October 27, 2011
We weren't in New York on Wednesday evening. Heck, we haven't been in New York in nearly four years, and the closest we came to being in New York on Wednesday night was sending back smart-alecky Twitter Direct Messages to our friends that were staking out the NBA lockout negotiations in a Manhattan hotel for over 15 hours between Wednesday and early Thursday morning. We can no more tell you whether or not the end of the NBA's lockout is near than any other scribe you've likely read this morning; even considering the bits of anonymous stuff that is sent our way.
If you want a recap from Thursday morning, read Adrian Wojnarowski. That's our advice. He runs this.
Our second batch of advice?
Make this your own.
The NBA, and to a lesser extent the NBA's players, have screwed you over. Whether you're a well-heeled fan with courtside seats, the sort of follower who happily comes home to 10 box scores late on Wednesday night after work, or a fair-weather fan that would really like to have something to watch for a half-hour before heading out on Friday night, you haven't been treated well. If you're one of the thousands (we're talking five, or if worldwide accounts are anything, six figures here) who have been left missing paychecks because the NBA owners have locked out their players, you have been terribly mistreated. All of you, no matter the influence, are right to complain at best or give up on the NBA at worst.
But if you're going to stick around? Make this turnaround, especially if the lockout is resolved this week, your own.
This is where you try to affix a good feeling to a bad one. Where you remember what song you were listening to, what "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" rerun you were watching, when you saw the text from your buddy, or scanned past Woj's tweet on your phone. If last June's NBA Finals were the ultimate (if completely inaccurate) representation of good vs. evil, with Dallas triumphing over the Miami All-Stars, then the last four full months have been evil vs. pure evil. There has been nothing to take from this labor impasse.
So make your own take last. I'll start.
I wrote about the 1998 NBA lockout for a website. When you typed in "NBA" into the Yahoo! search engine back then, our website was one of six sites that popped up for perusal, and ours was an entirely amateur affair. Later, they'd call us a blog, if we'd hung around that long. As it was, I bashed together alternately frustrated and pleading tomes that documented a labor impasse that had gone all wrong. It wasn't a good time -- probably made worse by the fact that I couldn't legally buy beer back then. Also, we had to get our free mp3s through FTP sites, and it took me until December of 1998 to even figure that out. Oh, how we suffered.
The last day of the lockout? For some reason, my TweetDeck wasn't working, so I took the money I earned bagging groceries to Nike Town in Chicago and bought a pair of Cincinnati Bearcat shorts that I'm literally wearing (nearly 13 years later) as I type this. I snagged some Gary Payton-sponsored shoes and a litany of socks. In a van I listened to Steely Dan's "The Royal Scam," purchased through the years-old Amazon.com at that point, for the third time, and trudged around slushy downtown Chicago with older friends as if I knew what I was doing.
I awoke a day later, much too late, to drive back home to bag more groceries in one of my last few days off before heading back to University, happened upon CNN with my contact lenses out before my head got together, and learned that the NBA lockout was over. It was January 5th, and I was 250 miles away from my computer.
It should have been an awful day, frustrating and snowy and the culmination of a labor disagreement that should have ended months before. The 1998 free-agent class, in terms of sheer numbers, was the largest ever; and instead of 29 teams taking their time as they worked through the hundreds that were available, the league and its players were forced to take fewer than three weeks to figure out where about half its workforce was going to play for the next few years. Also, the worst season ever (don't let them tell you anything different -- it was flippin' miserable until the playoffs) was about to commence in the gray of February. I should have been ticked.
I wasn't, though. Such are the benefits of youth, and naiveté. Maybe it was the Jordan Brand Bearcat shorts. Maybe it was the tasty guitar work of Larry Carlton. Maybe it was the hope that Vlade Divac and Scottie Pippen would team with Jason Kidd(notes) in Phoenix. Maybe it was the idea that supposedly the Chicago Bulls were a few months removed from using all their cap space on a litany of expiring rookie deals for would-be superstars. Maybe I just missed basketball. Whatever the reason, I made that turn my own.
This is what I'm asking of you. I can't tell you if the end is nigh. We might not see a season. We may have to wait until February. This may end on early Sunday morning. This may never go away, or it could end within hours. The timeline doesn't matter.
When it does end, and it will end, you need to define it on your own terms. You need to make these memories your own. You need to take good things from the league that has taken nearly five months from you. And you do that by equaling your own good times, even if they just involve putting together enough to pay off a bill or enjoying a nice batch of homemade tacos, with the good times that should emanate from the prospect of eventual NBA basketball.
It's a stupid league. The lockout is the height of ridiculousness. None of this means anything.
You've made it this far, though. To the end of this ponderous column, and months living with this lockout. Your reward shouldn't just be to see the Hornets and Grizzlies in a little while, though that would be nice.
No, your reward should be whatever you make it. A new pair of basketball shorts. A mid-level cigar. A night out with your better half, or a spirited bout typing expletives at the lockout's driving forces on Twitter. Whatever your release, have fun with it.
Lord knows you deserve it.