The year 2011 has been pretty agonizing for sports fans. Until August, we waited and waited for the NFL to resolve its labor issues, thinking there might not be a football season this year. At half past the eleventh hour, the posturing finally stopped so that Alleluia! the real games could be played where they belong — on the field.
Unfortunately for fans, the NBA has been even more annoying. Yesterday marked a crucial turning point, after the NBA Players Association rejected the latest ultimatum served up by the league. I’ve heard a lot of nyah nyahs and seen a lot of finger pointing. But the reality is this – both sides are jerks.
As fans, we are a bunch of suckers. Patsies. Pushovers. Why? I’ll tell you why.
The Big Four of professional athletics—the NBA, NFL, MLB,* and NHL**—have all taken us for a ride. As they negotiate obscenely high salaries and profit sharing schemes, we sit helpless. We, who fund their whole livelihood and industry, have no leverage.
While every other industry that caters to its clients or constituents, the Big Four enjoy immunity from any consequences because we always come a-running back.
Like when a kid comes home after running away, we’re just so happy that he came around, we don’t even have the heart to punish them. These organizations dick fans around because they can. We’ll never leave. We sigh and we shrug, but that’s our best defense. It’s our only move. We never stand firm. We are such suckers.
Compare this to how we treat our elected officials. The media vilifies Congress and the President when things become intractable. We mobilize. We throw them out of office. We hold them accountable.
With the Big Four sports, we just crumble like feta cheese. We don’t Occupy NBA or throw tea onto Soldier Field. As if they’re our mentally unstable sibling, we feel disloyal if we turn our backs on them even though they’re being selfish. But it’s just wrong. They take advantage of our support, loyalty, and unconditional love.
They cancel games through November and just point to the other side. They try to convince you that they’re pure of heart and that basketball never stops. They play the victim with their Let Us Play campaign. But who’s stopping them? Certainly not us. If it was, we’d say Just Do It.
Their strikes and lockouts are the literal embodiment of “I’ll take my ball and go home.” It’s the same game of HE STARTED IT that you used with your brother when you were 11. But now we’re adults.
Adults who just sit there and take it until their stupid tantrum passes.
Then, we welcome them back with shouts from the stands. We buy tickets and jerseys and nachos with cheese from a pumpable bag. We forget what they put us through and how selfish they’ve been.
We forgive them without ever calling them to the carpet. There are no consequences. Because we really like Drew Brees or Kevin Durant, even when they’re part of a coalition of entitled babies.
There’s no tough love. There’s no departure. We let them break our hearts every time. Don’t we see it coming? Fool me once.. fool me twice… fool me three times a lady. And, that lady who forgets the past is destined to repeat it. If we keep playing the fool, at some point, it becomes our own responsibility.
I want to take a moment to point out that you don’t see this kind of entitled diva behavior in lower profile sports. There will never be an MLS lockout, where the median salary is $80,050 with only 7 players making $1 million or more. Ryan Hall, the top long distance runner in the country, will never go on strike over a contract. And although the WNBA caps its players’ salaries at just over $100k, there won’t be a lockout. Why? Because fans would walk away. Because they need us more than we need them.
These are the good guys who our moms wish we would date. But instead, we hop on the motorcycle with the dickhead who is sleeping with our best friend.
** 1994 was another awful year for sports nuts. The MLB wrecked the post-season and held out for 232 days, and that wasn’t the first (or last) time.
***And while I don’t care about hockey, there are a grip of people who were pretty distraught when the NHL also went on strike in 1994 (and 2004-2005).