Amid all of the news stories and columns about the NBA cancelling the first two weeks of the regular season, with battle lines being drawn over the distribution of billions of dollars in revenue and the unfortunate (but somewhat likely) possibility that we will lose the entire season, is something that should terrify both sides of the negotiations: apathy.
There are people out there that really love basketball, and what the NBA should fear the most is that as the discussions go on, and if there is little good news to report, is that those fans (and many others) will simply stop caring. They will turn to the NFL, college basketball and the upstart barnstorming games featuring NBA players for their entertainment. The winter months, when millions of fans would normally head to the arenas, they’ll be turning their televisions to the multitude of other options out there. Don’t you think the NHL is secretly hoping for an extended lockout that frees up an audience for their games? They saw what happened when an entire season was cancelled, and they know how many hockey fans turned their backs on the NHL for greener pastures. Maybe the NBA should be wary that those same fans will turn back around and give hockey another chance, leaving the NBA without the fan support it needs?
The first sign that this may be the case took place last night when the announcement was made. Remember the uproar when there was even a whisper that the NFL might have to cancel PRESEASON games? You would’ve thought fans had just been given a death sentence. But there we were last night, when actual regular season games were being axed, and most of the talk centered either around the Monday Night Football game, the baseball postseason, or people pointing out how much they don’t care (which is odd to me – if really you don’t care, why feel the need to tell everyone?).
I’ve been a basketball fan my entire life – I’ve grown up with the game, from playing it to watching and writing about it, and right now, I doubt I will turn away from it. But as for a large portion of the fan base out there, I don’t think I can say the same. And that, should be one of the driving forces for the powers that be to get this deal done and tip this season off.