As I mentioned yesterday, the NBA plans to hold an All-Star Game this year in Atlanta on March 7th. More than a couple of the league’s top players – – ones who are sure to be chosen to participate in the event such as LeBron James, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard – – have reacted negatively and publicly to the idea. In the original NBA schedule set forth before the league began play just before Christmas, there was a 5-day hiatus built in; now that gap is to be filled with an All-Star Game and the associated nonsense that accompanies that event.
Before anyone clutters his/her mind with arriving at a justification for holding an All-Star Game while the US continues to fight off a pandemic, the answer is simple:
- An All-Star Game – – and its associated nonsense – – will bring in more revenue to the league and therefore ultimately to the players than will a 5-day gap in the schedule.
- Gussy this up however you will, this is simply a cash grab.
It is important to note here that the NBPA is not fighting the league tooth and nail over this issue. To my mind, that reinforces my conclusion that this is a cash grab, and the union figures it to be in the best interests of its membership to “goose up” revenues considering losses incurred last season. You may wonder why top-shelf players have reacted negatively to the idea of a concocted All-Star Game and it would be wrong to think that they all are getting so much guaranteed money that increased revenues are of little importance to them.
While that may in fact be true – – although I suspect it is not the case – – I think those players really wanted to have that break in the season as part of their overall “load management” for the season. Moreover, it is the top-shelf players who are directly affected here. LeBron James and James Harden etc. are the players who will be chosen to participate in the All-Star Game; Joe Flabeetz and Sam Glotz will be able to take a 5-day holiday as planned. Moreover, the league rules and the existing CBA require players selected for the All-Star Game to show up and play if they are not injured.
This is a real labyrinth for the league, the union and the star players. Consider four possible courses of action and potential outcomes:
- Drop the idea of an All-Star Game after raising the possibility of holding it. Both the league and the union would look pretty silly and it would signal another capitulation to the star players showing who actually runs things in the NBA.
- Make the All-Star break longer than 5 days to give participants some down time. The only real problem here seems to be the fixation of starting the playoffs in mid-May to avoid as much as possible any overlap between the playoffs and the NFL regular season. Extending the All-Star break cannot translate into extending the end of the regular season significantly.
- Hold the All-Star Game as envisioned now but allow players to opt out as a one-time “Pandemic Exception”. This is probably the least onerous way out of the maze. Yes, some will assert that the league and the union are knuckling under to pressure from the star players; but that would be less stinging than if the game were canceled entirely as above. The loser here would be the “aura” of the NBA All-Star Game because ratings will not be nearly as high with Joe Flabeetz playing in place of LeBron James.
- Follow the money; put the game on the schedule and let the players be the “bad guys” who refuse to play. This is the short-term gain in exchange for long-term pain solution. The NBA has achieved its stature in US sports on two support pillars. The first is television money; the other is by marketing its superstar players. Forcing a showdown here would pit the superstars against TV money meaning there will be hard feelings among either the players or the TV execs down the road.
There are no easy ways out of this discombobulation now that the subject has been put in front of the NBA fanbase so long as this devolves into a power struggle. If, on the other hand, there can be meaningful compromises made on all sides – – and I include the TV execs here as one of the sides being willing to compromise – – then maybe this does not have to devolve into hand-to-hand combat. There is no imminent confrontation involved here regarding CBA negotiations; the current CBA runs through the end of the 2023-24 season (both sides can mutually opt out at the end of 2022-23 season) so any ill will generated here will have time to be tempered. Maybe that is the best news to take away as of this morning…
Back before the NFL regular season began, I said that if Alex Smith ever stepped onto an NFL field in a real game, he would be the Comeback Player of the Year even if his ONLY participation was to do a kneel down at the end of a game. Well, Smith did a lot more than that – – he was 5-1 as a starter this year – – and he was indeed the Comeback Player of the Year. Remember, this man had 17 surgeries on his broken leg; at one point he was in the ICU in critical condition; at another point, the amputation of his leg was a real possibility. Alex Smith’s injury was abnormally severe.
The Comeback Player of the Year award is decided by a vote of 50 media folks who cover the NFL. I am not one; I do not know any of the people who do the voting. Nevertheless, I am surprised that Alex Smith was not the unanimous selection this year; he received 49 of the 50 votes cast. According to various reports, the “other vote” was for Ben Roethlisberger who returned from elbow surgery in the previous year.
Meaning exactly ZERO disrespect for Ben Roethlisberger, I believe that vote was miscast. The fact that the vote was not unanimous is hardly important let alone critical, but I do wonder how someone could equate the depths from which the two QBs had come to regain a position as a starter in the 2020 NFL season.
Finally, when athletes recover from severe injuries or personal circumstances, people say the athletes “have heart”. The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm has its own definition of “heart”:
“Heart: 1. The part of the body that is usually said to have been in the right place when an idiot does something stupid. 2. Female rock band of the 1970s that has been responsible for more alone-in-the-car head-banging, grip-the steering-wheel sing-alongs than mom or dad care to admit.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………