The other night we were having dinner with our friends Riva and Sandy. Riva, who is an ardent Lakers fan, was shocked after she asked me if I missed the NBA season. I answered her, “Not at all.” She didn’t understand it! After all, I had worked for the Lakers during their 33-game winning streak in 1971-72 and had also been a part of the startups of the Phoenix Suns (1968) and New Orleans (now Utah) Jazz (1974).
I am worried not that the NBA will stand for “No Basketball Anymore,” but more importantly, “No Business Anymore.” I know that what we read in the paper for the most part are either press releases, or assumptions by the so-called experts.
I know from experience having been part of many negotiations over the years, especially the NFL 1981-82 strike where I was part of the NFL Players Association strike force, that the so-called experts make quantum leaps as to what they believe is happening. When I would read the papers after a day of inside negotiating, I was amazed at their assumptions. For the most part, the stories were erroneous.
However, that strike made sense to me because the protection of the players well being was at stake. It was pointed out that at that time the average career lifespan was 4.3 years. Astroturf, the great cause of multiple knee injuries, was a major issue along with the revenue sharing. When my friend John Mackey, as the first President of the NFLPA, sought a collective bargaining agreement, his reward was a long wait until he was finally voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
In the aforementioned instances, our country’s economy was robust and the causes fought for were necessary. Today, our economy is hurting. At present, we have 9% unemployment and foreclosures are happening each and every day. People who once paid their bills and stayed ahead of the collectors are no longer keeping up. Bright students are not going to college because their families just don’t have the money.
You might ask what does the current NBA lockout have to do with the economy. The answer is everything!
I am one of the creators of the Amgen Tour of California bike race and I sit on the board of directors. As such, I go to meetings at Staples Center. AEG, who is the majority owner of the race, also owns that arena, which houses the Los Angeles Lakers.
I went to a restaurant near the arena only to find they were contemplating shutting their doors due to lack of business. The strike has taken its toll on the little people who are not only important to the team’s merchandising success, but to ushers, ticket takers, office staff even janitors who have all been released and are on unemployment. This is a situation which is happening near NBA arenas all over North America.
I quit my lucrative position with the Lakers back in 1972 when I objected to owner Jack Kent Cooke’s raising the cost of the floor seats to $25. Of course, that was almost 30 years ago and I now recognize prices do increase. However, I also realize that the season ticket holders will probably come back once the lockout is settled. They, for the most part, are the ones who can afford today’s out-of-proportion pricing. I do not feel for them. I feel for the real fan that cannot afford the luxury of a night at the games.
I admit, unlike years ago, I am not privy to the inner workings or the mindset of both sides. However, I do know this. Their timing could not be worse. How can anyone in today’s economic melt down have any sympathy for a league run by multi-millionaire owners and a league where even the lowest-paid rookie makes over six figures a year.
So Riva, I empathize with your plight as a fan, but when they come back I shall be among the missing in the stands and I do not expect to even follow any of the teams I once rooted so hard for. I believe this intense and selfish desire on both sides should not go unpunished. The only way I see to repay their lack of respect for what they have inflicted on their fans and fans everywhere is by not buying tickets to line their pockets even more.