Or, It’s like watching a couple having a fight that branches off into all the deep-seated hurt and wrongs they’ve done to each other over the years and how he never liked her sister and her screaming kids anyway, and all you want to do is figure out where you’re going for dinner tonight, you’re getting goddamn hungry here…
There are plenty of reasons why I come down on the side of the players in this stand-off, and it has nothing to do with any sort of anti-billionaire, pro-labor sentiments. In fact—though many of my political philosophies are undergoing some definite, practical reevaluation right now—I’m generally far more likely to be on the side of the bosses, the people who built the business, than the employees who didn’t and want more and more just for showing up and doing the same job. Matthew 20:1-16, after all.
But here’s the crux of the whole matter: the easiest way to wrap your head around it is to take all the numbers involved and divide by 100. So what you’ve got now is a decent-sized business with most of its employees making around $50,000 a year. That’s not chump change, I can remember when it was a huge deal for me to have moved out of the sub-$10/hour range and into an annual salary range that was right around there…it felt like I was finally an adult, working a real job that could grow into a career to carry me through my life. But it’s also not exorbitant…you’re not going to be carrying an $800k mortgage on a huge house in the hills on that kind of money. It’s like Fisher Price My First Real Salary money.
So, you’re at a company, and most folks are making $50k or close to it. There are some that are fresh out of school making a lot less, and some that are making a lot more, like well into six-figures…either they’re worth it (and possibly more than that, they’re just that good), or they’re really good negotiators when review and raise time comes around. But those are the exceptions.
Starts to sound a lot more familiar now, doesn’t it?
And so, what happens is, your boss, the guy who owns the company, calls a meeting of the whole company, and explains to everyone that the economy is in a downturn, and times are tough for everyone. So what he’s going to do is, he’s going to put a freeze on salaries for the next five years. Sure, it might be possible for you to get a raise beyond what you’re making now during that time, but only if someone else takes a pay cut, or even worse, is fired and someone new gets brought in who will work for less. But the total amount he’s going to pay all the employees over the next five years won’t go up by a single dime.
And you raise your hand, and you ask him, “Hey, but what about those announcements you just made to shareholders and investors about the projected record increases in revenue over the next five years? If the company is going to be earning millions more in the next five years than it did this year, what’s going to happen to all that extra money?”
And he leans in, and with a bland, sociopathic look on his face that would cause Gordon Gekko embarrassment, says, “Oh, I get to keep all that.”
And then he tells you that you have to vote to agree with his plan, and until you do vote to agree with his plan, he’s locking the doors to the business and no one’s going to earn another cent.
And that, in a nutshell, is what the NBA owners are asking the NBA players to do. They want the player’s to take a major pay cut, and then lock in an unchanging hard cap (i.e. a team can only spend X amount of money on all of its players combined, no exceptions) for the next five years. Which is why I’m on the players’ side here.
There’s lots of other stuff going on here in the negotiations that I’m not going to dig too deeply into right now; there are plenty of primers out there that go into detail on hard cap vs. soft cap, and international expansion and revenues, and so on. Google is your friend.
Certainly, a lot of players are seriously overpaid, and there needs to be some remedy for the owners—and, more importantly, the fans—than to have to keep paying Eddie Curry $11+ million a year to sit on the bench and hope the bench doesn’t break. It’s not fair to hold a franchise and city hostage for years because of one bad contract (meaning you can’t go and sign or trade for better players to improve your team, so all the fans suffer through hopeless seasons knowing they can’t win now and won’t win next year), and right now there’s no way for the owners to buy out or release the player to get them off their books, not without eating the entire salary or convincing the player to take less than what they agreed to (or finding a willing trade partner, but Isiah Thomas isn’t a GM anymore, so good luck with that), and that needs to be fixed.
And certainly, the economy has taken a dip lately and the players shouldn’t expect to see their salaries steadily increasing while everything else is heading in the opposite direction, even if it’s just in the short term.
But the fundamental thing the owners want is to guarantee that they make money—and by “make money”, I mean “tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars every year” money—no matter what decisions they make and no matter how the economy is doing. And that’s just wrong. Yes, it sucks if they have a serious brain fart and offer Eddie Curry $11 million a year for five years…but it also sucks if I have a brain fart and spend $2000 on that ultimate home gym that looked so good in the infomercial late last night. I don’t get to call the bank and have them give me back $1500 of what I spent because the gym turned out to be a bust (and, more likely, I’m too lazy to actually use it), and I don’t get to prevent infomercials from selling more $2000 pieces of crap to other people, and I damn sure don’t have the right to prevent all of those people from coming to work and earning the money that supports their own family until they voluntarily agree to go along with my “protect me from being stupid” plan.
Again, set aside the absurd amounts of money we’re discussing here, divide it all by 100 to put it into perspective, and it comes out pretty clear and plain.
But mostly, I just want to see my boys back on the court getting revenge for the egg they laid last May, and all this bullshit is getting in the way of that.