From time to time in this space, we will veer off into less familiar territory and speak about the goings on in other sports. Yessir, the MHL pony has more than one trick in its stable.
Now off the bat, I would say I am not a HUGE lover of basketball and the NBA but I do enjoy my Toronto Raptors and the broadcasts both – TV & radio – I find mostly endearing with the charming Jack Armstrong and the radio play-by-play of Paul Jones with his clever/corny locutions.
I’ve been missing that due to the small matter of the NBA labour negotiations that has gone from unproductive to sour and now, to downright ugly.
The future hope of tuning into any of my Toronto Raptors games now appears bleak indeed as bargaining has switched from the boardroom to the courtroom. The NBA “union” (if there ever was a more ironic word to describe this bunch) has been nuked in favour lawyers and judges to settle this thing and save the season. Right. Nothing like a bunch of lawyers threatening to sue the owners’ asses off to get them to endear themselves to the players’ plight. As if.
If you’ve been at all following the bouncing ball as of November 14 – David Stern’s final, final, absolute last offer to the players was turned down by the union without them even making a counter-offer or suggesting a tweak or two. The offer, said Stern, was as good as its going to get at a 50/50 basketball related income (BRI) split. After this boys, he threatened, you’re looking at less than half the money pie.
Of course, there was always the complex hodge-podge of luxury taxes, mid-level exceptions and other contentious though smaller financial details still to be worked on but c’mon guys! the season is headed for a crash and burn and it didn’t — doesn’t need to happen.
The players make an average salary of $5.4 million a year. They’ve gotten raises every single season for 27 straight years when their median salary was $330,000 in 1984. Even in the fantasy existence of pro sports, that’s pretty damn good. And the thing is, players will never get back the money lost this year. You want to argue principles and make the game better for the next generation? Let’s re-visit with some of these b-ballers come February shall we, when they’ve gone three months without one of their lottery-sized paycheques. They might even have to trade in the Benz for a Chevy.
On the other side, Stern and the owners didn’t seem to know when to quit either. They kept pushing for more and more financial clawbacks from players. A few owners
— the so-called hard-liners — almost appeared to want to punish the union for all the gains they’ve made for their ridiculously compensated players. The players took a 7 per cent cut of BRI from 57 to 50 per cent which in itself would just about cover the $300 million owners claim they lost last year. But owners didn’t stop there. They continued to push hard for more concessions until players said “Whoa, bro. I’ll take a haircut but I ain’t about to walk around lookin’ like Shaq the rest of my career.”
And so here we are. The season on the edge – some now say over the edge – and all sides – owners, players, union leadership, agents and David Stern himself can wear this embarrassment of not getting a deal done. Think about it: $4 BILLION DOLLARS on the table each year and these guys can’t figure out a fair way to split it so everyone goes home happy. I mean, really.
This negotiation has had a dysfunctional feeling from the start of the lockout July 1. No one was in a rush to iron out the contentious issues in the early weeks and months, leaving it to the last minute. As recent weeks have proved, it was too little, too late. As an observer, you just can’t root for any of these guys. The insufferable arrogance of Stern vs the incompetent, disorganized union leadership. Many of the players themselves appeared disinterested in the outcome. It’s made everyone just NOT CARE about the whole messy business. That’s what’s characterized this whole charade for me. Almost no one bloody cares. And I hope the NBA — and the mega-rich players get some blow back. Maybe in these dire economic times, fans won’t be willing to pay the big bucks or tune into see these guys when they finally do come back, whenever that might be.
I’m no expert in these matters but from what I see, this thing’s broken. Barring any last-minute miracles, the season appears lost.
Adios Toronto Raptors. I’ll see ya next year. Maybe.