I have tried to pay attention to what is going on in terms of the NFL Lockout. I am a football fan but more so paying attention in terms of what it could mean for the NBA Lockout. Now to say any two labour disputes are the same would be like saying two divorces are the same. Each and every one is unique. The NFL Season if it actually starts on time would begin in 91 days. It has largely been fought through various court actions. Recently the two sides have actually been talking with meetings in Chicago and Long Island. People seem to feel finally their is some movement toward a new CBA. How much is a mystery. While the NBA has not officially entered into a lockout if you ask anyone it is all but a certainty they are heading that way. While people boo the Miami Heat and try to convince us Dirk is the second coming it really is small in the big picture. Once the Finals are done and then the NBA Draft the focus of the NBA will be squarely on the CBA.
Some might say that if the NFL is able to come up with a deal it might help the NBA see the light. After all despite being a basketball fan first and foremost it is no secret what sports league has the largest pie of dollars to split up. The NFL far and away is the answer and you only need to look at their massive T.V deal for proof of that. I would like to believe that an NFL solution will help the NBA come to a deal that may not be realistic. The issues for the NBA are much different in their labour dispute. NBA has some franchises in real trouble in comparison to the NFL. While the Jacksonville Jaguars are likely the worst team in terms of viability they are no where close to in the trouble of a number of NBA franchises. The fact the NBA is controlling the franchise in New Orleans is an obvious example of that. The franchise in Sacramento was almost moved to Anaheim not unlike the Raiders once picked up the franchise and moved to L.A. But they appear to at least have bought some time to save the franchise in that city. But you can look to a number of other places and only need to look in the stands to see there could be other franchises that are in trouble.
The main issues of these disputes are very different as well. While at the end of the day all labour disputes at some point come down to dollars and cents in pro sports, each sport is unique. In the NBA there is a lot of concern about the movement of players so you can avoid another Miami situation. While on the surface the Heat have love them, or hate them, grown attention for the brand as whole. It also has made it very scary for small market franchises in terms of competitive balance. Chris Paul is on a team that is in trouble and the fact he wants to walk away from New Orleans is not going to do anything but make that franchise worse. Here with the Raptors we have watched many stars come only to leave. Part of that is on poor management but to have more security in terms of keeping a player could only help.
The NBA owners also want to basically tighten up the system in general and move towards a system that is more of a hard cap. Which when you say that term of hard cap it is one that will never play with a players union. Once you have a hard cap the size of the pie is set in stone. While if the business as a whole can grow so will the pie. It becomes a lot harder to do it. Also there is the whole issue of trust. The Union would likely feel that the Owners would do some creative book keeping to keep the pie from growing to big for the players side.
To get down to the basic difference in these disputes is pretty simple. The dollars in the NFL are far to big for Owners to truly let a season go by and get nothing from it. While the NBA is in a situation that is not that different from the one the NHL was in. They also have to look at the state of the NHL and pause. A league that lost an entire season still ended up with a deal that is far from ideal for the owners. The goal of helping small market teams in the NHL was not exactly realized. Also the impact it had on interest levels in U.S Markets was not positive. Out of sight can quickly turn to out of mind. The NBA will be determined to not make the same mistakes the NHL has. They have similar goals to the NHL in how they enter this lockout. I will venture to say that David Stern is going to get a better deal than his former understudy Gary Bettman.
Baseball remains the only league with out any real cap in place. But in terms of competitive balance the sport has become a joke in some ways. While a team can win with a small payroll their margin for error is slight and their are some teams that you just know have zero chance before the season starts. Part of that is their much more restrictive playoffs but it also is a huge economic imbalance.
But as NFL Fans chanted "We Want Football" at their commissioner at their draft, I would venture to say NBA fans are no different. You can come up with 100 reasons as to why this labour dispute is important for the future of the league and the game but at the end of the day fans just want to see games. Fans are always the victims in any labour dispute. They have no seat at the table as two sides in effect fight over their money.
Bottom line if the NFL is able to get a season off as scheduled it will not hurt in putting some pressure on the NBA to do the same. But ultimately the NBA is a different place and has a lot more at stake in this than the NFL does in terms of the future of their sport. It has been the dark cloud that has hung over this entire NBA season for me. The fact the Raptors were a terrible failure did not exactly help. But regardless of that this was always coming and not even a Boshtrich sticking it head in the sand can avoid it.