Basketball is back! Basketball is back! Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Basketball is back!
Whoa … hang on a minute … just slow down there. Somebody’s gonna get hurt like that. All that pushing and shoving on the way to the ticket window … there’s plenty of seats for everybody.
Yes, arena security guards and local police in NBA cities across the country are going to be working overtime to accommodate an adoring public racing for tickets like an Occupy Wall Streeter racing for a handout. It’s going to be chaotic, isn’t it?
Well, OK. Perhaps the national reception to the news that the NBA owners and players had struck a tentative agreement to end their lockout and begin play on Christmas Day was slightly more restrained than that.
Still, fans across America were thrilled to learn that their favorite NBA stars were back in action, right?
Ummm, OK, perhaps “thrilled” is a bit too strong of a word.
Nonetheless, a nation of sports fans that had one-third of its three favorite sports taken away from them have got to be pleased that their sports calendars are now made whole again, don’t they?
OK, now we’re onto something!
Yes, pleased. That should just about sum it up. We’re pleased that the NBA is back.
Not “pleased” in the sense that what we’ve been given will provide us with actual “pleasure,” mind you. No, this is more like, “We’re pleased to have something to fill the time after bowl season and the NFL playoffs are over, up until pitchers and catchers report in March.
What we’re not pleased about, however, is that after all the hand-wringing, after all the moaning, and after all the public posturing about ensuring a balanced playing field (or floor) for rich and poor franchises alike, the NBA owners caved in at the 11th hour.
Oh sure, the owners certainly won the battle on the judges’ scorecards. After all, they cut at least 6 percent of the players’ share of basketball-related income, and they did stiffen the luxury tax that penalizes wealthy franchises in big markets for exceeding the salary cap.
However, they could have scored a convincing knockout win if they had stuck to their guns on a “hard” cap, which would have meant that no one goes over the cap, for any reason. Ever.
That would have been the move that truly put the Warriors, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the rest of the small- to mid-market teams on par with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat and other barnstorming, superstar-laden franchises.
As it stands, the new deal will still help the little guys compete, potentially allowing them to turn profits at their own turnstiles, which is clearly in the best interest of the game. That will, of course, depend on individual front-office decisions and their ability to scout and evaluate players when drafting and making decisions on free agency and trades. Teams will be on their own to maximize their revenue and put winners on the court for their home fans.
In other words, no collective bargaining agreement, or lawsuit settlement, can fix stupid.
And now, even after the countless hours put into the process of hammering out this tentative agreement, the most difficult work is still ahead. The league must now repair its relationship with the fans, who have spent the entire duration of the lockout collectively yawning over the lack of games or cursing the greed of the participants.
Yes, basketball is back. Please remember to be kind to your fellow ticket-buyers when the box office opens. No Black Friday-esque pepper-spraying of fellow shoppers. There will be plenty of tickets for everyone.
I guarantee it.
Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at email@example.com.