Good News for Sports Fans?

One mark of a good writer, like Charlie Pierce, is that he can make me read about topics in which I have no personal interest:

And so, on the day after Thanksgiving, when most of America was coming out of a tryptophan-and-Tony Romo-induced coma, and when hardly anyone at all was looking, they came up with a deal. There will be a 2012 NBA season, after all — a perfectly logical 66-game package beginning with a Christmas Day multimedia extravaganza that will be what ancient Rome would have organized, if Nero had invented the T-Cannon and Charles Barkley. This undoubtedly will include several of the league’s marquee, big-market teams, whose baleful influence over the game’s economics was supposed to have been management’s casus belli for the lockout in the first place. And it might have been, if the whole absurd kabuki ever had been about money in the first place.
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The NBA lockout was as exclusively about money as it was exclusively about astrophysics. One way you know this is that the settlement that finally was reached was one that could have been reached last June. Like Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1972, the league and its players struck a deal they could have had much earlier, and without the extended bloodletting in the meantime. The players took a reduction in the amount of basketball-related income — and can we find a rocket and fire that little bit of business-school jargon off to Pluto, please? — while winning some concessions as regards the league’s salary structure and in the rules regarding free agency. And that was pretty much it after five or six months of loud public wrangling — a brief outburst of authentic MBA gibberish and (poof!) back to work, gentlemen…
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Stern’s concern for his league’s fans was as transparently phony as was Carnegie’s concern for his workers. (Hearing the commissioner’s unctuous solicitude for the paying customers must have occasioned rueful chuckling, and projectile vomiting, in Seattle.) His primary constituency is a group of 29 men who don’t have to deal much with unions in their principal occupations anymore and who, therefore, are not accustomed to reacting well when the help gets, well, uppity. The lockout was THE perfect oligarch’s answer.
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They got most of what they wanted, which means that most of them are probably very unhappy. The league suffered a public-relations debacle that very nearly became a public-relations catastrophe. But David Stern showed himself to be the tinhorn-in-charge once again, and there will be games on Christmas Day. God bless us all, every one.






69 replies
  1. 1
    David in NY says:

    I’m not interested either. But can anybody explain WTF this was about?

  2. 2
    khead says:

    @David in NY:

    Small market owners vs. large market owners. Small market owners lost – but they all got $$$ from the players.

    See, also, the NFL.

  3. 3
    JCJ says:

    Yawn. I used to love the NBA. Now? I will still watch some games, but my days of going to see the Milwaukee Bucks somnambulate in person are long past.

  4. 4

    There’s professional basketball in America?

  5. 5
    BGinCHI says:

    I think the NBA would be great if it were a basketball league.

    I also thought the perfect compromise would be to just play the 4th quarter of each game and then full games for playoffs and the finals. Which is what that shitty fucking league does anyway.

  6. 6
    BGinCHI says:

    @Michael Bersin: Not since the red white and blue ball of the ABA went out of business.

    I miss Dan Issell.

  7. 7
    Comrade Luke says:

    I live in Seattle, so….yea.

  8. 8
    geg6 says:

    Back in the dark ages of my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, the NBA was all that stood for pro sports for me until the NFL season began again. Then I discovered hockey and the NBA became a joke. Stern has completed the utter ruin of what was once a great, maybe the greatest, team sport.

  9. 9
    Yutsano says:

    @Comrade Luke: Let’s just not go there. I can haz T-Bird NHL hockey upgrade naow?

  10. 10
    BerkeleyMom says:

    Charlie Pierce is on Stephanie Miller’s radio show every Tuesday morning at 7:35 out here in CA. I love him and he should have his own show. I’d listen for all three hours.

  11. 11
    redshirt says:

    As long as the Lakers can clear the floor for Kobe to go mano y mano (y mano y mano and so on), the world is at peace.

    Wait, who cares? Does anyone care? I’ve experienced my first in depth descent into sports radio the past 4 months, and it seems anecdotally conclusive that no one cares about the NBA, and if they do care, it’s only when the playoffs start.

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Here’s a radical idea:

    Cut all ticket prices in half, and then all salaries (players, coaches, front office executives, but not support staff, as in janitors, secretaries, clubhouse wine dispensers, guys selling popcorn in the stands) in half.

    And, of course, owner profits in half.

    We’ll leave broadcasting rights aside for now.

    Then we’ll talk about what the fuck is going on here.

  13. 13
    Joel says:

    Bill Simmons has lost a lot off his fastball. However, he has good taste in other writers. I was skeptical about Grantland at its outset, but Simmons the editor seems to be working out so far.

  14. 14
    Joel says:

    I’ve been a professional basketball fan for years, and the nonsensical criticism of the league (the players are paid too much! the fourth quarter is the only one that matters! everyone sandbags for the playoffs!) seems to play on constant repeat. At least the “league embraces the hip hop culture too much!” criticism isn’t uttered in public anymore.

    I will say this, the officiating at the NBA level is atrocious. Worse than the NFL (where the officiating is underratedly bad) by a long shot. The fact that the league refuses to acknowledge that there’s even a problem is absurd. I also hate David Stern and hope he helps himself to a bowl of dicks.

  15. 15
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: The radical idea would be to emulate the “club team” concept and have athletes begin by competing with local teams, getting paid for it, and working their way up–as individuals or as a team–to higher levels with deeper pockets. Dispense with the farce of “college athletics” entirely. No college should be paying a coach seven figures. That’s an atrocity.

  16. 16
    redshirt says:

    @Joel: Officiating is my main issue with the NBA. Fouls seems entirely arbitrary and could or could not be called on every single play. It completely ruins the game for me.

  17. 17
    Emperor of Ice Cream says:

    I’m always amazed at the venom some people have towards the NBA. Don’t like it … ok, there are a whole lot of sports that I don’t care for and don’t watch. I NEVER go to their sites and spout off about how I don’t like them. But, the NBA, for some reason it attracts the haters. I wonder why that is …. ??

  18. 18

    Evening, folks! We’re still in New York … here’s a picture I took today in Central Park

    Feels like forever since I’ve been over here, we’ve been busy and my internet has been hinky ….

  19. 19
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Joel:

    At least the “league embraces the hip hop culture too much!” criticism isn’t uttered in public anymore.

    Do sports website comment sections count as “public”? Because that shit is ALL OVER those. I’ve never (knowingly) encountered more unreconstructed racists than on sports fansites.

  20. 20
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @redshirt: Same here. I’ve never understood what the fouls even are. In the NFL there is holding on both sides on every play, which they could call, but don’t. In the NBA there are just collisions that sometimes lead to penalizing one team and sometimes the other, seemingly randomly, and if not randomly, based on the perceived quality of the players involved.

  21. 21
    Chet says:

    Meanwhile, Major League Baseball – which at one time couldn’t go five years without a strike or lockout – just signed a new CBA of its own, giving that sport what will be 21 years of labor peace by the time it expires in 2016. It pains me to say it, but kudos to Bud Selig.

  22. 22
    No One of Consequence says:

    Maybe I am all alone out here, but who gives a flying fuck at a rolling donut?

    Professional sports lost me with the first pro baseball strike back in the 80’s. Grown men playing fucking *GAMES* and getting paid stoopid bank to do it. Most making many, many factors more than difference-making occupations and activities.

    Seriously, fuck them. Fuck them all.

    – NOoC

  23. 23
    Satanicpanic says:

    Owners are pretty much in looting mode in several pro sports right now.

  24. 24
    Raven says:

    @redshirt: And you have officiated how much?

  25. 25
    MikeJ says:

    @No One of Consequence: The players deserve to make the money. They’re the ones that perform the labor and sell the tickets.

    If every player decided to play for free do you think ticket prices would go down? Of course not. Ticket prices have no relation to team expenses. Ticket prices are based on how much people will pay.

    Every dime you take away from the millionaire players goes to billionaire owners. At least the players do something for their money.

  26. 26
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @FlipYrWhig: the bigger the star, the harder the call.

  27. 27
    Raven says:

    @Emperor of Ice Cream: If it quacks like a honkey. . .

  28. 28
    burnspbesq says:

    The NBA is unwatchable.

    Forget Duke – Carolina, I’d rather watch Caltech against Occidental than Lakers – Heat.

  29. 29
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @Satanicpanic:

    Owners are pretty much in looting mode in several pro sports right now.

    Now?!
    Field of schemes

  30. 30
    Joel says:

    @No One of Consequence: Truer word never spoken by a grown (presumably) man or woman banging out words on the internet.

  31. 31
    Satanicpanic says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: I should have been more precise, they have moved on from screwing taxpayers, to sucking every last dollar of their teams before crashing them into the ground, Frank McCourt-style. Our city negotiated not one, but two terrible deals on stadiums, and all we have to show for it are two teams that are the laughing stocks of their respective leagues.

  32. 32
    Anonymous At Work says:

    Actually, Charles’s real talent in his sports postings has been his kindly references to the old SWC.

  33. 33
    redshirt says:

    @Raven: And your question is relevant how? Can only NBA refs speak to the quality or lack thereof of the calls?

  34. 34
    Raven says:

    @redshirt: No but it helps if someone had actually done what they are so critical of at some level.

  35. 35
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    God bless Charlie Pierce ‘n all, but its hard to take his argument seriously when he’s trying to portray Herb Simon as part of the one percenters squashing the peasants when the top stars can make as much or even more in their careers as the Pacers are worth right now.

  36. 36
    Chet says:

    @ Emperor of Ice Cream: Same reason folks on blogs like this one feel duty-bound to bash NASCAR – I beg your pardon, “Neckcar” – at every opportunity. Too popular with the Othertribe.

  37. 37
    RareSanity says:

    This is a problem that the owners brought on themselves, nobody held a gun to their head, and made them pay those outrageous contracts. Especially during the “straight outta high school” craze in the 90’s. Couple that with the ridiculous expansion during the same time, that brought teams to such basketball hot beds as Vancouver, Minneapolis and Charlotte…twice!

    They diluted the talent pool by spreading players over too many teams, and trying to fill the gap with 18 year old high school kids. 18 year old males, that they handed multi-year, guaranteed, multi-million dollar contracts. Then wondered why only a handful succeeded. The drafting of so many high schoolers, caused the college kids to leave earlier and earlier, and you’re left with a bunch of fundamentally unsound players, most 22 or younger, that have not “paid their dues” and therefore don’t appreciate (or respect) their privileged lives.

    So they are now making the players pay for all of the failed actions of the owners and David Stern.

    Don’t get me wrong, it is a millionaires vs billionaires fight, so I don’t feel any sympathy for anyone involved. But it still boils down to the people making less money, being forced to sacrifice, for the blunders of the people that make more money.

  38. 38
    Console says:

    @Chet:

    No one bashes NASCAR or it’s drivers. Maybe the fans of the sport get some heat, but no one treats Dale Earnhart like he’s some overpaid dumbass who would be working at Mcdonalds if he couldn’t drive fast.

  39. 39
    dedc79 says:

    The NBA only has value if we fans suckers keep going to games and watching them on tv. It’s time to boycott and remind everyone whose money it is they are squabbling over.

  40. 40

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Cut all ticket prices in half, and then all salaries (players, coaches, front office executives, but not support staff, as in janitors, secretaries, clubhouse wine dispensers, guys selling popcorn in the stands) in half.

    Then all the tickets will be bought by scalpers and sold at something like their current prices. It bears repeating that the relationship between ticket prices and salaries goes from prices to salaries, not the other way around. Tickets sell for what the market will bear, and the money they bring in gives the owners the ability to pay the players more. Cutting salaries may make you feel good, but it won’t do squat in the long run to make the game more accessible to fans.

  41. 41
    RareSanity says:

    @The Sheriff’s A Ni-:

    God bless Charlie Pierce ‘n all, but its hard to take his argument seriously when he’s trying to portray Herb Simon as part of the one percenters squashing the peasants when the top stars can make as much or even more in their careers as the Pacers are worth right now.

    You are forgetting how much a solo NBA owner, must be worth, to merely afford to purchase an NBA team.

    Michael Jordan is probably the highest compensated NBA players of all time, factoring in salary, playoff bonuses and endorsements. LeBron could only dream of making the kind of money Jordan did, and still does.

    After making all that money during his career, taking control of the “Jordan” brand of athletic gear after his retirement, he could only swing a 67% ownership interest in the Charlotte Bobcats, one of the lower valued teams in the league.

    There is absolutely no way, an active NBA player, could ever make as much as a solo owner.

  42. 42
    Downpuppy says:

    I don’t think I heard a single person lamenting the lack of NBA basketball. Of course, I live in Boston, where there is no NBA tradition.

    Also, too – is Charles off base assigning equal blame to Le Duc Tho & Henry the K? Magic phrase : electronic battlefield.

  43. 43
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @RareSanity: What was a bigger influx, fresh-out-of-high-school players or Europeans? I would guess Euros, but that’s purely impressionistic. (My wife was for a time a huge Toni Kukoc fan. Seriously.)

  44. 44
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, etc.

  45. 45
    khead says:

    @RareSanity:

    Don’t get me wrong, it is a millionaires vs billionaires fight, so I don’t feel any sympathy for anyone involved. But it still boils down to the people making less money, being forced to sacrifice, for the blunders of the people that make more money

    Would it make you feel better if the players owed money to the owners at the end of the week? Like my grandpa did to the coal companies once upon a time?

    Don’t let the number of zeros before the decimal point on the paycheck get to you. That goes for everyone else too. Support the players.

  46. 46

    @Chet:

    It pains me to say it, but kudos to Bud Selig.

    I guess he gets credit for the road to Damascus conversion, but he was a leader of the faction of ownership that was most at fault for the decades of labor problems.

  47. 47
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: And Ginobili, and some total bust players like Darko…

    It seems like when the NBA expanded there were lots of EuroPlayers (whose existence few fans minded) and also lots of no-college or very-little-college players (who have been the flashpoint for criticism about declining quality of play and respect for the game).

  48. 48

    @burnspbesq:

    I’d rather watch Caltech against Occidental than Lakers – Heat.

    Have you ever watched Caltech? I love my alma mater dearly, but watchable basketball is not one of its strengths.

  49. 49
    RareSanity says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    What was a bigger influx, fresh-out-of-high-school players or Europeans?

    Ah, the European craze, I almost forgot about that. Another example of how NBA executives take a few success stories, and try to replicate it, over and over again, unsuccessfully. They always take things too far. Holds true for all of the examples I gave.

    However, I would say that the high schoolers had a greater negative affect than the Europeans, whatever the actual numbers were. At least the Europeans were experienced professionals that had developed skills playing against other professionals. The high schoolers thrived on pure natural ability. You don’t have to work at your craft when you are just taller, faster and can jump higher than 99% of the people you play against.

    Look at the guys, at the end of the bench, of any major college basketball team. Every one of them was “all-world” in high school. The reason the other guys are on the court, and they’re not, is because everyone on the team has natural ability. It’s the ones that have developed better skills that play.

  50. 50
    RareSanity says:

    @khead:

    I do.

    I was just trying to limit the troll bait. :-)

  51. 51
    Gypsy Howell says:

    @Console:

    It helps that he’s been dead for 10 years.

  52. 52
    burnspbesq says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Point taken, but if I’d said I’d rather watch Whittier against Chapman nobody outside SoCal would have gotten it.

  53. 53
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @RareSanity: I didn’t mean that European players “ruined the game” or something, but rather that one of the effects of expanding the NBA was that it created spots for European players (and the occasional Chinese), some really very good. So expansion didn’t self-evidently reduce the quality of play, because concurrent with expansion of the number of franchises was expansion of the talent pool.

  54. 54
    khead says:

    @RareSanity:

    Got it. I may need to go back to cat pics.

  55. 55
    arguingwithsignposts says:

    @FlipYrWhig: If anything, the Euro players improved the game. Passing? Tall players shooting 3’s? what a concept!

  56. 56
    RareSanity says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I didn’t mean that European players “ruined the game” or something, but rather that one of the effects of expanding the NBA was that it created spots for European players (and the occasional Chinese), some really very good.

    “Creating spots” is what diluted the talent pool. Those spots, almost by definition, were filled by players that previously, were not good enough to play in the NBA before they were created.

    Seven teams were added between 1988 and 2004. That’s (7×12=) 84 additional roster spots that needed to be filled. Those spots were (and continue to be) filled with a “rolling group” of 84 players, that aren’t really NBA caliber, compared to the pre-expansion league.

    Plus, you have 7 additional coaching staffs, that previously, were not good enough to be coaching. You mix that all together, and when compared to the pre-expansion NBA, the overall quality has been diluted.

  57. 57
    EIGRP says:

    They’re having games on Christmas? Why does the NBA hate America?

    Eric

  58. 58
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @RareSanity:

    Those spots, almost by definition, were filled by players that previously, were not good enough to play in the NBA before they were created.

    But that’s precisely why I brought up European players. Expansion dilutes, but drawing from top European talent, um, un-dilutes it back again. To what degree? I won’t try to estimate that. But there is both a supply factor and a demand factor determining the quality of the game and its players.

    ETA: My sense is also that the 1970s NBA was a significantly inferior product. Usually the storyline is that Bird and Magic saved the NBA, and then Jordan elevated it to a whole new level. But between Jordan and expansion is only a handful of years. IOW, the “dilution” is being measured against an odd baseline — the rough decade between the Bird/Magic Final Four and the round of expansion that included Charlotte and Miami.

  59. 59
    Slowbama says:

    You all don’t like the NBA? RACISTS!!

  60. 60
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Following up on my last… “by definition,” the NBA was diluted when it absorbed the ABA in 1976. Was anyone complaining that the game wasn’t the same then? What’s the saturation point? Why did we reach it this time but never before? I agree that the phenomenon of younger and younger, more untutored players has been a negative influence, but I want to split a hair here and say that’s not quite the same thing as “dilution.”

  61. 61
    burnspbesq says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    the NBA was diluted when it absorbed the ABA in 1976.

    Hmmm … not sure that getting Dr. J and David Thompson can reasonably be called “dilution.” The last ABA championship series, between the Dr. J- led Nets and the Nuggets with Thompson, Issel, and Bobby Jones and coached by Larry Brown, was the last pro ball I got excited about.

  62. 62
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @burnspbesq: Agreed, which is why “dilution” can’t just be a matter of observing that there are more professional players than there used to be beforehand.

  63. 63
    Joel says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Also, right now, the NBA is enjoying an unprecedented bounty of talent.

    Ten years ago, old players like Karl Malone were still among the best in the league. The talent available in the drafts around that time was as terrible as in the seventies, and the league was dominated by one-dimensional mediocrities like Michael Finley and Jerry Stackhouse.

    Right now, if you go by basketball-reference’s rough estimate of value called win shares (rate adjusted), we are currently enjoying the play of three of the top ten players in the league’s history.

    Now the list is flawed by my eyes, but it’s an objective metric. And, I have a hard time removing Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Tim Duncan from contention for respective bests at their positions (counting James as a SF). And this is from a Celtics fan who loathes the Heat and loves Larry Bird.

  64. 64
    RareSanity says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I respect your opinion. I can even partially agree.

    I just think that the NBA has gotten itself into trouble, because there was a rapid expansion, forcing teams to fill rosters, with people that weren’t on the same level as the people playing.

    When the NBA absorbed the ABA, that was two professional leagues, where the assets being absorbed, where the most elite the ABA had to offer. When the NBA added 5 teams, over the course of 2 years, you were not adding the same type of elite talent, that was offered by the ABA. You were adding, either unproven college kids, or guys that were not good enough to already be on NBA teams.

    I don’t think the expansion is comparable to the absorption of the ABA.

  65. 65
    r€nato says:

    . (Hearing the commissioner’s unctuous solicitude for the paying customers must have occasioned rueful chuckling, and projectile vomiting, in Seattle.)

    Phoenix as well has an enduring hatred for David Stern. I was hoping his resignation would be part of any settlement with the players.

  66. 66
    Capri says:

    @Emperor of Ice Cream:
    You want gratuitous haters – try the WNBA or any women’s sport. Wonder why that is.

  67. 67
    burnspbesq says:

    @Capri:

    You want gratuitous haters – try the WNBA

    Not me, boss. The WNBA plays the most fundamentally sound basketball on earth. Plus I can get my Humbert Humbert on (did I mention that I have a truly pathetic crush on Lindsey Harding).

  68. 68
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @RareSanity: I have the impression that the young unproven player trend has been detrimental for many of the reasons you cite, but that that isn’t actually proof of talent dilution per we, because the worst of the kids are squeezing out not the bottom of the talent pool but a portion of the middle. Essentially, low-upside role players are displaced by high-risk, high-upside kids. The median player isn’t less talented than before; the worst players aren’t worse than before; there’s just a different distribution of, say, the fourth quintile, with more kids who have talent but no sense of how to make use of it. YMMV.

  69. 69
    Joel says:

    @Capri: Bill Simmons’ biggest flaw. I’m not a huge WNBA booster, but I hate seeing people bash it.

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