- Jeff MacGregor
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The rich do some stupid things.
This mutual suicide pact among NBA owners, for example. They had another meeting Sunday night to suss out the details. Slow poison, or a quick bullet to the brain? We'll hear more about it Monday afternoon once NBA commissioner, executioner and grief counselor David Stern starts canceling regular season games. At least that's what we've been told. Or threatened. It's just the latest phony deadline in the absurd story of a nonsense lockout.
We're on the brink! The whole apparatus is at risk! Save us!
Sorry. I had a whole polite thing worked up. Lots of statistics. Reasonable. All points of view represented. But this is just deeply, impossibly stupid. In fact, the more I think about it, the angrier I get, and the more I realize that any owner who can't break even on professional sports in this country is a moron. Or a liar. Honestly. If you can't manage a pro team at a modest profit in the United States of America in the early years of the 21st century, you shouldn't be allowed to vote or operate a motor vehicle. You shouldn't be allowed near the stove.
At a time when the production and consumption of distraction are the only healthy sectors of the American economy, and when city, county, state and federal tax dollars pay for the arenas and the stadiums, to lose money on the operation of a pro sports franchise has to be grounds for involuntary psychiatric commitment. Or prosecution.
And if any of this sounds familiar, consider where we've heard it before.
The NBA, too big to fail!
Because between the lines of all this basketball madness is just another example of the nitwit superrich expecting their employees and/or the government and/or the general public to bail them out.
Save us from ourselves! they cry. Save us from our cartoon greed and our lurid excesses!
These credit derivatives are a win-win-win right down the line!
These credit default swaps are in no way a ticking time bomb!
This Eddy Curry contract will never blow up in my face!
So here we are.
Back to the sort of disaster capitalism we've seen from the leagues before. And from Wall Street. And from Congress. Another bogus stalemate in which the fan loses and for which the little guy pays. Same old con game standoff between management and labor.
OK. Fine. Let it fail. I'm tired of being played for a sucker.
There's basketball everywhere.
In an economy this bad, most of us will be happy to watch college ball the next six months; or the satellite package with Lega Basket Serie A on it and the Israeli Basketball Super League, down at the corner bar; or we'll thumb through our own season on the Xbox. Or just watch the kids play in the driveway. These are lean days, Clueless Billionaire.
Or maybe the players will start their own league and barnstorm from armory to armory the way they did it back when. The value in the NBA is the talent, after all. And as start-ups go, it wouldn't cost much: just $89 to incorporate in Delaware. Call it the Peoples' Traveling Basketball League (patent pending). Twenty bucks a seat.
Me? I'll go up to the Rucker, or over to 4th Street. Or I'll walk to Sara D. Roosevelt Park and watch the neighborhood game from a bench with the other old kibitzers. See some young men as gifted and ambitious and carefree as players anywhere. Beautiful to watch. Once it gets cold out, we'll move the game inside to the community center. Whole thing costs nothing. Unless we go around the corner to Yonah Schimmel's for knishes at halftime. Then it's $3.50. Try the kasha.
Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter.com feed @MacGregorESPN.
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