Please excuse me while I remove my journo-blogger vintage sport coat and hat. Now just give me a second to change into my replica and not at all childish home-alternate Shawn Kemp jersey. It’s going to be difficult typing the rest of this with a foam finger on my hand, but bear with me—it’s fan time.
A caveat: this post has nothing to do with how good this team is, or can be. This post couldn’t care less about efficient scoring and can’t even spell utilitarenism. This post is about one thing: why I can’t stand the Clippers.
Let’s start back in December. Like everyone else on planet basketball, I was thrilled when Chris Paul was assigned by David Stern to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. Lob City, baby! A Slamstravaganza the likes of which we’ve never seen!
What could be better than the guard I find most aesthetically pleasing wielding implements as potent and dunky as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? It was going to be magic, it was going to be the feel good story of the year. (We didn’t know who Jeremy Lin was, or if we did we didn’t care.) Chris Paul would be on national TV all year, Blake Griffin would take that next step forward under Paul’s wing (I even predicted Blake would get more MVP votes than Kevin Durant…) and The Gentleman Chauncey would round out a cast of guys we like to root for.
But like a big piece Double Bubble, the Clippers’ initial sweetness soon departed and for the past few weeks I’ve been trying to pretend that I enjoy the basketball version of chewing on a flavorless wad of gum that any second threatens to choke me on my own saliva.
It starts with you, Blake Griffin.
Love professional basketball. So I don’t cheer the suspension of it–not in the abstract. The thought of a hoopsless year is an injection of Liquid Plumbr to my spleen via the longest hypodermic.But ever so strangely, I love that the players sent an ominous disclaimer of interest, a letter that has us gnawing three-eyed rats in the post apocalyptic NBA nuclear winter (Party at my dung shanty, bring your own lizard jerky!). Much to my chagrin, I cheer a decision that rejects playing now in favor of possibly playing a year from now. So what gives? Am I a crazy person, prone to decertifying my own wants? Do I often gargle sand when thirsty?
It’s just that my love of basketball causes me to root for the sport itself, causes me to root against an owner proposal that would prevent America’s greatest game from claiming its rightful throne. If this player ploy can possibly stave off harmful changes to the NBA, I’m all for prolonging the nothing. Though “We want games now!” has discourse primacy over “But how will this change the league?,” I reject that pecking order. A lost year hurts, but a lost league can sap enthusiasm far into the horizon.
Specifically, I object to this: “Annual raises. The NBA proposed 6.5% for players with Bird rights — allowing a club to sign its free agents for more money and for more years than other clubs — and 3.5% for others, down from 10.5% and 8% in the last CBA but up from the offer on the table Wednesday.”
“Also, contract options will be banned for the highest-paid players (unless they agree to a nonguaranteed final year), further eroding their leverage.”
The deal includes a 12% reduction in the already absurdly low rookie wage
General sports fans seem to believe that a) Players are mostly to blame for this lockout and b) Owners will get the better end of a deal. I’ll table the racial dimension of this conversation for a different day–I have a rule about publishing on race after the 2 AM sleep deprivation threshold.
It is difficult to look at these numbers and conclude anything other than: “Fans think owners deserve more money than players do.” That would be an odd sentiment, considering owners already have more money, and “owning” is not an action–you only need to hold the deed.
An owner can forget about his team’s existence for ten years and still sell it for a profit. As a Warriors fan, I cite the non-experience that was Chris Cohan ownership. He may well have lived in a bunker that existed in a black hole’s vacuum. Petty lawsuits were the only evidence that Cohan kept breathing air, but for all I know, he filed those from Marianna’s Trench by the grace of gills and a waterproof typewriter. The Owning Thing eventually sold GSW for 450 million. When owners like Mark Cuban immerse themselves in team operations, it is an active choice and not an obligation.
So, how do fans come to favor passive deedholders whom they believe will get the “better end” of a lockout? To explain, I cite Dennis Rodman: “I think the players should bow down. It’s not the players’ fault, it’s the owners’ fault and I think (the players) should give a little bit, and that way, things will move on.”
Rodman did not “blame” the players, but he voiced how many want this to wrap up.
Give in. Things will move on. Bow down.
There is a fatalism to our view of these negotiations, an