Today is ultimatum day.
The players made their stand after a meeting of the team representatives and vowed to continue fighting for what they feel is a fair deal. They, in essence, are calling the league’s bluff and daring them to cancel more games and present a deal to the players that the league already knows the players will not accept.
Meanwhile, as the players and the league debate how to split basketball-related income and billions of dollars in revenue, the people providing a good chunk of that revenue are tuning out. The great fear that the league has ignored or pushed to the side for so long is beginning to rear its head.
Apathy among the fan base is setting in.
At least that is what a survey from Poll Position says. Poll Position surveyed more than 1,000 registered voters in early November and asked whether they were longing for basketball to resume. The results? More than three quarters of the respondents said they did not miss basketball and only 12 percent said they missed games.
“I think it is pretty reliable that three-quarters of Americans have made it pretty clear that they are not missing the NBA season up to this point,” said Larry Register, content manager at Poll Position. “I think what it says is that American people are kind of fed up with this millionaire-versus-billionaire mentality, when things are pretty tight for everybody.”
That certainly seems to be the sentiment. The casual fan is sick of hearing the billionaire vs. millionaire squabble in the middle of a recession, even if they do not truly understand the issues at play. Those really do not matter. Both the league and the players have lost the battle of public perception as this poll clearly indicates.
It also shows that most of the worry about the NBA comes from those between the ages of 18 and 29. It says the NBA appeals more to a younger crowd who are reliving some of the glory days of Michael Jordan right now with all the talent in the league. But it is not by much. Only 29 percent in that age range responded by saying they missed the NBA.
The poll was conducted over the phone so it is not incredibly clear whether these results are statistically significant. If you are like me, you get a phone interview and you might click it off. That is just the way things go.
Whether or not the poll is valid or not, I suspect that the trends it supposes are happening with attitudes toward the NBA is very true. The longer this lockout goes on, the more it will alienate fans and keep them away when the league does come back. This labor disagreement has been bitter and hard to swallow even for die hards. It is going to take a lot for the league to put on a happy face — and maybe ask for forgiveness — and try to present its product to the fans again.
With each passing day, I imagine the number of people caring whether the NBA comes back sooner or later will decrease. And that hurts everyone’s bottom line. You hope that a poll like this wakes the parties up and makes them realize that the people who contribute to that income pool are not thinking of investing in the league again.