If You Settle, They Will Come…

lockoutI wonder if this thought has even crossed any of the NBA owners’ minds.

What if we go ahead and settle out of court with the players and have a condensed season.  Will the NBA fans return?  I’m sure they will.  They want to support their team.  They want to see their favorite players and spend their money at our arenas.  Hmmm.

Yeah, I doubt it too.  Truth of the matter is that the owners are owners in a bad and broken system.  They decided to go for the gusto and attempt to fix every wrong that was in the NBA’s CBA.

Problem with that is that fans love the sport and the players.  They honestly didn’t care what the players made, whether the owners were making or losing money, or even if they had the money to spend to see these games.

Now, you’ve stopped producing something that they loved to see.  Their players have been forced to not play.  They have watched the owners and players fight over millions and looked at themselves and how they themselves spend.  The economy is in a bad place right now, and going to an NBA game is a luxury.  It isn’t a necessary luxury either.  The fans love their players and they love their team.  Disruption in the flow makes the fans angry.  This lockout is WAAAAAY more than a disruption.  Greed is in the picture.  Ignorance is in the same picture as well, which is due in part to the misinformed, but I digress.

Let me share this with you.  I love the Charlotte Bobcats.  I am a fan, and I have been a fan since back at the first game played at “The Hive” in Charlotte.  I watched the arena being built via live web cam that was on the Bobcats website on the NBA team page.  We haven’t been a stellar team, and we haven’t even had that one guy that you just had to have his jersey (other than Gerald Wallace).

All the same, with one playoff appearance, which consisted of a 4-and-done series with Orlando, I still love the team.  We could always be mediocre, and I’d always pull for them.  Prior to the Bobcats, I was a Charlotte Hornets fan.  Same deal holds true for those Hornets, though we had the likes of Zo, Grand-ma-ma, Muggsy, Dell Curry, and even a young Baron Davis.

The Hornets rocked Charlotte and the NBA world, and reached very competitive levels.  They led the league in attendance for a number of years.  But with success comes setbacks.  When “bad things” came out about owner George Shinn, attendance began to slump.  Shinn’s demands for a new arena fell on deaf ears.  Shinn, in turn, took our Hornets to New Orleans and the rest is history.

Now this is a spin away from the lockout discussion, but the explanation stays the similar.  When Charlotte got another team, I was excited beyond words.  A problem that was very evident was that these Bobcats would need a home to play in.  “The Hive” just wasn’t going to cut it with it’s teal and purple glory.  A new arena was needed, and whether Charlotte taxpayers wanted it or not, they built it.  Lo and behold, the “Cable Box” came to be.  Yes, the arena that is now known as Time Warner Cable Arena was built.  Remember all of those rabid Charlotte Hornets fans that packed “The Hive”?  Yeah, they aren’t filling “The Cable Box”.  There are many that were unhappy with the building of an arena that they voted against but were stuck with the tab on anyway.  That didn’t sit well with potential Bobcats fans.  Many are still angry, and the attendance level for a Bobcats game isn’t anything to cheer about.

Attendance is rising, and over time, wounds will be healed.  In the meantime, the Bobcats limp along, looking to grab those stars and regain the glory the Hornets once had.  It isn’t so much the team’s fault as it was the situation they were placed in.

My point?  This lockout is very similar to that very situation.  The NBA had finally recovered from the last lockout, and was gaining popularity and momentum by leaps and bounds.  You had NBA stars from all over the world that got the NBA national attention, the NBA doing great works in communities, and just happy times.

Then, after the NBA Finals ended, a champion crowned, and an NBA Draft was completed, a lockout began.  Days and weeks went by with no negotiations.  Fans were growing ever restless for negotiations to begin and end quickly so they could see the draft picks with the team, see a summer camp, see some summer league basketball, watch training camp, and see what free agents their respective teams may pick up to strengthen for the 2011-2012 season.  Instead, we all saw nothing.  So there we all stood, scratching our heads.  Then, out of the blue, a marathon session, then another…this is it!  Here we go!



No agreement…

Still no season and no meetings scheduled…

Yeah we would repeat this scenario until every reporter in the lobby of that New York hotel was being told of “Peter and the Wolf” and how the fans didn’t care to hear anything until a deal was done.

At least there’s still a chance for a partial season, right?

Well here we sit, no deal, lawsuits now, and the threat of no season at all.  There are national polls that have been taken that show that a great majority of NBA fans don’t care if there is a season this year.  I wonder if they will care next year?

The only thing that is keeping the NBA alive in everyone’s minds right now is that there are pending lawsuits.  Once the media stops reporting about the NBA and college basketball gets underway, how many fans will even think about the NBA?  I’m sure a few will as the college season comes to an end.  Some will wonder how the NBA Draft would work with no season and what awesome college player might their team get.

I know that I’ll still be wondering all of that, but as the poll shows, I think I may be in the vast minority.  I really believe that if there is no season, the NBA popularity will take a hit 100 times worse than the last lockout created.  It may take 10 years to make it half as popular as it was in 2011.  It may not even get there at all.

Fans, it isn’t the players or the owners.  It’s the situation they are all in.  Bloated contracts, overspending, and a bad business model.  Maybe they will get things fixed soon and the NBA will have 28 to 30 competitive teams instead of 8 to 9.  Something had to be done, but in this economy, now might not have been the time to do it.

Time will tell, but with every passing day, another NBA fan finds something better to do with their time than to follow a lawsuit.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.