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NBA / Oct 26, 2011 / 2:30 pm

The NBA Lockout: Inaction Should Be The Last Action

Chris Paul

Chris Paul (photo. Zach Wolfe)

This open letter was scribed as a response to ESPN Columnist Scoop Jackson’s piece, “NBA Lockout: A Call To Inaction,” published on Oct. 24, 2011. Here is an excerpt from Jackson:

“Two weeks of the regular season already canceled. Soon, the Christmas games. Then the All-Star Game. And hopefully, the entire season. The countdown to Armageddon is finally here.

If you think you just read the word ‘hopefully’ — as in, does this guy really have the audacity to hope that there is not a 2011-12 NBA season? — you read right. We’re now 117 days deep into the League’s most recent work stoppage; at some point, there needs to be an understanding that the next 300 days are far more important than the ones gone by.

Because this lockout is no longer about basketball. Any of us who still believe it is are either dense, dim or dumb. Or all three. The owners have shifted the dynamics from power to principle: Their power versus the players’ principles.

Concessions, talking points, agree-to-disagreements, creating leverage, calling in mediators … by now, they’re all meaningless. Meaning if the owners are going to continue to treat this like a game of chess, it is up to the players not to be played — or looked at — as pawns.”

***

Dear Scoop,

I pose this question with the utmost sincerity, respect and more importantly, concern: Did you actually mean what you wrote? Is a missed season truly your solution to the greed-spurned problems plaguing the NBA?

For the sake of stirring discussion, maybe. But as someone who loves the game as much as you – as much as we all do – I think not. It’s one thing to stand united. It’s another to idly stand in a sinking ship when there are enough rowboats and life preservers for everybody.

[Related: A Solution To The NBA Lockout]

Before continuing my plea for reason and sense, I must first confess: You are the reason I write, Sir Scoop. You – along with Elliot Wilson – formed the base for most of my adolescent and teenage reading. I didn’t have to see a byline to recognize a Scoop Jackson piece. Your voice, your style, your substance sets you apart – at least in this 20-year-old kid’s eyes – from everyone else in print. When you came to ESPN, I thought out with know-it-all-athlete-analysts, in with someone who knows it all. Traditionally, I’ve echoed your beliefs. Even upon initial disagreement, some 800 words later, I would be swayed by your reasoning – from criticisms on a pre-controversial Tiger to support of King James.

But not this time. No Sir, I was not swayed by your Call to Inaction. Even more, I was angered that the idea seemed worthy enough for you to express in the public sphere. A cancelled season is a last resort; an idea so drastic that one could overlook missing the actual “game” and still grimace. Oh, it’s deeper than basketball, as you know.

These are peoples’ lives we’re talking about. You sympathize – bless them – but do you really get it? Twelve days, let alone 12 months, without work is no small period of time. The fact that “innocent people suffer when contractual disagreements occur,” is not a just reason for increasing the amount of suffering. Especially if it can be avoided.

We’re not number crunchers, we’re writers. I know I don’t – and I would assume you don’t – have an effective long-term solution to the NBA’s woes. After all, what’s a cure for greed? You can cleanse yourself with holy water but you can’t bathe the future. It’s an ever-changing business in an ever-changing world. Stains are bound to appear and reappear and reappear. Ten years from now, players and owners may be meeting for 16-plus hour days again, but they will not have to live with the reality of the season that never was. And accordingly, the laborers, the concessions workers and the merch vendors will not have to face the reality of what could be. And what could be for them – bankruptcy, foreclosure – is far more important than a silly chess game.

[Related: A Historical Look At 1998’S NBA Lockout Commercials]

Scoop, I’m with you in standing by the players. The owners’ actions have been deplorable as they puppeteer their employees and hold the game in limbo. But urging the players to “stand for something, or fall for anything” under these terms is not the answer. You know what an eye for an eye does. Matching stubbornness and greed with more of the same will not solve anything! A lost season is what it is. And in no way will a lost season change the ruthless mentality of team (business) owners.

I was going on eight years old the last time players were faced with a lockout. Old enough to admire a fresh, fro’ed Kobe Bryant, but young enough to not understand – or care about – the league’s business complexities. Thirteen years later and I care more, but know less than I’d like too. I say this as an admission of truth, not an attempt to be funny. The large majority of us – you and I included – understand the big picture much less than we’d like to think. But I do understand this: Armageddon is not upon us. The skies aren’t opening, the grounds aren’t caving. So before we desert our plans for survival, let’s take a minute to sit back and hope for action rather than call to inaction.

Respectfully,

Marcus Arman

What do you think? What should the players do?

Follow Marcus on Twitter at @marcusarman.

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