I can honestly say, I’ve never been a child of a divorced household. My parents were married before they had me and are still, to this day, married, and by all accounts, happily. I’ve seen some of my friends and other family members go through the whole divorce process as children, and, emotionally, it really does take its toll on them. Eventually, they all come out on the other side all right, but never quite the same. So, I’ve never felt that emotion of not knowing which parent I’m staying with or what parent I’m going to side with. That is, until October 10th, 2011.
NBA fans, we are now the children caught up in the middle of the divorce proceedings between the players’ union and the owners. Instead of worrying about which house we are going to stay in tonight, we are, instead, worrying about the next time we will occupy an arena to watch a regular season NBA game. The worst thing about it is knowing that we, as fans, are powerless to do anything. I mean, we can always put out tweets and facebook posts saying, “Don’t buy NBA merchandise. Hit ‘em where it hurts. #NBAdontcare, Yada, yada, yada.” Here’s the thing, though. That tough talk doesn’t mean shit. I hardly buy NBA gear as it is, because I’ve invested most of my disposable income on season tickets, gas to and from the arena (I live about 90 miles from OKC), and parking. There are a lot of people like me. We don’t buy NBA merchandise everyday. We buy it every once in a while, and its usually on sale. Our efforts won’t even put a dent in the NBA revenue stream.
But, what’s even worse than being in the middle of divorce proceedings? Its being in the middle of divorce proceedings twice in the past 12 years. In my less than 30 years of life, MLB has had one work stoppage, the NFL hasn’t had any, and the NBA is currently working on its 2nd work stoppage. This is ridiculous. And I have so much more invested this time around. Twelve years ago, I was a teenager watching Jordan win his last championship. There were whispers about a work stoppage, but I really didn’t care because my favorite team at the time, the Bulls, were going to be ripped apart by management. I had no dog in the fight during the last work stoppage because my favorite dog was retiring (MJ) and my favorite dog pound (da Bulls) was not going to be the same. This time around, though, I am civically connected to this team and this league. Its so much more than just about the players and the teams now. There’s a civil kinship that happens every time you step into that arena knowing that you are with at least 17000 of your “brother from another mother” family members. You develop relationships based on your visits to the arena. You develop connections; sometimes, life-long connections. From afar, you develop connections with the players, the coaches, the management, and the owners. This becomes part of your life; part of your routine. There’s hard-earned money involved. You know, money from people that actually could use that money for other things. But instead, choose to spend their time and money on entertainment. YOUR ENTERTAINMENT! And for all that, what do we get? Some half-assed “we let the fans down” bullshit speech on separate ends of the hotel from each party. One of my closest friends, who was a child of divorce, once told me “the hardest part was growing up in the middle, when the middle was empty.” We, fans, are currently in the middle, with the players on one end and the owners on the other end.
So we are stuck, in the middle, waiting for mommy and daddy to get back together. We know they will get back together, eventually, but the most difficult part is not knowing when. Most of us can’t contextualize what these guys are fighting about. Four billion dollars? Really, four billion dollars. To play a sport I can play in my driveway. And you guys want to bitch and moan about dividing up that pie. Really? They say there are stages of grief. I’ve seen some of these when it comes to divorcee kids. They usually start by being sad and depressed. But then, that sadness turns into anger and rebellion. In sports, there’s another word for rebellion. Its called apathy. And gentlemen, you really don’t want us to go there. Because the hardest thing for a parent to deal with, is a child who is ignoring you.