Saturday, July 23, 2011

Locked Out

      Since March of this year, the National Football League has been in full-on lockout mode.  It has been almost half a year of constant discussion about a group of billionaire owners fighting with a group of millionaire players about money.  Lately it seems as though the lockout may be coming to an end, possibly as soon as next week, all depending on whether or not the players union agrees upon the currently proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement from the owners.  For many NFL fanatics, this news is causing euphoria amongst the masses, precious football will not be lost (except the Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears & St. Louis Rams but who gives a shit about preseason) I've always been a fan of football and am very much appreciative of the fact that it seems no regular season games will be lost and one of my favorite hobbies (fantasy football) will not be hindered.  I also get to rage at the ineptitude of Jay Cutler & his offensively bad offensive-line.  All of this is bittersweet for me because of something going on in my favorite sport.  The National Basketball Association has just entered lockout mode a few weeks back and it looks about 100x's messier than the NFL's.  Just when I think I'm done hearing about the bullshit that is union/owners disputes in sports, the NBA decides to prolong it.
     This past year for the NBA was nothing short of spectacular.  The summer of 2010 presented us with the most intriguing and unpredictable circus of free agency never seen before, in any sport.  We saw all-stars, MVPs, & NBA champions switching teams.  Amar'e Stoudemire went to New York, Carlos Boozer switched to a Chicago Bulls jersey, Joe Johnson signed the richest contract of the summer for Atlanta, & David Lee went across the country to the Golden State Warriors, just to name a few moves.  Of course, the main event and most noteworthy event of the summer of 2010 was the news of Chris Bosh & LeBron James joining Dwyane Wade, bringing their talents to South Beach and creating the most hated team in all of sports.  I would be remiss if I didn't state that Dirk Nowitzki was a free-agent as well but chose to re-sign with the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks (for significantly less money) So while 'The Big 3' were having rallies proclaiming that they would win 7 championships and that it would be 'easy,' Dirk and the Mavericks were busy actually preparing themselves to win their eventual championship.
     My eyes were glued to the NBA this past season.  I am an avid Chicago Bulls fan and watching Derrick Rose lead the team to the best record in the NBA and being the youngest MVP in the history of the NBA was so unexpected and entertaining.  I never missed a Bulls game, even though Carlos Boozer was a massive disappointment to be frank, they were still one of the most entertaining teams in the league to watch.  In the Western Conference, we saw the rise of another young upstart team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Led by the young & exciting (much like Derrick Rose) point guard Russell Westbrook & the best scorer in the NBA, Kevin Durant, the Thunder surprised a lot of people by making it to the Western Conference Finals.  This season was not short of interesting storylines; we saw 4 time all-star Carmelo Anthony join Amar'e Stoudemire in New York in the mid-season and of course the traveling circus that was the Miami Heat.  Ultimately, the NBA's season ended with the image of Mark Cuban & his Dallas Mavericks hoisting up the Larry O'Brien trophy on Miami's home-court after game 6.  Needless to say, it was one hell of an NBA season.
     One would have to ask, 'Where can the NBA go from here?' You would have to presume the only direction is a positive upward direction at this point, how could they not profit from all of this?  I'll tell you how you screw it all up.  You begin what could be the messiest and most stubborn lockout in the history of sports.  The NBA owners are claiming that the majority of teams lose money every single year and they want to restructure the Collective Bargaining Agreement they have with the players union.  So yes, just like with the NFL, we have two groups of rich people bickering over the all-mighty dollar.  The lockout with the NBA has such a different feel than the one with the NFL.  I never felt like any NFL games were in jeopardy of being lost, from both sides you gained a notion that it was going to be a lengthy debate that would eventually lead to a resolution and no games lost.  That is not the case when it comes to the NBA.
     Multiple NBA owners have admitted to random sports media outlets that they have no problem losing the 2011-2012 season due to the fact that they are losing more money then they are gaining.  The players seem to have accepted this outcome and many of them are discussing moves to playing overseas.  Multiple prominent players have been linked to playing professionally overseas, including 2 time all-star Deron Williams who signed with a basketball team in Turkey.  Future NBA Hall of Famer, Kobe Bryant has been in discussion with the team Williams signed with about possibly playing there during the lockout.  NBA champion, Dirk Nowitzki has already stated he will play for Germany in the European championships while Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah announced he will play for France in the championships.  Other notable, mid-level players have signed contracts with teams across the pond and it just shows one thing.  They don't believe the lockout will come to an end before the season is set to begin.  Even worse, there is much speculation that the entire season could be lost due to this.  It sickens me to watch this enfold, because all these two sides care about are about getting the money they feel oh so entitled to.
     Let's take a time to discuss the real losers in all of this.  How about the people who work for these franchises during the NBA season.  Not the shooting guard who makes $119 million, I mean the people like the guy who hands out the towels to the players.  The little people who work for these franchises who are now out of a job because these two groups need a whole year to figure out how to distribute the money they earn.  How about the fans?  I wrote a column stating that I can use sports as an escape from my problems, a distraction from all the crap I have to face every day.  Now, instead of watching Dwight Howard posterize some poor sap, I'll be forced to hear about how pissed off the owners are because they don't have enough money in their pockets.  Instead of watching Derrick Rose follow up his historic NBA season, I get to watch the players association bitch and moan about how greedy the owners are being.  I'd rather watch LeBron James bring his talents to South Beach than watch him bring his lawyers to the courtroom, that's for sure.  I'll hope against hope that they are able to resolve this and the NBA season isn't done away with, but somehow I doubt that'll happen.  Oh well, at least I'll still have hockey.

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