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Today In Plutocrat Fluffing


There is a professional sport lockout going on, which means that an owner is engaged in egregious dissembling.    But much of the sports media being what is, he doesn’t even need to try that hard.   For example, Howard Beck will take to page A1 of the Paper of Record to repeat the owner’s farcial rationalizations as if they were fact:

The N.B.A., like the N.F.L. before it, is embroiled in a full-scale labor battle, in part because professional basketball wants what football has: competitive balance, a healthy distribution of talent and a belief that every team, regardless of market size, should have the chance to win a title.

  • The idea that the lockout is about “competitive balance” is ridiculous on its face –how plausible is it that the powerful franchises of the NBA are primarily concerned with giving up their money to other owners?   More to the point, if competitive balance were the key issue the owners’ proposed CBA would be revenue-neutral so far as the distribution between owners and players.   In the actually existing negotiations, of course, the owners want to drastically reduce the revenue that goes to players.   Because the lockout isn’t about “competitive balance”; it’s the owners trying to stuff far more money into their pockets.
  • There is no chance that the NBA will ever have anything like the competitive balance of the NFL, which plays a 16-game schedule and teams have large numbers of key players.   Nor will it have the competitive balance of MLB or NHL, because the game is inherently dominated by front-line talent.    And it’s not self-evident that this is bad thing.   Admittedly, the fact that only a handful of teams have any realistic chance of a championship in the medium term is a major reason why the NBA is by far the least interesting of the four major sports to me, but to NBA fans the star-driven nature of the league is a major virtue.  And it’s the interests of the league’s fans that matters here.
  • As the article actually points out towards the end, even if one believes that more parity is inherently good, it’s far from obvious that a hard salary cap actually helps small markets that much.   James didn’t leave Cleveland because they couldn’t pay him; he left because he and the stars he colluded with wanted to be in a bigger, more attractive market.   A hard cap will just mean that small markets can’t compete on salary, which in some cases makes their job even tougher.    And it should be noted that despite having a salary cap the NBA in the post-merger era has been far more dominated by big markets than MLB or the pre-lockout NHL.    San Antonio — the only professional team in the 28th largest media market — is the one prominent exception in a sport that has been dominated by teams from the top six markets with some seasoning from #11 and #12  (granting that #1 has been uncompetitive for a while.)

For all intents and purposes, the lockout is about the owners making a lot more money.   Competitive balance, desirable or not, is neither here nor there.

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