I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen or heard talk about giving up on the NBA. They’re done, they say, with this sport that just doesn’t care about its fans. “DONE,” they say. And I believe them. But they’ll be back, because according to history (via PBT), they’ll always be back.
Statistical analysis compiled from the last seven major American labor disputes — ones that forced cancellation of regular-season games — shows fans eventually return to the arenas and stadiums. Although talk shows and Internet message boards roil with anger and invective as games are being lost, supporters rarely stay mad forever. They come back to their couches, their PSLs, their fantasy leagues….
“It might take a season or two, but fans usually forgive and forget,” said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute and author of Money Games: Profiting From the Convergence of Sports and Entertainment. “Sports still play a vital role in our society. A lot of people see them as a pleasant diversion, a respite from the grind.”
The fact is, you don’t just stop loving basketball. I mean, how many women have sworn off men for treating them like crap or even cheating? How many of those women actually stopped dating men forever after that?
Sure, some people will go away. A bunch of them will come back and those who don’t will be replaced by new fans who didn’t care all that much about the lockout to begin with. Sports in general, and basketball in particular, are our escape. And at some point, other sports will have their own labor issues. It’s inevitable.
The owners and players know this. That’s why they’re willing to blow the season. The crappy part of it is the bad timing of it all. The gravy train was really around the corner. The league just took a big step forward and blowing the season will be a few steps back. Sure, fans will come back, but in three or four years the league might get back to where it could be next year.
So sure, we’re never going to give up the NBA. But that’s not a license for the players and owners to be jerks about how they handle this lockout. Yes, all wounds heal, but why cut yourself if you don’t have to in the first place?