I was talking to some of my friends at work about sports in general, as we were talking about the weekend's events, things happening in MLS, the upcoming NBA season, and all things, when he suddenly said, "What will we do next year when both football and basketball go on strike and there's no sports to watch?"
I have to admit I hadn't necessarily thought about that, but then again, it's something that sports fans suddenly must think about because every major sport has suffered from some type of recent labor trouble. Back when I was younger, the biggest concerns about sports was trying to find information about your team in a pre-Internet world and when cable wasn't exactly a big player in things. You didn't have much in the way of labor issues or problems, it was simply more about playing games. Then suddenly, lots of money and influence came into play in sports over the past few decades, and now you have two groups of extremely rich people arguing over how to divide massive piles of income.
I can refer to owners and players as rich because they will both make far more money that I'll see in my lifetime. Part of my issues with the whole situation is my mindset when it comes to economics. I don't have a problem with people making what the market will pay for things, but then again, it seems like sports themselves cost more and more just simply to keep up. Ticket prices keep going up, salaries are moving up, and it seems like there's no ceiling to how much money can be thrown about when it comes to sports. I also realize that for most sports careers, you only have a limited shelf life to make money and have a career. I can work for the company I do for nearly 50 years if I'm lucky enough and make a comfortable living, but at the same point, I won't be shown the door at 38 years old because I've lost a step either.
Sports has become less about the game itself and more about the business side because of the massive costs and salaries, and that's probably why I get so frustrated of talk about labor issues. Instead of working together to find a way to work on things, players and owners end up arguing over millions of dollars simply because they can. If they end up striking or owners lock them out, the fans are the ones that miss out the most, yet there's really nothing that protects fans from that particular reality. Both sides operate under the assumption that fans will return despite any labor issues, and for the most part, they've been right about that.
The NFL played with replacement players and now have a situation where the owners by and large dominate the league setup. Owners can terminate a contract for most any reason, and now want to add two more regular season games, but claim they are losing money just trying to keep up. The players are trying to hold to some resolve in the issue, but at this point, it doesn't sound good for averting a strike. The NBA has the opposite problem as the players have guaranteed contracts and really get paid regardless if they play or not, and owners are looking for more cost certainty.
It's just hard to sit here and watch them fight over pools of money without regard to who might get hurt within the process. The haves seem to be looking out for themselves, which I can respect to a point, but pardon me if I'm not in a huge hurry to run back and regain my fandom if you all decide the league can shut down for a bit. Look at how well that worked out for the NHL, who really has never been the same since their massively long strike. Hockey used to have some relevancy within the sports landscape, and now they're simply fighting to get noticed outside of their hardcore audience. If you want to fight over the money, that's fine, but don't expect me to come crawling back if it happens. To both sides, I say, look out for yourself but remember that not playing games doesn't help anyone. And if the question I'm asked actually comes to fruition, I'll answer it by simply saying, "I've got better things to do."