Thomas Boswell Predicts the NBA's Future

...From 1998. Per the web site Sports Media Watch, I offer to you without comment excerpts from an article written by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.

Quote of the Day: Thomas Boswell Predicts the 2011 Lockout in 1998 | Sports Media Watch

The popular analogy is to compare the NBA's lockout, now in its 128th day, to the baseball strike of 1994. This is not only the wrong comparison, but also a deeply misleading one that may delude both sides about the true dangers they face.

The NBA arrogantly believes it won't repeat baseball's horrific mistakes. We're not that stupid. We'll never wipe out our whole season or jeopardize our TV dollars. By Jan. 1, we'll be playing. Just chill out.

Meanwhile, the NBA is duplicating - down to the details - the baseball strike of 1981. ...

It takes a long time - many years of hatred and mistrust, bad faith and grudges - to do something as historically dumb and destructive as baseball pulled in 1994. You have to lay the groundwork. You have to poison the water. Powerful people, and their ardent disciples, must learn how to despise, demonize and distort their adversaries across the bargaining table. That takes time, pain, public embarrassment and enormous sums of squandered profits.

That's what the NBA is doing now. Commissioner David Stern and agent David Falk, deputy commissioner Russ Granik and union head Billy Hunter, are doing a textbook job of setting the stage for years of anger, future strikes, erosion of public image and finally - who knows? - maybe 13 years from now, one final battle as idiotic as the one from which baseball is still trying to recover. ...

That '81 charade, orchestrated by owners just like this NBA lockout, had some bad short-term effect on attendance. But the sport quickly regained, then surpassed, its previous popularity. The real damage reappeared only with time. Each succeeding labor negotiation became a bigger and more bitter piece of brinkmanship than the last. Finally, everybody went over the cliff together, consumed by their ancient accumulated animosity.

By the standards of baseball, the NBA has just begun to get ugly. The future - a bad one - has not been written in stone yet. But we're getting there. Faster than the NBA thinks.

The major issue before basketball's owners and players is not the present, though they think it is. What's at stake is the future. Years and years and years of the future.

(Washington Post, 11/6/1998)

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