Lockout. Lockout. Lockout.

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What follows is an attempt at productive dialogue on every NBA fan’s favorite topic: the NBA lockout. In a 2-part series, you can follow along as famed Michigan professor Santiago Colas and Hoopism Writing Editor Matt Gordon search deep within to analyze where they believe this lockout leaves an NBA fan, and more…

Part 1:

Matt: Lockout. Just typing that word sends literal chills throughout my entire body. I knew this was coming, I was warned. Yet, there was no way I could fully prepare myself for the void left in my daily life as my favorite professional league, the NBA, entered these relatively unchartered waters. Yes, I understand that no games have been missed, but the free agency frenzy and summer of 2010 madness that set the table for the greatest season in any sport ever (ok maybe that’s an overstatement, but last season had to be a top-3 season in NBA history) was beyond fun and I miss that.

So, here we are, NBA-less. I have continually tried to find the positive in this situation, some beacon of light that will make this mess “ok” at the end of the day. Unfortunately, every time I try to engage in this exercise, my mind wanders and becomes fixated on loss. As fans, we are losing more than just our favorite teams and players, we are losing our daily connection to stats, writers, broadcasters, and so much more. We are losing the beautiful momentum created by world champion and fan favorite Dallas Mavericks. We are possibly losing the last hurrah from our favorite (or least favorite) geezers – the Spurs, Celtics, and maybe even Lakers/Mavs. We are losing another season of Blake Griffin Dunks (that’s 2 out of 3). We are losing another season of full-fledged Heat hating (although if there is any positive to the lockout, it’s that Miami Thrice may already be halfway through their current 4 year deals, with not 4, not 5, not 6, but 0 championships). We are losing so much, and for what? Because the owners can’t figure out how to properly pay their players? Some things need to change, there’s no doubt, but do we really need to lose last year’s momentum just to support the world’s dumbest staring contest?

Yago: I feel for you, Matt.  I really do because I like you.  I have from the start with your earnestness and your passion.  But I have to say: I haven’t really lost a wink of sleep since the lockout.  Perhaps I’m a cold, unfeeling thing.  But the truth is that I don’t feel my daily life has been affected one way or the other by the lockout.  It’s scary to admit this publicly — being a Cultures of Basketball Professor and all.  I worry that my credibility will be shot, that I’m unmasking myself as “not a real fan.”  And maybe I will feel differently when the cooling air of late October prompts my body into an unconscious readiness for the season that isn’t about to start.  Maybe I will feel differently when the early darkness falls in mid-December and there are no games.  And I will almost certainly feel differently second semester, when I’m teaching Cultures of Basketball and there are no NBA games to talk about.  But for now, I haven’t done much more than have a couple of casual conversations about it with some friends and family in the first week of July.  And even that was half-hearted.  I can’t even get excited about it as a class or labor issue!
I imagine second semester, when the NBA season would be kicking into gear, and I imagine walking into my classroom with students NOT chattering about last night’s games or their favorite teams’ playoff prospects.  I imagine not having the current dramas of the NBA to use as a springboard to talking about the history of the game and it’s place in our individual and collective psyches and cultures.  But then, maybe, it will force me to retool the course to orient it around the college game, or at least to pay more attention to other forms of ball other than the NBA.  It makes me think that there’s a question of perspective at work here.  Not just the snooty non-fan kind of perspective that would sneer at the withdrawal that you and many others are experiencing — the perspective that says, “C’mon, it’s only a game! Get a life! Do you see what is going on in the world today?”

I’m not talking about that kind of perspective that haughtily dismisses the depressed ennui you and others suffer when you fire up your iPads and find only a lame tweet about where Dwight Howard planked recently.  I’m wondering, with my congenital optimism, if there is a silver lining in this (besides the meager crumb you found in Miami’s lost opportunity), or is it dark side through and through?

I’ll leave you with that question, and with the following tantalizing suggestion (because we are playing at being in class and part of being in class for me was always about trying to smuggle some of the medicine that is humanities thinking in with the 5 lb bags of sugar that is shooting the shit about hoops): that in your dismal lament and my forced optimism there are some large theologico-cultural issues at work.

Matt: It’s almost as if the NBA became a comfortable La-Z-Boy recliner for me. I don’t *need* it to live and fully understand the importance of “real world” issues. However, how much better is life with the La-Z-Boy! It brings comfort and consistency to my life. There’s no better feeling than coming home from a hard day of work and plopping down on the La-Z-Boy, fully immersing myself in it’s glory. That’s how I view the NBA.
Now, it’s as if my favorite (and only) La-Z-Boy has been taken from me. However the situation is bizarre and even more upsetting because it’s not like the La-Z-Boy is gone, it’s just locked in a glass room right in the middle of my house. I can look at it and think about it (i.e. Watching Durant and friends play all summer or watching old highlights on NBATV or YouTube) but I can’t touch it or use it. It’s almost harder than not having it at all.

This is all part of why I don’t really think there is a great silver-lining to this lockout. I already appreciate the fact that there is far more to life than a game. However, my life as a sports fan just isn’t the same without my irrational exuberance towards checking what Bulls Beat Writer K.C Johnson has posted on Twitter about the Bulls most recent shoot-around. What do I do!