Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I keep telling myself that I’m done with dismal lockout imagery. Unfortunately, the damned thing’s now 132 days and counting and every now and then I feel obligated to add something to the Slava lexicon. The league & owners’ latest offering’s been dressed up with some phony 51/49 band language but it’s still the same 50/50 deal that everyone’s been reporting for the past couple of months.

A couple nights ago I had the un-hipness to tweet a few words of support for Derek Fisher and the union’s "good fight". I had this crazy thought, that in such difficult times, the negotiating committee might welcome direct appreciation. What would be the effect if an entire community sprung forth with such good wishes? I got just one response, a writer asked, "pride-wise?" The context I suppose, whether the fight was more emotional than substantive. I responded, "effort-wise". But I thought about it, and it was a legitimate comment. How much of this is pride? The answer I suspect, is a lot.

I wrote something called You Promised Us the Dawn, about a month back. I fought myself on the title, it was originally Shooting up the dawn. One inner voice outlasted another and contained in this piece, was the eldest of the elders, spinning avarice into pride. It was Stern, not Fisher I was alluding to. I don’t associate the players with an insatiable covetousness but there’s certainly a swag in their stance that wouldn’t be associated with the owners’ methodology - i.e., bloodletting.

Wednesday’s another deadline, this one accompanied by two distinctly different letters from the commissioner, leaked publicly for maximum impact. One spells out the current ultimatum, the second details a much more punitive proposal that, sans capitulation on option one, leads directly and predictably, to the wasteland. Player reps from every team were summoned and as expected, the exisiting offer was deemed unacceptable. And now, a final effort to secure one more negotiating session, an attempt by players to salvage something that allows them to hold their heads up. I don’t see another session happening, the creatures can see the end game now.

If it somehow gets to a vote, if a divided union agrees, what does the future hold? The players have long been fond of the ‘only a business’ axiom but this is the dirty end of that, there is no win for them in the new CBA. Yet, it propels them directly back into a sport that is about one team’s win, the other’s loss. Do combatants fight as fiercely when the fix is in? There’s not a singular answer but there’s a degree of ownership on the floor that’s far removed from the man in the luxury box - it’s territorial and yes, it’s about pride.

The National Basketball League keeps returning to this curious state of balance, weights are given and taken and at each crucial juncture, we pronounce a tipping point. Once again, we’re on the escarpment, looking down. Months back, with the divide so severe, I simply felt the season was shot. Now, I’ve never felt less sure of anything. Outside, a few drops hit the pavement, a storm front is moving in. Yup, wait for it... I’m only happy when it rains.


  1. Great essay.
    With all the clinical writing out there on the lockout I really like how you give a shape to non-contractual issues bubbling under the surface.

  2. Thanks so much, J.O., if a deal doesn't happen tonight, primordial rage goes on a fast boil.