owners.

Maybe sound and fury like that has been absent from the current dispute because lots of people feel the NBA season is too long, and they'll be perfectly happy if it doesn't begin until some time after New Year's.

But maybe it's context that accounts for the relative quiet. Maybe many of those who would normally follow NBA games, whether out of passion or habit, have just seen too many sports-related lockouts and strikes: seventeen of them since 1972. Perhaps they're weary of hearing the same arguments about real expenses vs. cooked books. They've seen too many videos of players arriving at bargaining sessions via limousine. They're numb to the whining of owners who seem to have forgotten that if they really are losing money, they can always sell their teams at an enormous profit.

Perhaps there is no threshold beyond which the enthusiasm of fans can be stretched before it snaps, but what if there is? And what if some of those who might have mourned the loss of NBA games at another time are presently too concerned with more significant worries to care whether pro basketball's in session? Before the next round of threats to decertify the union can bang against calls to shutter the industry, maybe that's a possibility those arriving at the bargaining table today should consider together.

This segment aired on November 5, 2011.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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