This past week, the NBA announced that it’s postponing the start of training camp and cancelling every single preseason game scheduled between October 9 and October 15. As I pointed out in my last post, this probably doesn’t mean all that much to the average sports fan. It’s only when actual regular-season games start getting canceled that a lot of people will really start to miss the NBA.
Still, the fact that this is even the case says a lot about the public perception of the NBA lockout or at least about how the media’s covered it. It’s not like the NBA lockout hasn’t been covered by major media like ESPN or that all fans are that apathetic about the current standoff between NBA owners and executives like Commissioner David Stern and NBA players. But as with my last post, the NFL serves as a pretty good contrast.
Now let’s remember, the NFL lockout didn’t wind up canceling any regular-season games. Despite the fact that each NBA team plays over five times more regular season games than each NFL team, that the NFL plays fewer preseason games than the NBA and that the NFL lockout lasted all the way from the beginning of March to the end of July, the only NFL game that got canceled because of the lockout was the Hall of Fame Game. Even that was just because the Hall of Fame Game is always a couple weeks before any other preseason games.
The point I’m trying to make here is that the damage done to the NFL season by the lockout was far lesser than any sports fan could have possibly hoped for. And yet despite costing only one measly little preseason game, the NFL lockout was treated as a big story and constantly discussed by fans and media alike from start to finish. I’m not saying that’s wrong, it’s actually arguably a good thing that the lockout made us more aware of the inner workings of major professional sports.
Nevertheless, I do find it ironic that a lockout that only cost one preseason game has received far more attention than a lockout that’s already cost 43 preseason games and seems likely to claim at least the first half of its league’s actual regular season, if not the entire league year. And if I were involved with the NBA, I would find this a little frightening. The NBA does have a good TV deal and a lot of popular stars.
But as NHL fans will tell you, when a league goes away for an entire year, it’s very hard to go back in, draw sellout crowds and act as if nothing ever happened. The NBA should want its fans to miss it, not to happily flock to the NFL, MLB and the NHL instead. I guess we’ll see what happens in November.