Owners newly shouldering some blame

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
12:31
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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When professional athletes are in labor disputes, it can be counted on that fans -- who have little idea what owners do, but know players make mad cash for playing a game -- will tend to blame the players.

Check out the SportsNation poll in the sidebar of this story, however. At the time I saw it, 53 percent of the 75 thousand respondents blamed the owners for this lockout.

I don't take that as the final word, but I do take it as a sign of a shift in how people see these things.

And a good shift, too, in that it certainly reflects a more nuanced view. Even David Stern would agree the players are well within their rights to seek a fair deal.

Fans, I think, get hung up on this question: How can rich, successful people be dissatisfied?

Joyce Carol Oates wrote "On Boxing" and says this about Larry Holmes:
Much has been made of Holmes's legendary bitterness, as if having earned millions of dollars -- and millions of dollars for others -- should tidily erase the humiliations of the past.

Surely this is a psychological impossibility?

"If we just had what the players have," the thinking goes, "we'd shut the hell up and be happy."

And I'm not so sure that's entirely true.

For starters, just about all of us complain -- even though we're all rich.

I'm not totally loco, and I didn't nap through the recession. My case is simply that if you have the combination of leisure time, education and connectedness to read dorky basketball blogs (and I know you do) and have a roof over your head, education, some healthcare and the like, well you're insanely wealthy compared to just about everyone who has ever lived on planet earth.

But does that really mean it wouldn't ruffle your feathers to have your boss announce a fat pay cut?

Be honest now.

It's not a weird thing to go around in your life saying "I'd like a square deal, please." Even if you have a million dollars in the bank, are you supposed to be cool with paying $80 for a cup of coffee? Hell no! You decline that deal, and get $3 coffee around the corner.

The players might not feel like the league has been offering an $80 cup of coffee, but they felt it was not a fair deal, so they exercised their right to get a better deal. That does not make them spoiled or strange.

Henry Abbott | email

TrueHoop, NBA

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