The good news: Robin Hood arrived on the scene today to settle the NBA lockout.
The bad news: Like the rest of us, he couldn't tell the rich from the poor.
"These people have $2 billion to share," opined Mr. Hood, "and they consider it a problem?"
In this lockout, the only true winner is greedy over needy.
Regardless of games being played or not, owners are assured of $23 million per team in revenue from last year's $2.6 billion television contract.
Should the season be canceled, owners will lose $400 million; players $1 billion.
"They should lock David Stern and Billy Hunter in a room and don't let them out until they both weigh 155 pounds," said New Jersey Nets All-Star Jayson Williams. "Put them on bread and water; don't let them shower. Then the deal will be done."
Meanwhile, fans are showing about as uch sympathy for the lockout as for a walkout of IRS workers. Those who do care favor the players 24 percent to 17. That's because to most owners we're all a bunch of ATMs with a heartbeat.
"I definitely feel the game has already been tarnished," said Antonio Davis, the Pacers' player representative. "It's very unfortunate we're in this position, but we'll have to suffer the consequences when it's all put back together. We won't be upset when the fans show they don't appreciate it. They deserve their basketball. I just pray to God our fans understand this is our livelihood, and it's important to get it done right. Hopefully, we'll learn from this and it won't happen again and we'll get that fan back. Hopefully."
With apathy growing as fast as the rhetoric and Hood failing to designate the "poor," we turned to two sage veterans -- Tommy Heinsohn and Oscar Robertson, the first two presidents of the NBPA -- to settle the dispute.
Heinsohn is arguably more important, as he was the one who found Larry Fleisher. He basically organized the sit-down strike during the '64 All-Star Game that got the players their first pension plan, and he also was president of the Coaches Association in the '70s. But today, Heinsohn is fiercely aligned with ownership.
Robertson, of course, has his name associated with the famous lawsuit that earned the players the right of first refusal in the '70s, and helped force the NBA-ABA merger. And today, Oscar is still an unabashed union man.
Heinsohn, on the players: "To me, these guys have been so spoiled since seventh grade. Since the AAU tracked them down and began pampering them, they think the world owes them a living. And it reaches a point where they can't understand that someone is treating them like anyone else in the world, not willing to give them something because business isn't going the way they expected."
Oscar, on the owners: "What the general populace seems to overlook is that the players were locked out. So the perception is always, 'Oh, God, you greedy basketball players.' I am heartened to see that they are unified. My question is, 'Are the owners unified?' Or is it just because they have ($23 million in TV revenue per team) already, which raises a better question: Why have they been guaranteed their TV money when players with guaranteed contracts can't get theirs? Sure, the players are selfish. But everyone's selfish. Everyone in America."
One thing both agree on is today's strife is a sad commentary compared to the players' sit-down on Jan. 14, 1964. Moments before ABC went on the air with the All-Star Game, players decided not to play.
"But all we wanted were very basic things," said Heinsohn. "Improved playing conditions. A trainer for each team, which we didn't have. And if we had a Saturday night game, we wanted to do away with the Sunday afternoon game in another city. They were all things for the betterment of the game. Pensons were the only financial issue."
Said Robertson: "We weren't contractually bound to play in the All-Star Game, we weren't paid for it and we were tired of being ignored. So with ABC tapping its foot, the owners lost their heads. More than one of them said we were going to ruin basketball that day and that they'd never forget it. But we had no choice. Before those days, if an owner wanted to blackball you, he could do it. All we wanted was representation (meaning, the right to have Larry Fleisher as their collective bargaining agent), and the owners refused to consider it."
To Robin Hood and the rest of us fans, that historical fight kind of puts Patrick Ewing saying, "We're fighting for survival" into perspective.
To both sides: how much is enough?
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