I was fully prepared to write something else today. I was going to stick with College Basketball as that is the sport du jour right now, or maybe even lay another football article on you as that seems to be a topic that is always in season, but I couldn’t let this topic go without saying something.
A few weeks ago, on “Faces for Radio”, Justin and I discussed how the NBA has become completely run by the players, that they are calling the shots and the owners, and consumers of the product (the fans) have to just sit by and watch it happen. If we say anything or expect any different, we’ll be chastised by these athletes, called names, made to feel like our desire to watch them play basketball is racially motivated. Nothing screams this quite like the whole “NBA Players taking games off” issue.
I’m not going to discuss the business aspect of players resting (it’s bad for business) as I would like to focus on the personal, fan-based aspect of the players’ decision to lightly boycott their working conditions. First, I understand that basketball takes a toll on individuals. I understand that a lot of these players have played more minutes and more games than we can even dream possible, especially those that go to the playoffs every year. I heard a stat that LeBron James has already passed Michael Jordan in terms of minutes played, and it’s safe to say that, barring injury, LeBron has a good 5-8 years left in him (at least). I get it, and I would normally be sympathetic to the plight of these working class guys…except they are not working class guys. They are entertainers, and they are paid (many of them excessively) to entertain. If they are not going to do that, why should we watch? Why should we pay the ridiculous ticket prices for a Warriors/Spurs game if we get the “B” teams on the court?
Here’s a real-world example that might help drive the point home. A few years ago, me and a buddy of mine went to the local casino to see Queensryche play (hair metal for the win!). Tickets were not cheap, but it was a good show, and the seats were great. The show was awesome, exactly what you would expect out of a band that was popular in the 80’s. A greatest hits smorgasbord with some sprinkling of new stuff here and there, but when it came to the encore the band flipped the script. Apparently the local radio station had held a karaoke contest, and the lucky winner was able to get up on stage and sing with the band. First, it must have been one of the best moments of this guy’s life to get up there, and I don’t want to take anything away from him. Nor do I want to shit on the generosity of both the band and radio station for allowing this to happen. But halfway through the song, my friend and I turned to each other and rolled our eyes because that performance is not why we came to the concert, and not why we paid good money for the tickets. If we wanted to see a cover band, or karaoke performance, we could catch that at a local bar any night of the week for a simple $5 cover charge.
The same thing applies here, believe it or not. We, as fans and consumers of the NBA pay a premium in terms of ticket sales and cable packages to see our favorite players on our favorite teams. We do not pay this premium to see “Johnny D-League” run out there and throw up bricks all night (well, I kind of do, I’m a Knicks fan). It is an insult to fans that these players take nights off to “rest”. I understand that the schedule can be grueling, and that the season is never really done if these players want to be the best at their sport. That being said, defrauding the fans of an experience because you felt like you needed to rest, because you would rather take a day off and rest up for a game that you deem more important down the road than the one that someone has been saving a year to buy tickets for, is the quickest way to lose fans and tank your sport.