By Jim McCarthy Jul 1, 2011 0 comments

NBA and NFL Locked Out

It’s not a surprise, but now it’s official: the NBA has locked out its players.  And to quote the article I just linked, it’s bad news:

“The NBA… is about to show the NFL how to conduct a truly contentious labor war and stage a lockout likely to do real damage in terms of dollars, goodwill and reputation.

The NFL was never going to miss anything meaningful.

The NBA might miss the entire 2011-12 season.”

If you’re not in the know on this, the fundamental problem is that the NBA, well, has fundamental problems.  The NFL is like Scrooge McDuck, whose biggest problem is where to put the piles of gold coins, jewels, and stacks of bills.  The players say their wallets should be where more of it goes, and the owners retort that it should stay in their treasure vaults.

The NBA’s problem is that many teams just aren’t making it.  Sure, there are accounting shenanigans, but if you’re a small market NBA team, it’s a tough business model to make work.

The sad part is that the NBA had been on a tear, after a few years of waning relevance.  A lockout now is like a person who was unemployed and almost lost their house, who finally gets a job and starts paying off all the credit card debt they racked up, and who, just as they’re breaking even, marches into the bosses office and quits because he didn’t get the raise he wanted.

The metaphor doesn’t work for so many reasons, not the least of which is that the NBA isn’t a single “person” and because for some of the teams, not playing a season is a more profitable exercise than playing a season.

If I look deeper at this, the real issue is that we are still going through the period of disruption that started with the Global Financial Crisis and won’t end for probably 5 to 10 more years.  The fundamental structures of the late 20th century and early 21st century in many places and in many ways simply don’t work, no matter what you do or how you tweak them.

I see the exact same thing, really, in the Detroit and Cleveland Orchestra strikes as I do in the NBA lockout: a 20th century business model that floated through the 2000’s because it was a last gasp of boomer-driven consumption, but now it needs fixing at a base level.  Do we need a major symphony orchestra in Detroit or an NBA team in Portland, Oregon?  Valid questions.  Of course, they’re nice to have, but is it important to save them?

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