For many years, the NBA has tried to own Christmas Day, but some of its fans are not sold. "If watching an NBA game is one of your priorities on Christmas Day, that's pretty negative testimony," said Ed Harris, a local chef and avid NBA fan.
Once again, the world's premier basketball league will be served up on Christmas Day along with the holiday turkey and the rest of the fixings. On November 26, the NBA announced an unofficial end to its lockout. League and player representatives are working to have deal finalized within the next week. It is expected that owners and players will approve the deal, and on Christmas Day, the NBA will serve us a Knicks-Celtics appetizer, a Heat-Mavericks entrée, and Bulls-Lakers for dessert.
If you're a basketball fanatic, this is great news, but the fanatic knows not to expect high quality early in the season. The start of a strike-shortened NBA season is as unpredictable as my niece's Christmas Day jalapeno stuffing. Sometimes the kick is just right, other times, you need to consume five ounces of ice water after every a forkful. Given the fact that training camp didn't start until December 9, there will probably be an extra layer of rust on the players for the first few games.
The NBA needs to be concerned about its seemingly slumping popularity. After experiencing a ratings surge last season, the resolution of the labor dispute seemed to be the fifth or sixth most popular sports story – behind Tiger Woods' victory, the return of Penguins' star Sidney Crosby, LSU vs. Alabama again, and Ndamukong Suh's stomp heard around the world. There was no major hoopla (pun intended) when the NBA ended its work stoppage. It almost felt as though the NBA fan base had become indifferent. There's no need to worry. It won't last for very long. Pro sports fans always have extreme opinions just after a labor dispute. NBA haters will proclaim that this apparent indifference marks the beginning of the end for the NBA. Rest easy, it won't happen.
What the NBA could be facing is a passion deficit. The wave of excitement that was generated by last season's Dallas Mavericks has vanished, in the midst of the undefeated Packers, the unorthodox Tim Tebow, and the Penn State crisis. Pro sports leagues have bounced back from work stoppages. Major league baseball, the National Hockey League, and the NFL have all done it. This year the NBA's season has been reduced from 82 games to 66. If you ask me, this sounds more reasonable than disappointing.
NBA arena workers have been affected by the cancellation of games. However, there is no historical significant impact on the economies of cities with sports franchises affected by work stoppages. Explanations include reduced local government spending on crowd and traffic control, higher productivity by the general workforce without the distraction of games, and consumer shifting of spending on sporting events to other forms of entertainment.
It is estimated that a season-long lockout would have cost approximately $1 billion in lost TV advertisement revenue. The lockout would have created a big loss in TV ratings for networks that cover NBA games such as ESPN and TNT, and would have dealt a meaningful blow to the current licensed product market which is estimated at $ 2.7 billion.
Soon enough, NBA fans will again be clinging to their beloved league. Once the Super Bowl has been played, and we cut down the nets to end March Madness, our attention will naturally gravitate toward the NBA. A baseline 3-pointer by Ray Allen, or a monster dunk by Dwight Howard will probably be all that's required to get our NBA juices flowing again. By the time the playoffs start, fans will be thinking: What lockout?
So when basketball tries to wiggle its way into your home on Christmas Day, just say no. We know what Christmas is about, and it doesn't include the NBA. If the league wants us to be loyal followers, they're going to have to earn it. As I partake of food and drink on December 25, I'll treat the NBA the way I'll treat that plate full of store bought cranberry sauce--I'll ignore it!