The angles have been covered every which way - the season’s doomed, we’ll have a deal by Monday, the superstars will hold things up and the League of 7 Agents have moved from Armageddon to an expressed desire to help the union. Well sure, and Doc wants to redistrict the league and Happy wants network license fees and Grumpy wants to steal Dopey’s clients.
My own opinions on the lockout have ranged from vertical integration scenarios to a simple lost season to my most recent faint hope, seedlings searching for the sun. In truth, I have no clue at all. I’m only watching and waiting. Whatever happens, the lower-to-middle rung players will bear the brunt of sacrifice. Along with countless associated workers and families, caught up as they so often are, in the brutal squeeze.
This sport has long been a sanctuary. I got my first Spaulding at the age of 6 and somehow managed to put a small slice in it. My dad sealed it with black rubber but there was forever a slight bulge. It presented certain quirks while dribbling but I kept that basketball for a lot of years - driveways, backyards, gyms and the cracked asphalt playground at the Stella Maris school, down the street from where I lived during my teen years. I’d launch unlikely shots for hours on end, pondering the world. Sometimes stoned, I’ll admit. And then television. A lot of games, a lot of years.
Our country’s earliest collective bargaining agreements date back to localized trade unions in the late 1700's, followed soon after by a growing women’s movement to improve sweatshop conditions. It’s never been the easiest road. Soldiers came gunning for railroad workers, the air traffic controllers were fired by Reagan and governors began the long steady push to exterminate teachers’ unions. And now this: David Stern sits behind a bank of microphones, wearing the most puzzled expression. "We asked the players to grab their ankles and they said no. I don’t know where this leaves us."
The trend toward weakening workers’ positions isn’t a trend at all, it’s been the constant battle between sides since the earliest feudal systems and fuck it, I don’t want to write about farmers and retail clerks. The shittiest owners in the league want more money to lose more games. Is that simple enough?
Things I’ve read and liked recently:
From Adrian Wojinarowski, about aging stars and a deal that may not get any better:
He’s 35 years old, on a bad knee, and near the end of a Hall of Fame career. And yes, it takes some guts for Garnett to stand there in these Players Association news conferences, strong, defiant, and take the arrows again. He’s made more than $200 million in his career, and there are no more big contracts awaiting him. The Boston Celtics have one more season to make a title run, and then, with Garnett and Ray Allen free agents, the team will probably stat to rebuild again.
From Tom Ziller, about cheating fans and embracing greed:
The owners will decide that extracting money from players takes precedence over serving the communities that have put them in fancy suits, meeting in fancy hotels over fancy lunches. Robert Sarver will decide that the bailout the players’ union has offered him - $200 million in future salary rollbacks and a sure concession of escrow funds, which amount to 8 percent of payroll - isn’t enough, that he needs to twist the screws and get more.more.more.
From Henry Abbott, on the concessions that matter:
I could walk into a car dealership today and say true things - that we the Abbbots have little saved for a car purchase, that gas is expensive, that the market for gas guzzlers is softening - so why don’t they hand over a brand new $300,000 Bentley for twenty-five cold hard American Dollars?
And then there’s this - blogs have been linking a rather ripped-looking Adam Morrison getting tossed from a game in Serbia. Who knew? Ammo is beast!
There’s truth in all these things - Garnett and Bryant stand to lose a lot more than they could ever gain. Robert Sarver represents everything wrong in this inexorable mess. And you just can’t get a decent car these days for twenty-five dollars. Take away the vast sums that are jammed into every nook and cranny of this particular debate and the fabric becomes a little more uniform, a seamless world-view blend of decreased payroll, benefits and humanity. Because the NBA cares.
I've lost sight of where it begins and ends. My eyes are tired and I become aware that the sun is going down, and that I'm hungry. I rummage around a kitchen cabinet and find a brand-new, brightly colored tennis ball that I'd bought for the old dog and tucked away. He loses them in record speed but loves them fiercely in the moment. I toss it across the room and he's almost young again, walking around proudly, ready to go outside. All things must pass but this at least, is here and now.