What do fans have left to lose in an NBA Lockout when the innocence is gone? Obviously, we're denied following our teams ... but is it even possible to get angry anymore? Adult fans remember the '98 lockout and spent most of their emotion there. This is millionaires versus billionaires in a theme repeated so often in professional sports it has become passe. The stakes and maneuvering strongly recall politics.
So what's at stake for the owners with the fans?
The players aren't trying to put on the blue collar label. In a world where most fans sell blood plasma to afford League Pass and Gilbert Arenas spends $5000/month to care for his shark, the union needed the focus elsewhere. The owners obliged, serving up the $300 million in aggregate losses per year while being dodgy about fully opening their books. Clear waters instantly muddied, with the short-term edge going to the players. Keeping records somewhat private may prevent rival leagues from having a peek at the NBA's inner financial workings, but prevailing folk wisdom in the modern age equates a lack of transparency with deception.
But then, so what? The league can sit on those numbers forever. They have a massive insurance policy via their network deal, and some owners claim they'll make more money without a season. Will they lose face publicly? Maybe. But again, so what? The biggest danger right now to the owners' pocketbooks would seem to be the looming end to the NFL Lockout. Maybe season ticket owners shift their allegiances to the only game in town (yes, my prejudices are showing). Maybe profitability isn't threatened even with that attrition if owners can slash player salaries far enough.
The lockout feels like national politics. Your average person/fan feels the most aligned with one side or the other, but in reality there's very little to be done about it. The issues are established and there's nothing left to do but fight it out in the courts and mediation. But the lack of any urgency may be bound to strike a chord of displeasure in even the most cynical fan. Withdrawal is beginning in earnest for me and a lockout-shortened season is still theoretical. I don't want to think about an October that fails to end in professional basketball.
I'm curious to hear what you think. More and more, it seems like the owners may not care how much they damage the league suffers in the short term as long as they guarantee massive profitability in the long term. Aside from a nebulous notion of attrition eating into the ranks of season ticket holders, what does the lockout cost the owners when fans already understand the NBA is big business?