Oh, The Places The NBA Lockout Will Take Us

Photo by Seth Johnston

I’m not really sure what to say in this space. And that has become a feeling both familiar and disorienting. You see–stupid as it sounds–the existence of basketball has come to justify my own existence. A lockout means, uh. Hm. Ummm… 

from HoopSpeak: To Fellow Lost Bloggers 

This feeling just keeps getting weirder, doesn’t it? Every day, the process of finding some kind of indicative reveal or story in the barren NBA landscape is reminiscent to searching for your favorite penny in the couch. It isn’t fun, it isn’t easy, and nothing is clear. We search for answers constantly, and all we get is a barrage of semi-hopeful or semi-depressing press releases.

Can anyone tell me the date? Time moves slower during the lockout, doesn’t it? I can’t be sure because the NBA owners and players often don’t seem to have a sense of time. They malign the other side and wax philosophically, but it’s all a slow moving barge on the way to a dull and unappealing landfill.

I wrote about the onset of this feeling a couple of months ago as the lockout began, and the feeling’s only stagnated and clung with time. I don’t expect the NBA to lose a full season, but there ‘s no assurance to be had. When I mention “assurance”, I’m not looking for some magical assurance for myself. I’m not hoping that I’ll get a call from David Stern tomorrow telling me everything’s going to be all right, that a resolution is just around the corner. What I’m really looking for is some kind of collective reassurance, a reassurance that I know isn’t attainable. The majority of the articles I read, the tweets I notice, the things people tell me in real life mostly lead me to the same logical, saddening conclusions. But the fan inside me rejects the rational in a time of confusing NBA behavior. I should be optimistically anticipating the best for my team. We all should be doing that. Instead, we’re left to ponder the cold rationality that reality pushed us towards virtually every day during this lockout.

The socially aware hoops blogger knows better than to shriek, “What about us!?” but that’s certainly a reasonable way to feel. 

Ethan’s right, of course. NBA employees, stadium workers, and others involved in the NBA industry deserve much more sympathy than we do as fans and bloggers. Many of those working in these fields have had their livelihoods temporarily (and for how long?) put on hold. As fans, we can feel that sympathy and integrate into our own lockout view from afar, but the personal toll, however slight in the grand scheme of life, still feels very real to us.

The enthusiasm of fans is what powers the beautiful NBA machine, what creates the narratives that drive the league. These narratives aren’t always well-considered or accurate, but they fuel interest in a way that makes things endlessly interesting for fans. There’s always something to shill about, whether it’s the seeming fulfillment of Dirk’s long and difficult journey or the emergence of Blake Griffin into the hearts and abrupt screams of NBA fans everywhere. We love the story lines. It fuels our beliefs, passion, and ideas about the game itself. As long as the NBA is in full season swing or close to it (and it always feels like one of the two), that passion can be generated consistently by our enthusiasm. In a world where the nature of the only story lines is nebulous and unsure, that enthusiasm slowly wanes and waits.

How long can that enthusiasm sustain itself before some of it (enthusiasm which fueled a league growing in popularity and full of marketable stars and stories only one year ago) begins to dissipate amongst a select number of fans and bloggers? The majority of fans will stick around for the game they love, no matter how long the lockout lasts (Which won’t be more than a year, right?), but the seemingly burgeoning nature of the league could be threatened and stunted. The frantic energy of the league will be sapped temporarily, energy which isn’t easily returned back to its peak.

No one can be sure when the NBA will return. This could all be an exercise in futility, and the league could return before a true lockout ever begins, or at least for a shortened season. The sentiment of uncertainty continues to prevail over everything else in the psyche of fans. We center around ourselves around the assuredness of knowledge, but NBA fans only have the future in sight now, and that future currently lies without assuredness. I hope enthusiasm isn’t the next thing to leave.

 

Shout-out to @Seth_Ball for the beautiful illustration. 

Seth Carstens