Outta’ Right Field: Lockout no more

By Ransom Cozzillio
November 29, 2011

Finally, after three plus brutal months of hopeless isolation from the sport I love, a glimmer of hope. I awoke Saturday morning to the best bit of Twitter news I had ever seen: the NBA is coming back.

I would have jumped for joy, had I not been exhausted from the previous night and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the news and my excitement. No more “nuclear winter,” no more David Stern double-talk, no more missed games.

Despite having only missed a handful of actual NBA games thus far, this lockout has already challenged both my psychological stability and my use of free time. Since July, I had been utterly refusing to think of my life without basketball. Even when opening day came and went without a tipoff, I refused to give in. Maybe if I ignored it, it wouldn’t hurt as much.

So, when the NBA owners and the players association came to their tentative agreement to end their impasse, they brought back to me all the trivial things that help to shape my winter life: obsessed stat tracking; sneaking into the lower-bowl at half-empty Sixers games; huge blocks of Thursday nights for the weekly TNT doubleheader; Charles Barkley.

Overnight, NBA commissioner David Stern had gone from private enemy No. 1, leader of the greedy and intransigent owners hell-bent on ending the league as we know it, to a Thanksgiving Santa Clause. He delivered enough early Christmas cheer to hold me over until New Years. Not to mention, the promise of a three-game, Christmas day, NBA bonanza to start the season. I could not be more excited.

But, great though it may be, I cannot stop thinking about the lockout, the reactions and the public outcry. Now that I don’t have to listen to trite quips about “billionaires arguing with millionaires” there are real lessons to take out of this debacle.

While this lockout may have pissed off many, alienated casual fans and jeopardized all the good will the league had earned from its transcendent 2010-2011 season, it had to happen and it’s good it did.

As much as people argue that the millionaire athletes should have shut up and taken whatever new deals the owners offered, no full-blooded American can disdain the fight for a fair deal.

Rich or not, the players weren’t getting a fair shake. They came to the table surrendering five percent of their income and were told “not enough, we want everything we want or else” by owners.

The owners wanted a new system that was designed by and for them. They had monetary leverage and they tried to steamroll the players, who were having none of it.

Cliché though it may be, this wasn’t just about money; it was about principle and respect. You can only back up so far before saying enough. The players said enough, they risked losing a year of work and a system that has made them successful. Clearly they were fighting for something.

Now, peace has been reached, a true compromise has come from months of recalcitrance. Fans will come back, time will heal the annoyance and the NBA will be as good as it ever was, hopefully better. As a player, it’s back to work; as a fan, it’s finally time to watch some basketball.

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Ransom Cozzillio

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