Though the NBA's lockout is about to enter its fourth month, and David Stern is promising veddy, veddy bad things if the NBA and its players can't come to an agreement this weekend, sports fans aren't exactly openly weeping in the high street at the prospect of lost games. And during this lockout, ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy has traveled this fair land over the offseason, and taken notes.
And he's seeing a country that is responding to the NBA's lockout with a collective shrug of the shoulders. From his interview with KILT in Houston with Vandermeer and Lopez on Wednesday, as lovingly transcribed by the good people at Sports Radio Interviews:
"You know what I was thinking about today, and even yesterday, is how very few people care about the NBA lockout. You just don't hear people talk. If it wasn't on sports talk or ESPN … would anybody even know? You have to be careful if you're both ownership and players, that you realize with the economy and so many other options with your disposable income, don't think it will always stay like it has. It can go the other way. This is not football. Football has a stranglehold on America right now, NFL football, and rightfully so. It's 16 games. If you're a season-ticket holder it's eight games, or 10 games with the preseason games, and it's on the weekend."
Ladies and gentlemen, ESPN/ABC's lead broadcast analyst!
Van Gundy's correct, of course, and it didn't take Wednesday night's astonishing evening of baseball to move him over the moon on this sentiment. Thursday will bring college football for most and good comedies for the rest of us, Friday brings the baseball playoffs, and the weekend brings more and more football. NBA teams weren't going to be playing games in late September as it was, but you can't tell me anyone more than the NBA junkies haven't moved on.
Ever the dour sort, Van Gundy (accurately) went on, about he lockout-shortened 1999 season:
"People forget how awful the basketball was that year. Not only people were injured, but no practice time. The training camp was two weeks and two exhibition games. The basketball was horrible. … The playoffs were a good thing. The regular season was an abomination of basketball."
Mind you, this was the "season" Van Gundy led the Knicks all the way to the NBA Finals (after dallying and under-utilizing Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby for most of the regular season). This was the apex of his coaching career! To steal a baseball announcer's phrase, you've gotta love that.
You know, we give Jeff a lot of stick 'round these parts for his work on ESPN and ABC, but while most of North America isn't really missing NBA basketball, count us in as amongst the few that miss Jeff Van Gundy. The old mope.
- Jeff Van Gundy