We are just a weekend away from seeing NBA regular season games canceled.
Why? Because the two sides can’t decide how to divide up the fans’ money. The money fans pay in ticket prices. The money paid for overpriced beers and parking spots. The money sponsors pay to reach those fans. The money television networks pay because they can sell advertising to reach those fans. Make no mistake, it’s the fans money and time the players and owners are arguing about in posh New York hotels.
The fans don’t have a seat at the negotiating table. And they are not going to get squat out of this deal except delays in the sport they love.
The fans deserve some rollbacks, agent Keith Glass told the New York Daily News.
“We’re in tough economic times, isn’t that the owners’ argument?” Glass says. “Okay, so where is the rollback for the fans? Where is the rollback for ticket prices, hot dogs, beer and parking? Where is the union and where is the league on this? Shouldn’t they be worried about the people that actually pay the freight?
“But fans are in the middle of this, too. If you keep bitching about this I don’t want to see you in February paying $140 for a ticket. It is across-the-board insanity.”
It’s a bit simplistic and populist, but Glass is also right.
There’s not going to be some widespread organized protest by fans. Those never really come together and work. And the whining of some general sports columnists out there that fans don’t care about the NBA also misses the mark.
The concern should be that some casual fans will not miss the NBA much when it is gone, then will be slow to come back. That games will not tip off Nov. 1 so there will not be highlights of Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant on SportsCenter that night and many fans will be just fine.
Long term, fans always do come back to the game. But to miss games during the worst economic times in generations will mean they will come back more slowly. There will be more resentment. Rebuilding that relationship will be a lot harder.
The fans do deserve some kind of break. But it will sort of work like the lockout has so far — both sides will give lip service to the idea then not really do anything about it.