In what now seems like another lifetime, I used to cover the NBA. I was at every Sacramento Kings home game from 1985-1995, and worked many Utah Jazz games from the late nineties through 2001. If there was something going on in the league that I had a question about, I could ask someone—a player, a coach, or a General Manager. I remember during one of the labor problems of the early 1990s, one of the players said they were being treated like “slaves” by NBA ownership. Then, it was easier to remind the guy that slaves don't make a million dollars a year.
Now, I have no one to ask, and I don't know what to think. NBA Commissioner David Stern announced the cancellation of regular season games today after several hours of bargaining over the weekend. The biggest issue seems to be the percentage of revenue the owners and players get. In the last collective bargaining agreement, the players got 57 percent. Now, the owners, claiming economic hardship, want to reduce that percentage. The players say they will take 53 percent but the owners want a 50-50 split. So, who's right here? I know I wouldn't want to take a seven percent cut, but 50-50 seems fair. Also, the league claims they are losing money, but several rich guys still want to own franchises. I do know this, even though fans and media claim the regular season is too long, a shortened schedule will mean less fan interest. Personally, not being directly involved anymore, if they play, fine. If they don't, there's plenty of college basketball and other sports on TV. Maybe I'll just go to a movie.
Great baseball games: The first round of the Major League Baseball playoffs was about as good as you can get. All four series-clinching games were decided by one run, including one in extra-innings. Out of a possible 20 first-round games (four best-of-five series), 19 games were played, and the top teams in each league (the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies) both lost. The only negative this year was the starting times. Too many times, there were two games going on at once. Turner Sports, which has the rights to the games, carried most of the games on TBS, but farmed a few games out to sister-network TNT. Starting times could have been arranged so that wasn't as necessary. I could write three pages about this, so don't get me started.
Francona a refreshing change: Former big-league catcher Tim McCarver has been a network broadcaster since 1984, and has been the leading Fox analyst since 1996. We've probably heard just about all of his stories. McCarver missed the first two games of the American League Championship Series with what has been described as a “minor heart procedure" (if there is such a thing). McCarver rejoins the network Tuesday. Terry Francona, who just lost his job as manager of the Boston Red Sox, filled in for McCarver. Francona has never worked in a booth, but is one of the most charismatic guys in the game. In the early innings of ALCS Game One Sunday, lead broadcaster Joe Buck asked Francona asked how he liked it so far. “It's a different kind of nervous”, Francona said. “I wanna chew, and I wanna curse at will, but I can't do either.” He didn't do either of those things, but Monday he mentioned competitor ESPN by name on-air. Buck, truthfully but in a joking manner, said “We're not allowed to say that.”
More Francona: His best line was early. At a windy Arlington Stadium in Texas, Francona had some papers blow around. “I'm not really big on your payroll or your budget”, Francona said to Buck, “I asked for some paperweights and I got a banana and a roll of tape.” You could tell he is not a broadcaster, though. Buck did a lot of the narrative through replays and pitch sequences that McCarver would normally do.
Cool Touch: Thursday's baseball game didn't start until 5pm Pacific Time, so at 4pm I turned over to Versus to watch hockey. It was opening night of the National Hockey League, so I thought I'd see the first period of the Flyers-Bruins game. Instead was the Championship Banner ceremony in Boston. Because the Bruins won the Stanley Cup on the road last year, they couldn't skate with the cup in front of their fans. They did that Thursday before raising the banner to the rafters. You don't have to be a fan of hockey or the Bruins to think that was pretty amazing.
Al Davis: I have never been a fan of the Oakland Raiders or Al Davis, but you have to admit the man was a legend, an innovator, and an icon. Even though Davis came across as arrogant or standoffish, many Raiders players interviewed this weekend said that Davis really cared about the team and his players. Davis died Saturday at the age of 82.
Sports and Politics: I was more puzzled than offended by Hank Williams, Jr.'s comments comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. Williams was a guest on the Fox News program Fox and Friends. Talking about Obama recently playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner, Williams called it “one of the biggest political mistakes ever”, and added, “it would like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.” I think Williams, a tea party guy, was trying to make a kind of a joke there, but then referred to Obama and Biden as “the enemy”. Williams was actually on the program to talk football, but the fist segment was about politics, and that's what got him in trouble. Saturday Night Live did a sketch where they likened Williams to a “truck stop Santa.” ESPN has pulled Williams and his “All My Rowdy Friends” theme (Are you ready for some football?), which opened the Monday Night Football telecasts for 20 years.
Add Politics: I haven't written anything political in any of these commentaries this year, but I offer this. If you are going to protest something, shouldn't you have an idea of what it is you are demonstrating against? The “Occupy Wall Street” rallies have reached other cities, including Sacramento. When KOVR-TV tried to do a story about the protests, not one of the demonstrators could explain exactly why they were there. A couple did mention corporate greed, or that they were there “for the people”. Finally, a guy who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, said that they had a “message team” working on it. Um, shouldn't you do that first?
Logo: I wish I knew how to attribute the use of this logo. I found it on the internet and thought it was pretty good. I actually found several "Lockout Logos" but thought this was the best.