Oct 17

Day 105 of the NBA lockout came and went as many of the previous 104 before it had: without any meetings between the NBA and NBPA. But also like many of those previous 104 days, the most significant news was a loose statement made by one of the chief particulars. This time it was the Commish stepping to the mic to offer an outlook thinly veiled in disappointment: if no deal is reached by this upcoming Tuesday, games through Christmas Day could very well be cancelled. That just happens to coincide with a planned meeting of the owners and the players face-to-face. (The one change to previous meeting is that there will be mediation involved in this round of banter, though that guarantees nothing as far as an agreement is concerned.)

This of course follows the pattern laid out by the Commish last week that if no deal was reached by this past Monday, the first two weeks of regular season games would be jettisoned. And just like last week’s “outlook”, this new one will be met in the same way: no meaningful talks between the two sides until the 11th hour and very little chance of bridging the gulf between the two when they do meet. But those won’t be similarities present. Also present will be the palpable non-existence of public concern. Fresh off possibly the greatest 12 month stretch of public interest and excitement for the happenings on AND off the court, mention the league now and people look at you like you’re speaking a foreign language.

While we just witnessed the NFL take well over 100 days to hammer out an agreement itself, the comparisons between it and the NBA’s labor unrest end almost abruptly right there. While we heard of the impending work stoppage in both sports for years leading up to it, one league seemed to be crawling slowly to an agreement, while the other seemed to be drawing lines in the sand. One knew that it had a multi-billion dollar cash stream that needed a little reworking, while the other could take (the players) or leave (the owners) their billions and be just happy. One sport, whether through posturing or genuine concern, cited their fans constantly during the labor issues, while the other… not so much. And as the days leading to the beginning of the 2011 seasons approached, fans felt optimistic that we’d see one sport open as planned, and optimistic we wouldn’t see the other at all.

Kinda easy to guess which sport is number 1 among fans, isn’t it?

And therein lies part of why right now, the NBA being gone doesn’t move the meter as much as the league may think. MLB and NASCAR (yes, racing) are winding their seasons down, while college football and the NFL are hitting the midway point. We just don’t need the NBA right now. Hardly anyone plays attention the schedule-filler games of November and December, as bowl season and the NFL playoffs loom. Check the broadcasts too…ESPN/ABC doesn’t even start televising games regularly until Christmas (while they show NFL news EVERYDAY year round).

And while this past NBA season generated a lot of chatter and debate, save for a few occasions, it had to wait until after Aaron Rodgers and the Packers took the Lombardi Trophy from the NFL Commish in Dallas before that talk became consistent and relevant. In other words, everything prior to All-Star Weekend played second fiddle in the sports world. Then, from mid-February to June, it got a chance to solo and showcase itself in pretty much the same way it does EVERY year.

So as this labor thing draws on and on, and the two sides go back and forth about revenue streams, contract lengths, and Bird rights, the only ones that will take significant losses will be those vendors, arena workers, and local businesses with advertising that will be gone until this standoff comes to an end. Those whose livelihoods will really be turned upside-down. As for the rest of us, we’ll be more than content with fall’s transition into winter, the holidays, and our normal compliment of end-of-the-calendar year sports. The NBA can take its time hashing out its differences because we don’t need to occupy the headlines anytime soon.

The league just needs to let us know if it’ll come out of hiding in time for its normal February showcase.

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