Surely, I am not the only sports fan that gets a little crazy about lockouts in professional sports.  It is, ultimately, a betrayal of the connection that exists between a loyal (cash spending) fan and a private business that is financially dependent upon that loyal fan cash.  The Patriots exist, in small part, because of the season tickets I used to own, and the pajamas my son wears, and that plastic beer cup set I had to have after the Super Bowl victory against the Rams.  And the Celtics simply aren’t owned by Mark Cuban…….they need alternative sources for revenue……….like my paycheck.  And the paycheck of all the other beer swilling, ticket buying, body paint wearing fans that pack into the Gah-den (admittedly, the body paint may not be the most lucrative fan behavior in the eyes of the franchise, but damn is it ever fun).  Lockouts happen because owners want to maximize their take, refuse to enter into binding arbitration, and want to limit the amount of money they pay their employees.  And all of this is the American way, and I can mostly live with it, but after it becomes clear that us fans are a secondary consideration to money, my reaction is best summed up by referencing a song by my friend, Cee Lo.

The NFL lockout continues, and the NBA seems to be on the same path.  And the best thing you can do to let these owners know you’ve been taken for granted is to simply step back.  Take some time away from professional sports.  If you’re a sports fan like me, you’ll need  to find an outlet, but the good news is………there are so many alternatives.  Remember how to appreciate sports without lining the pockets of the greedy, egocentric owners, even after they win their negotiations and resume their marketing campaigns (“We love you fans……so much!  You are the reason we exist!  Now please step away from my Bentley!”)  So, a few ideas:

1)  Coach a local team:  I did this for the first time this year, working as a head coach for an in-town baseball team.  I was amazed at how powerful an experience this was, both because of the time I spent with my son, but also because of how satisfying the general experience was.  In advance of our one playoff victory, I think I exchanged 100 texts/emails with my friend who helped coach the team.  It was like strat-o-matic back in high school, but only with actual people involved.  And when my first basemen gunned down a runner at second base to end the game……I felt something I think may have been…….joy.  The whole of the experience was rewarding, the kids were great, and I was in a dugout again, eating sunflower seeds and talking about how to hit, pitch, field, and run in a variety of situations.  For a little while, I didn’t even think about the Red Sox (which if you knew me, would floor you.)  Football season is just around the corner, and I hear Pop Warner isn’t locking out this year.

2) Catch a game at a local park:  OK, so this one may sound a little funny, especially if you don’t know any of the participants, but there is a back story.   I play softball, and we have a fan……Kenny.  Kenny is an older guy who comes to all of our games, but who is not friendly with any of us outside of the games.  He acts like a typical sports fan in every way (“You should have had second on that one, Sully!  Get your head out of your ass!”)  but what is remarkable is that the only reason he appears to be there is his love of sports.  Rather than sit on his couch and listen to Michael Kay every night (yeesh!) he goes out to the park and watches the local guys stumble around a field.  Take this notion and stretch it a bit, and soon you’re watching a high school football game under the lights, or a local travel team in a regional playoff game.  Arguably, sports don’t get much more pure.

3)  Play!:  Increasingly, there are opportunities to play sports at a variety of levels.  A local beach volleyball league in Rye, with different divisions and different levels of competitiveness.  A mixed gender kickball team in White Plains.  A bowling league on a Friday night before you head home, or out to the bars.  Darts, softball, tennis……name it.  Rather than being a passive participant, get active.  Will you look like LeBron in that 3 on 3 league this summer……no (unless you choke in the finals).  But, sports are a leisurely pursuit, an escape, and being the best or watching the best isn’t the only reason to engage.

4)  Find a minor league club:  OK, so not a complete departure from professional sports, but it is different.  If you don’t believe me, go see a Hudson Valley Renegades game.  The beer is affordable (and good….microbrews!)  The kids have fun.  And you’re not reaching into your pocket paying for the popcorn that some pampered athlete is having fed to him by Cameron Diaz.  After the game, if your kid is like mine and asks for an autograph from a player……the players act honored.  There is a stronger connection with the fan, and while it may just be a variation of watching MLB, it is a variation I increasingly appreciate.

So, remember……lockouts don’t end your experience as a fan, they just push you in a different direction.  Look at this as an opportunity to experience sports again in a way that might, in the end, be better.  And let the owners know, you should not have been taken for granted.

 

 

 

11 Comments

  • Great ideas. All of which I have pursued, even when not locked out of professional sports. There is nothing more rewarding than coaching kids. I just came off my (collective across 3 sons) 13th in-town baseball season as a coach and it was my best ever. The kids are in it for the pure joy of playing and this particular team worked hard, listened to their coaches and supported their teammates like no other team I have ever coached. Wow, no wonder we won the championship! There wasn’t a selfish player in the bunch. Wish I could say the same for all professional players.

    Yes, the players too are selfish. And this is where I take issue with your post; it appears very one sided against the owners. From where I sit, the players have a hand in all this nonsense as well, with just as little regard to the fans as the owners display. No doubt, the owners are no saints, but how is a players strike or tactics like disbanding the union so they can avoid collective bargaining and take the owners to court any different than an owner lockout? At least as far as what it says to the fans? I’m not saying that the players don’t have grievances, they do. But just as the owners are making money hand over fist, so too are the players richly rewarded (yes, I know we can argue degrees of reward versus what the owners make, but as an overall principle, professional athletes in the major US sports are not by any stretch of the imagination under-paid).

    In the end, I do believe that most players and owners are in it for the joy of the game – or at least they started that way. Unfortunately, they simply can’t escape that professional sports are a business; a big, lucrative and sometimes ugly business. But a little more joy and a little less business wouldn’t be a bad thing. For everyone. Owners. Players. And most of all, the Fans.

  • Hey Rob…..I appreciate the comments.

    I’ll acknowledge that I am very one sided in my view of the NFL’s lockout, but only because I genuinely struggle to see the owners side through any lens other than simple greed. Less than two years after extending the CBA, they unilaterally opted out, in an effort to seek “a fair and equitable” agreement. They then locked the players out.

    When the MLB players union objects to PED testing, I was the first to criticize them…..so I’m not reflexively pro-player. But in this case…….I do blame the owners, and from a fans point of view, resent their actions.

    But, regardless of your opinion of the root cause of the current impasse……I stand by my recommendations. And congrats on that championship.

    • I hear you. And I don’t necessarily side with the owners either. But, there is a side to their story. Consider that the owners take the risk. It’s their money. They have a right as businessmen to protect their interests and pursue a fair profit. The players, on the other hand, are the reason we watch the games. So they have a right to pursue fair compensation for their performance and withhold that performance as they see fit. The key word in both cases being “fair.” But, when does the fan get a fair shake? One could argue that both parties are richly rewarded at the expense of the fan, who in the end pays more for tickets, more for pajamas, more for beer and so on, to reward the owners and players. Which is why I’m disappointed with both sides.

    • Sully:

      Witrh the current contract rookies can get 60 mil contracts.Something has to be done.
      The latest offer is 52 to 48%. Who pays for insurance and benefits for the players
      no longer playing.? The owners. Kraft spent over $800.000 to build the stadium with
      no public money. Both sides are nuts but don’t knock the owners. Look at the NBA.
      10 franchises are losing money but the players don’t care. Look at the Patriots. If players stay
      with the team even as a sub they make $750thousands to $1 mil for 5 years. They have a cap in which works well for everybody and they have a minimum that all clubs will spend.

      They should settle immediately and both sides will win.

      Irishjim

  • I used to love AAA ball growing up in RI…..Pawtucket was a great place to see the next major leaguers. But now I live close to a A park, a team that is an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays…….and even those games are fun to go see. If you like minor league ball, just go to a nearby park.

    Another great game to see if you ever can……a Cape Cod league game in July. Town sponsored teams, the best collegiate players in the country, and it is a wood bat league so all the MLB scouts are there next to Lions Club members from Orleans selling 50/50 raffle tickets. Those games are oozing Americana.

  • great post! my first date with Lou included a Pawsox game – and in a full circle kind of way, thinking of taking the kids to one this summer. I’m not ready to spend all that money on a major league game to go with three kids who only have mediocre interest in the game at best, though there is something to be said for going to a game with Mom or Dad, to see their long time favorite team play, don’t you think? I think the first time Lou takes one of the kids with him to see the Bills play will be a “moment”, probably more for him than the kids.

  • Lisa…….gotta love McCoy Stadium. My parents will actually be there tonight for the game and some fireworks. It seems like every other cub scout/little league/summer camp outing I went on as a kid was to McCoy.

    And as for the moment you feel watching a game you love and a team you love with your children……….definitely more strongly felt on the parent’s side. This year, I discovered that is true with regard to coaching, too.

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