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Ferd's Words

While Stern sings the blues, NBA owners spend like gamblers

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News item: NBA Commissioner David Stern emerges from annual meetings with owners to contend the league lost a whopping $370 million in the 2009-’10 season.

David Stern
NBA Commissioner
645 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Dear David,

After the last couple of head-shaking weeks, you’re probably not in the mood for some more bad news. But to be honest, you’ve probably got a better chance of peddling LeBron James Miami Heat jerseys in downtown Cleveland right now than evoking much sympathy for claims the owners have $370 million in losses.

By the way, who does your teams’ books, Bernie Madoff?

I mean, have we learned nothing from AIG, Enron and the rest?

Folks these days just aren’t buying tales of doom and gloom from millionaires anxious about where their next yacht will come from. Fans can be surprisingly fickle about things like that when they are worrying about their own jobs.

Some of them might even be convinced the Clippers will someday be a power but they aren’t buying your whole woe-is-the NBA routine. They don’t feel the pain of those whom you would cast as benevolent owners or share the concern about whether the seldom-used bench player will have to downgrade from a Jaguar.

Just because fans are already shelling out for ever-rising ticket prices, escalating cable TV bills and sky-high merchandise price tags — not to mention the state and municipal taxes that pay for the arenas your teams play in — they tend to think their responsibility ends there. Go figure.

Of course, it might have been a little different if Minnesota hadn’t just dropped $20 million on Darko Milicic. Or if Toronto hadn’t thrown $34 million at Amir Johnson. And, please, don’t get us started on $119 million for Joe Johnson in Atlanta.

Who’s writing the checks in your league, Billy Hunter?

It also doesn’t do your argument much good to see the salary cap extended to $58.04 million a year when you can purchase a small country — or two — for less.

Even the dire warnings about the possibility of a team going belly-up have elicited more yawns than sympathy. After all, nobody ordered your teams into Oklahoma City and Memphis. Your owners dragged them there. They have also hired people like Isiah Thomas to run front offices and make money-squandering player decisions.

So you might want to forget about putting collection cans down at the mall anytime soon or sending youth leaguers door-to-door to solicit money. Better scratch that benefit chili campaign and car washing fund-raiser, too.

If the well-heeled owners and the well-off players can’t figure how to divvy up this overflowing pot with a new collective bargaining agreement, the fans are somehow convinced it should be basketball’s problem to work out and pay for. Not ours.

Meanwhile, don’t expect the "Bucks for Billionaires" campaign for down-and-out owners and "Moolah for Millionaires" player relief fund to get very far these days. And, please, keep the self-serving whining in public to a minimum.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports writer Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

 

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