Calling the Shots: Back to rule number one—having fun

Jake Eisenberg, Sports Editor

When I was younger, I dreamed of being a professional baseball player, and I thought that if I were good enough, I would play for free.  It seemed that there was no better job than spending my life playing a game I love so much.

Currently, the NHL has cancelled games through Nov. 1, and, with no end to the lockout in sight, this season looks to be the third lost under the direction of Commissioner Gary Bettman.  The league’s schedule was shortened during the 1994-1995 season, and then cancelled altogether during the 2004-2005 season.  It was the first time a North American league cancelled its entire season due to work stoppage.  Throughout the years, while the state of the League and its players has changed, the argument has remained the same.  Both the players association (NHLPA) and the NHL are channeling their inner Jerry Maguires, seemingly shouting “show me the money” through their varied proposals. In the latest edition of bloodsucking, cash-hungry, executives versus the heartless, cash-hungry, players, the main issues stem from contract rules, free agency regulations, and division of League profits.

Rewind to last fall, when all watched—or rather, did not watch—the NBA and NFL, two of the most profitable sports industries in the nation, undergo the exact same painstaking labor talks, with the exact same issues.  All of these player lockouts emerge from expired CBAs (collective bargaining agreements) that outline the leagues’ working conditions, pertaining to things such as salary, implementation of a salary cap, and length of schedule.  The last work stoppage for the MLB came during the 1994 season, ignited by a player strike. The end result cancelled the final two months of the season, including the World Series.

As a response to the unlikely possibility of a full season, many players have sought out contracts with the KHL, Russia’s hockey league, and other international leagues.  Similar responses arose during the MLB strike in 1994, when a few players went to play in Japan.  During the NBA lockout, players went to leagues in China or Spain; during the NFL lockout, some decided to play for the Arena Football League (AFL) or the Canadian Football League (CFL).

In all cases, a work stoppage in sports is a lose-lose-lose-lose-lose situation.  Owners lose revenue, players are forced to find other jobs for their income, whether they are within their sport or, like Denver Broncos wide receiver Britt Davis, as the manager of a local Abercrombie & Fitch.  The screams of adoring fans far outweigh those of preppy teens searching for the perfect $70 hoodie amid ear shattering music.  Hundreds of companies lose prime advertising opportunities, and television networks need to fill their primetime blocks, most notably on Sundays.  Fans are distraught and bored without an escape from reality and a chance to vent to the deaf ears of referees and floundering players; the lack of sporting events forces us to resort to watching reruns of Basketball Wives. Simply put, there is no gain from an athletic lockout, and the recent fad has long overstayed its welcome, if it ever had one.

Even President Obama, long known to be an avid sports fan, is behind a resolution.

“Every time these things happen I just want to remind the owners and players: You guys make money because you’ve got a whole bunch of fans out there who are working really hard—they buy tickets, they’re watching on TV,” said President Obama on the Late Show with David Letterman.   “You all should be able to figure this out.  Get this done. The fans deserve it.”

Save me a seat on the bandwagon of this election issue.

Hit the live button on your DVR. It’s time for the world of sports to revert back to its original purpose.  Baseball, football, basketball, and hockey alike, are all games.  In the time we live in, we are constantly reminded through contract negotiations, advertisements attached to every conceivable play, and the lockouts we so vehemently despise, that the games and competitions we enjoy as youths are often just as twisted and heartless as any other industry.

So drop the puck, put players on the ice, not cash, and get back to basics.  Find the joy in playing the game, that is, shooting a goal, hitting the 15 foot jumper, smacking a home run, or scoring a touchdown.  And do it for yourself, for fun, not the monetary bonus that may follow.  In a world where success is measured by accruing wealth, is being surrounded by a child’s game for a living not rewarding enough?