October 25th, 2011


NBA Lockout trading cards


Reblogged from The A States
October 21st, 2011

You Don’t Matter.

I’m not really concerned with who first started humoring the voice of the fan, or why. We all started as fans; presumably, most of us working somewhere in the business still are. However, it has absolutely no place in this lockout. The knee-jerk reaction to cancelations, of which there will be more today, is “I want my NBA!” or “Come on, let’s save the NBA!”

The problem is that this kind of selfishness plays right into the hands of owners, providing leverage and creating an imbalance in talks that really, have nothing to do with basketball, or how much we love it. Everybody involved in the talks is very rich, and in regular person terms, there’s little difference between millions and billions. But the owners, whose businesses make up the National Basketball Association, are employers, and the players work for them. We fall into this equivocation all the time; we say we’re NBA fans, when what we really means is that we like watching these players compete with the necessary infrastructure in place. We selfishly talk about improving our product as “solving the league’s problems”, and in these grave days, beg for our league back—which, in labor terms, translates into wanting owners to have the opportunity to do business. Fixing the NBA? That means helping the owners, who depend on revenue to stay above water.

What’s lost here is that, no matter how much we may want the NBA back, the players who work for it have a right to negotiate as they see fit. That there are fans whose opinion can be swayed is an unfortunate distraction; we have no say in this, or at least we shouldn’t. People who work for other people are in a vulnerable position, and all that protects them from abuses of power is collective bargaining. Sure, LeBron James doesn’t need our pity. In a way, that’s just as condescending as calling him a spoiled brat. At the same time, the other part of the NBA—besides the owners running businesses that we support—is its workers not being pushed around. It sucks that arena employees (not to mention writers) are losing out on pay. But if millionaires don’t have labor rights, then really, who the fuck does? 

October 13th, 2011

I will always be partial to Stern, at least superficially, because of his unmistakably Jewish persona. Let’s get that out of the way. I will also never cease to trumpet his staunch Democratic credentials, when it comes to everything except for—well, doing his job. He started out a union-buster, was the NBA’s choice for its last stand against free agency, and has always made a point of going at labor ruthlessly, almost competitively, as if it were his form of bloodsport. These days, it’s hard to reconcile anti-labor bravura with any kind of left-ish leanings. 

Here’s where we would do well to remember something about sports commissioners: They are not installed to rule over players and owners alike. Kenesaw Mountain Landis was a prehistoric being, not a precedent; even the most transformative figures, like Roger Goodell or Stern during the Jordan Era, served at the pleasure of the league’s owners. Larry O’Brien, Tommy Craggs’s great champion (our first in-person meeting was a three-hour long argument about Stern), was very nearly an activist, lecturing the owners about what was fair and right in this world. He was as structurally unlikely as Landis. The rest of these guys are just doing a job. David Stern is a character, at once endearing and a total prick. But just as the league’s best days allow him to assume the guise (and stereotype) of big-hearted showbiz tycoon, so the lean, or bitter, ones demand he scorch the earth. We know something of Stern’s personality, and his politics. The internal contradictions that cling so readily to him are a function of his ironbound sense of duty. The man isn’t a chameleon. Above all else, David Stern is the most ruthless kind of professional. 

Earlier today, Ray Ratto pointed out to me that Stern, as much as he may secretly resent it, has no choice but to protect the interests of mediocre owners. The smart ones are in the minority and they’re probably balanced out by the utter morons, anyway. This is not meant as a defense of David Stern, but an explanation for his seemingly revolting behavior here: He’s an employee. As usual, it’s the guys at the top who ruin everything. Granted, he’s closer, and more culpable, than the players ever could be. But at the end of the day, even David Stern works for someone.

I don’t doubt that David Stern has real feelings. Despair, or at least the hyperbolic idea of it, might be among them, somewhere. However, the exact structure of them, and the way they resolve way down in his gut and up high behind those glasses, is probably a mystery to everyone, save his analyst. Whoever that great and lucky man is. 

July 2nd, 2011
By indirect request. Dig the other cover item.

By indirect request. Dig the other cover item.