Billionaires v millionaires. As a matter of personal involvement, roughly 90% of the U.S. population is not represented in the conflict, hence the ubiquitous disgust with feuding between sports-lords and wealthy “minions”. Sports lockouts and strikes don’t elicit much sympathy for either side from the average fan. Presented here are some of the reasons for disgust, and some examples of past labor disputes and their results.
- No Personal Involvement – An easy way to gauge your personal involvement is to mentally place yourself on one side or the other, based on your own economic standing. That’s right, there is no empathy, and that is how most fans feel about the whole situation.
- MLB 1972 – Ultimately, players received roughly half the pension increase they had bargained for, though they did win the right of salary arbitration. The main issue for fans was that 86 games were lost, and never rescheduled.
- Reality Check – On one hand, you have owners making tons of money buying and selling teams and players while schmoozing with celebrities in luxury boxes that would do Hugh Hefner proud. On the other hand are players who earn enormous sums for bouncing balls while wearing nothing but their underwear. Where is the connection for someone who pays hundreds of dollars for nose-bleed seats and watery $5 beers?
- MLB 1981 – This time the baseball strike was allegedly about the concept of free agency (ball players actually compared their “lot” to indentured servitude. Hello?), and greedy owners (no argument there) were portrayed publicly as the villains. Real cost to fans? 713 games, and a season with as little validity as those played during World War II.
- NFL 1982, 1987 – Free agency was the background for the strike of 1982 and the lockout of 1987. In 1982, half of the season was lost, and in 1987 fans were treated to a season filled with “replacement” players. This could be compared to paying big money to see a Broadway musical, then finding out it was by staged a high-school production team.
- NHL 1992, 1994 – Gap-toothed skaters vied with owners over free agency; the 1992 fight only cost the league one game, but the agreement reached was only for a stop-gap two years. In 1994, the unresolved issues cost more games, including the showcase All Star game.
- MLB 1994 – At 232 days long, this dispute cost parts of two seasons, including the 1994 World Series, and many say the game has yet to recover lost popularity.
- NBA 1998 – In an epic battle described by sports scribe Tony Kornheiser as a “dispute between tall millionaires and short millionaires”, the lockout lasted for more than 200 days, cost the fans 32 games, and ultimately resulted in attendance and ratings losses that the league hasn’t fully regained.
- NHL 2004 – An entire season was lost to a dispute that ran for almost a full year; the sport of hockey hadn’t recovered from the lockout of 1994, and the league has been suffering ever since. Millions of fans reached a tipping point, and gave up entirely on the sport.
- The NBA Today – Showing a tremendous ability to NOT learn from history, the current NBA lockout should scare owners and players at the point where fans are no longer angry, but become apathetic.
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