Volume 92, Issue 20

Wednesday, October 7, 1998



NBA can't remember

There is an adage that I heard as a child which went something like "those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

I asked around and confirmed that it is a well-known verse. So what I have trouble understanding is why not a single person in the National Basketball Association has been handed down this message.

Currently in the midst of a pre-season lockout, the NBA is making the biggest mistake of the league's history – ignoring the fans. Instead, they are more interested in squabbling over dollar signs and inflating already watermelon-sized egos.

It is a common theme of the sporting world in the 1990s. The commercialization of sport has stomped on the innocence of the game and is willing to do the same to the fans.

Have we not seen this display in the past? And have we not also seen the ramifications of such actions?

The 1994 baseball strike is the easiest to remember. Similar arguments could not be resolved, forcing an early end to the season and the cancellation of the World Series.

The fans reacted as they should have, as they turned to other forms of entertainment. With so many options for a limited number of recreational dollars it was not hard for ball fans to fill their time with other activities.

Thus, attendance dropped like a rock in water and it took two gentlemen by the names of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire to save America's supposed national past-time from demise.

The same injury was inflicted on hockey fans during the 1995 lockout by the National Hockey League. Once hailed as the hottest sport in North America by Sports Illustrated, the momentum was halted when owners and players turned their backs on the fans.

Both of these instances of course helped the NBA to increase its mainstream exposure. Now the league appears ready to return the favour to its competition.

Twice bitten, sports fans will be extremely shy to remain loyal to the NBA if the league continues to entertain this power struggle.

With the possible departure of legend Michael Jordan and questions about who will take over the torch of leadership for the league, the NBA can clearly not afford so many blows at the same time. Writing off the 1998/99 season will likely knock the league to the mat, leaving it a vegetable to rot away.

It is unfortunate that a league that has so much to live for currently sits on the edge of disaster. The marketing potential of the NBA has proven successful and appeared to have many more days ahead of it in the sun. The league has the fast-paced style of hockey and the heroes of Major League Baseball with a unique twist of the Jerry Springer bizarre, courtesy of Mr. Dennis Rodman.

Yet, what the fans want most of all is loyalty from the league and its players.

Currently, the status of the league is grim, but still within the possibility of recovery. The pre-season was officially cancelled on Monday – a sin which can be forgiven and eventually forgotten. However, the next step will be the delay and eventual execution of the season.

Does the NBA truly want to tempt fate? Have they not learned from the mistakes of their sporting peers?

It seem they have not. Since the lockout was instated in June, little movement has been made. Neither the players' union nor the multimillionaire owners want to display a weakness, so this destructive scheme will continue.

A note to the league. Resolve the issue and move on – for the love of the game.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998