I have always said that I think religion and politics are really similar, not because religious affiliation predicts political affiliation, but because they are both passed down from generation to generation and they are the only two things in the world that people will defend tooth and nail without knowing the details behind their argument. Chances are at some point in your life, you got into a heated argument about some political issue and took a hard stance before thinking to yourself, "what am I arguing?" or "do I really believe this?" or "do I know what I am even talking about?" "Am I only a (insert sect or religion) because my parents are?" I know I have done it. Many of you probably think that is how I am when I argue sports, but I mostly prepare myself with information before getting into a debate about sports. After all, that's important.
What side are you on? How could you be sympathetic of the NBA owners? You must support big businesses. The players aren't spreading lies to the fans, like the owners. How could you? Are you a monster? Blah, blah, blah. Since when did the NBA labor negotiations become the Presidential primary elections? Because at some point in the process, they did. As with politics, it is fun to converse, debate and even disagree with a friend or NBA neighbor about the ongoings of the negotiation process. And as with politics, many of those conversations have turned to name calling, accusations and hard-line stances. Can I suggest that we all just take a deep breath and remember that as fans, we are in this fight together? (1 million words after the jump)
But during these NBA labor negotiations, sports fans and bloggers have taken stances and defended or prosecuted a side and even accused other fans and bloggers. It's crazy. I have read at least 3 pieces on prominent blogs in the last 24 hours accusing "owner supporters" of being either racist or jealous towards NBA players. I take issue with that, because I have also been accused of being an owner supporter and I don't think I am racist or jealous. But just like with politics, it makes little sense to be completely partisan in this debate. I know where I stand on the negotiations and it's more off to the side, than on a side.
I hate David Stern more than I hate most people I hate. Which is to say that I really dislike him. He's a pompous ass, who smirks and sneers and uses his enormous amounts of intelligence to portray half-truths around the world while building himself up and always trying to make his record look impeccable. He's a bully and shrewd and a smug bastard-type guy. Unfortunately for the players, that is exactly the type of guy you want negotiating for you or representing you in a legal case, not going against you. And I dislike a lot of the owners of NBA teams from what I know about them. Most of these guys' lives have been portrayed by the media and many of them can't look like anything less than rich, arrogant a-holes who are out of touch with the everyday man. I have little doubt that some, or most, of them have made their money by forcing much poorer people to make sacrifices and be hurt financially in the name of "good business." I get that. I don't own a Robert Sarver or Dan Gilbert jersey. I don't own a Fathead poster and I have never taken a ride on a Carnival Cruise ship.
I don't agree with what the owners and David Stern are doing. I think they are going too far and asking for too much. I think they are going to lose fans and support in the short and long term and they are risking the health of a very healthy NBA business. if I were an owner of an NBA team, I would be frustrated right now with the state of the lockout, doing whatever I could to get the season going. I promise. I think.
With all that said, I can't stand by the players either, who I think have organized a disastrous negotiating ploy thus far. The players brought good will, rainbows, hopes and dreams to a bloody negotiation, hoping things would get resolved with a handshake and a pat on the back. It's no wonder they weren't prepared to get massacred. Like I said, I don't agree with the stance the owners are taking, but at this point, what other option do the players have? They don't have a competing league to join. The owners have very little problem with not having an NBA season if the players choose to never agree, since the owners are billionaires and don't need an NBA season for sustainable living like many players. They have a small weapon in decertification but the time to use it has already passed and using it comes with uncertain and possibly divisive risks.
So what have been the players' negotiating weapons? "We have never had less than 50% of the BRI! David Stern and the owners are lying about their stance! We are fighting for future generations! I am considering maybe possibly playing somewhere like Europe. #StandUnited." The StandUnited deal showed that players were hoping to defeat the owners with love and good will, as if the owners were an alien species incapable of understanding such human emotion (not saying they aren't). None of those are real negotiating weapons. Some of them may be true, or even fair, but as we all know, fairness doesn't always rule the day in these types of issues. The Players hoped that the owners would negotiate in good faith, but if the players thought they would get what they want with the leverage they brought to the table, then they were negotiating in unfounded "We need a miracle" type faith.
A fair deal? A fair deal would probably be something close to what we have, maybe a move of the BRI to 53 or 54% to offset some owner losses with a flexible cap and a lowering of mid-level exception deals in money or years and a hope that owners would be a little bit smarter about how they spend their dough over the next decade. I admit, that sounds pretty fair, and it's a lot better for the players than the owners demanded. But like I said, you have to expect to lose (middle) ground when you haven't a weapon to fight with. The players have no leverage financially. If the system turns out to be as horrible as the players say it will be, then they need to opt out as soon as possible, and they also need to start organizing a plan of attack for starting their own league in order to have at least a real threat the next time they negotiate. They need something next time around.
So what should happen at this point? The players have no choice but to concede that they have lost and spare more dead bodies and hurt feelings. At this point, they have no economic reason to stand their ground. They would lose more money losing this season, than the amount of money they are negotiating for over the course of the next CBA. And that is IF the owners keep the same hypothetical offer that supposedly now exists (50-50 split). It wouldn't be "fair" and it wouldn't be awesome and some middle-tier players are certainly going to suffer for it and it has never been heard of in the NBA for decades, but there isn't a better alternative that can be achieved in the near or distant future. Right now, it's an empty threat. The players have lost. From a negotiation standpoint, they are a Bank robber in a burning building surrounded by the cops without a hostage. And the owners know it.
What do I think will happen? Well, there is always the 2012-13 season to enjoy.