When thinking about the possibility of a lost NBA season, I cringe. I cringe because the millions of NBA fans out there will see no basketball played at the highest level in the world for at least a year. I cringe because the situation was so avoidable. I cringe because one side cares only about greed, the other about workers’ rights when the minimum salary is in the mid six figures and the work force is based largely on natural talent. I cringe because thousands of people will lose their jobs in a dispute between people who can afford to not work for a few years. I cringe because I used to take one side, only to realize that I don’t care anymore. But most of all, I cringe because, in time, I fear that I may lose my love for the NBA.
Like both sides of the negotiations, I am indeed selfish. We all are, to varying degrees. That’s why I thought of myself more than anything or anyone else. But unlike most NBA bloggers, who have written pieces about how their lives will be terrible without the NBA (and there are some very sad but well-written posts, like Adam Reisinger’s), I understand that maybe, just maybe, there is life beyond the NBA for me.
Luckily, I’m in the position to think that way. I have interests beyond the league, and I’m in a position where I don’t rely on the league financially. I don’t have to blog to make money; I blog because I like to do it. I’m not someone who gave up his life or profession to be an NBA-lifer. I have a future beyond the league – I’ll be interning full-time as an auditor this winter with an accounting firm. I am beyond excited for the winter to begin because of that. And while the shock of not having the NBA could have me feeling a little less excited going into the winter, I can’t help but get the feeling I’ll be okay without it. That life moves on, and those other cliches that may also apply.
I also believe that most strong NBA fans feel the same way. Kids will get involved in other sports, talking about the NFL more or finding hockey fights to be cool. They could get excited about baseball earlier or try something new, like soccer. Older people who see the NBA as a reprieve from the realities of everyday life will find something to fill the void. New sports or hobbies are always there for the taking.
Me? I enjoy plenty of other things that can certainly keep me occupied. I’ve even had to do it before. In Philadelphia, there’s one way to enjoy local sports: through Comcast. For those who may not know, Comcast, despite no longer owning the team, has the exclusive television rights to the Sixers through its Comcast Sportsnet affiliate in this city. The only way to see the games, then, is through Comcast cable. Without getting too technical, Comcast broadcasts using a wave that could not be picked up by satellite companies. This creates a monopoly situation, where watching Philly sports meant getting Comcast cable. In 2007-2008, meanwhile, Comcast held the rights to about 70 regular season games. Not all of them, like today (where only TNT can usurp them), but still the majority of games. During that season, with my family trying to cut costs, we ditched Comcast cable for satellite. I watched approximately 15 games during the time we had DirecTV.
I hated the decision originally, mainly since the Sixers and (to a lesser degree) the Phillies would very rarely be on. But I got over it in my own little way. It was an adjustment, but I adjusted. I had other things to occupy me. I began to take an interest in, of all things, professional wrestling. It was free entertainment multiple times a week that I could see on television. I didn’t have to follow a game obsessively on the internet anymore – 5 hours of violent, scripted drama could keep a teenager easily occupied. Card games became another outlet, whether it was online poker or even kids card games, both of which I still have at least passive interests in. I learned to live without obsessing over my teams – no more waiting on the internet, anxiously anticipating the updates that came every 30 seconds.
My parents switched back to Comcast 15 months later. At that point, I hadn’t lost my love for the NBA. But I found other ways to spend my time, and it turned out okay. I wasn’t as miserable as I imagined I would be. I moved on, though when it came back in full I welcomed the league back with open arms.
Unlike the current moment, the league did not disappear – I could still watch the Sixers occasionally or tune into the ESPN and TNT games. I think that’s why I still kept an interest in its affairs. Without a league, nothing will exist. And like before, I’ll just have to move on without it. And like most people, I think I’ll survive when it happens. I won’t like it, of course, but there will be something else for me to do.
That should be a message the league hears loud and clear: you have already alienated the people who make the league money. Stop now and most, including me, will forgive you instantly. But it make take years to get all of your fans back if you cancel the season. Don’t forget about us, or you will live to regret it.
I’ll miss you, but I’ll move on.