We are just over a week from what would have been the start of the NBA season…a terrific encore to a great finish of last season, with the Olympics in the offing for 2012. Instead we have the lockout, and the start of the D-League and college hoops on the horizon. While many hold out hope that the owners and players will settle in time for a 50 game season, those with the most at stake are the individual game employees who need the ancillary income from a full slate of arena dates to make ends meet in challenging times, many of whom are now in limbo.
While there were issues and collateral damage from the late settlement by the NFL, the loss of income for those around hoops is potentially march larger. Yes, NFL training camps away from the home base brought thousands to watch practice and fill small town hotels, but that was for a week to ten days. NBA training camps are just as long but without the large throngs of people, but the amount of workers needed for arenas, restaurants, broadcasts night in night out is staggering. yes the exo. season is tedious, but it brings in dollars, some of which for smaller arenas is guaranteed money they will not make back. While there is an assumption that many prominent broadcast figures are on staff year-round, that is usually not the case. Some teams have announcers on staff for various events, but the majority are contract employees, same as directors, producers and tech staff. They get paid game by game. While it is true that some of the more prominent announcers may end up picking up some college work, that means that others on a level below will be missing out of work, and the trickle effect goes on and on.
Some arenas may be able to fill dates with a concert or two or extend the life of a travelling show, but for the most part no games means empty buildings. That means a loss of income for many people at a critical time of the year, heading into the holidays.
On the fan side, there is a thought that NBA fans will now fill their days watching and going to a hockey game or a college hoops game. That also is probably not true. The cultivation of a fan takes time for any brand, and does not happen overnight because of a lack of games for a given sport of choice. While many NBA fans may be fans of basketball, they may not be running to see local college action that quickly. It is a different experience. Also those who have worked in venues where hockey and hoops are both housed realize that the in-game experience and the demo of the crowds are different and rarely cross in large numbers. Hockey fans are hockey fans. Does that mean there may not be a slight bounce in casual interest? No. Will it be a bonanza for those sports not locked out? Probably not.
At the end of the day, the lockout is not good for anyone in the short term. It damages brand, takes away dollars from everyday workers and hurts the fan experience for all sports. When all is settled there will be “winners” and “losers” proclaimed, but until that time we all lose, especially those who make their living in the business of sport, on any level. It may be short term pain for long-term gain for the sport, its owners and its players, but for some those dollars lost may be hard to find in today’s challenging times.