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Friday, October 14, 2011

On the NBA Lockout

Required Reading: Michael Wilbon's post on yesterday.

I am not an economist, but in a world saturated with alternatives -- whether in music, theater, movies or sports -- I do wonder how many discretionary dollars are out there for the average person to spend. Tickets are not cheap, and we all go through scaling back when funds become more scarce or, alternatively, when we perceive that in the near future there might be a time where funds might become more scarce.

And it's easiest to cut either the biggest ticket items or the recurring items that add up to be the biggest tickets. You might not take a vacation, make that extra improvement to your home, buy a car or a computer or a sofa, you might eat out less, cancel the health club membership and go to the barest bones cable TV subscription, among other things. You also might give up your tickets, opting to go onto StubHub, Craig's List or eBay to buy single-game tickets. If you live in a town where the team isn't vying for a title, there's a good chance that you might be able to buy tickets for below face value. And for the games that you want. You'll do, in essence, what Apple did to the recorded music business with iTunes. Instead of having to buy an entire album -- one with 1.5 songs that you want and 7.5 songs that make you wonder why they were recorded -- you'll be able to zero in on what you want.

All that is background to a general observation that the NBA is in big trouble. To begin with, it already has too many teams and too many teams make the post-season. Because there are too many teams, there are too many bad teams. A few years ago I was in Washington to see the Wizards play the Pacers, and more than half the luxury boxes were unlit and the arena was less than half full. That situation repeats itself around the league more often than the league would like to admit. And now there's the lockout, and, as Michael Wilbon points out, the NBA pales in comparison to the NFL. A lot of people would have suffered withdrawal symptoms had the NFL not started on time. It seems like few are noticing that the NBA might not start on time. Atop that, there's college basketball, which has a very big following and which many conferences play at a high level. Of course, it's not the NBA, but it's still good basketball, sometimes very good fundamental basketball, too.

I don't know whether this still holds true or not, but I have heard it said that in supermarkets if a bread company misses a delivery, it will lose its shelf space to the company that delivers timely that day. Analogously, if the NBA fails to deliver a product when its season is supposed to begin, the consumers will fill up their time with other entertainment options -- other sports, for example. Now, of course, some will miss the NBA terribly and hurry back, but others will attrite simply because they'll have allocated that time to something that they enjoy -- a different brand, a different flavor, so to speak. And then where will the NBA be?

The NBA is facing a perfect storm -- a lockout, a bad economy, intense competition for the discretionary entertainment dollar, a product that has needed improvement for years and a league economy that has more teams losing money than making it. Unless if figures out a way to have some good come out of this and perhaps turn itself into the basketball version of the English Premier Soccer League, the product that returns after what seems to be looking like a long lockout might be significantly weakened.

Michael Wilbon is right -- there is plenty of money to go around, so the parties should figure out a way to settle the dispute and get back to work.

Where are Bob Lanier and Larry O'Brien when you need them?*


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NBA morphed from competitive sports into simple entertainment over the past couple decades. The players do not give consistent effort to the competition aspect at the level that is customary in the other major team sports. It is not even close to what occurs nightly in college basketball. Individual game endings and even ultimate season outcomes usually seem contrived to be artificially dramatic. It has become very similar to professional wrestling that has not made even a pretense of being a sport for more than a generation, if ever.

The financial scale is perhaps ten times overdone compared to its current true value. The NBA would be best off going dark for a few years, to allow itself to be reborn in a financially viable form. Its season completely overlaps with football, ice hockey, and baseball. Because of its lack of sports competition, it will not be missed by the huge majority of America's true sports fans.

Under such a scenario, the NBA might even regenerate itself as a real sport with a shortened season and a nightly 48 minutes of serious competition on every floor.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks God we are going to have NBA season, I couldn't imagine my Christmas without NBA matches, I do not know which was the accordance but both parts were happy, I will stop to buy Generic Viagra to buy some tickets to the matches in December 25th

8:26 AM  

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