I woke up this morning at 5:00 am, turned on the local news and saw the City of Los Angeles bracing for the Occupy Los Angeles protestors who announced they were going to take full advantage of “National Day of Action” to march through downtown and over to the Bank of America where they planned to cause a ruckus. LAPD had its hands full all day, grappling with protestors and fending off irate commuters. Many of the people who work downtown and who were just trying to make a living were forced to take a “sick” day because they couldn’t get past the Occupy protestors.
NBA Owners and Players…are you watching these protests going on across the country? I hope so because they won’t stop until you get back to business!
I have a theory – completely unscientific, of course – that civil unrest occurs when the athletic world falters. Let’s look at this situation more closely. The last time there was major civil unrest in Los Angeles, it was 1992, when the three LAPD officers accused of beating Rodney King were acquitted. While there’s no doubt this was the explosive tipping point, a closer look at what was going on at the time in LA sports deserves to be mentioned. All of our teams were going through or had just experienced a dreadful year.
The Lakers were in post-Showtime mode, Magic Johnson was forced to quit playing due to having contracted the HIV Virus and the team won a total of 43 games. The Los Angeles Raiders had just experienced trouble with their quarterback Todd Marinovich, Managing Partner Al Davis had inexplicably put Marcus Allen in his doghouse and the Heisman Trophy winner and former Super Bowl MVP was soon to leave the team. The Dodgers hadn’t won the World Series since 1988 and they hadn’t made the playoffs in years. Their pitching ace and Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser, who had helped the team win in ’88, suffered an arm injury and wasn’t anywhere near the player he was four years before. The Kings hockey team was coming off a fantastic year with Wayne Gretzky but saw their ace become severely injured, missing 39 games. The USC Trojans were in the middle of a 13-game losing streak to Notre Dame and an 8-game losing streak to UCLA and they were being coached to mediocrity by Larry Smith in the final year of his five-year contract. UCLA was just plain bad, coming off a 6-5 season.
It’s no question that life in Los Angeles – sportswise – was lousy as every, single athletic team was experiencing a monumental bad patch. People in LA had no team to cheer for. There was no sports-related analysis to be heard over drinks at the local bar. There was no spirit. Frustration was high. So, when the acquittal came down and it was considered the wrong verdict, that sense of injustice added to the already frustrated LA citizens and they went off the rails, rioting through the city and looting shops all over the Southland. I’m not trivializing what happened in the Rodney King-LAPD trial but there’s no doubt that people were already in a pretty foul mood because of the bad sports being played by teams all over Los Angeles.
So, let’s look at the current situation in Los Angeles. The Lakers, playing in the final season coached by the future Hall of Famer Phil Jackson, finished the year in a very bad way, getting swept by Dallas in the second round. The Dodgers are a club in major disarray. (Clayton Kershaw’s recent Cy Young Award is wonderful but unfortunately, it can’t mask the fact that the team is still a mess. Thank you, Frank McCourt.) The Kings are okay right now, in first place even, but few in Los Angeles care about hockey and anyway, it’s a long season and there’s plenty of time for them to become mediocre. The Trojans are in the second year of a two-year ban in post-season play. And UCLA is, well, still bad, almost firing their coach mid-season until they won a few games, which placated the fans for the moment. And, the city doesn’t even have a professional football team anymore.
If my theory holds true, nothing good is going to come from a protracted NBA strike. In fact, things around LA will only get worse. We’re usually a peaceful, chill kind of place but the Occupy movement won’t leave downtown and might become more difficult (there were 80 arrests of protestors yesterday). Worse, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimated that the city – the restaurants and businesses surrounding Staples Center where both the Lakers and Clippers play – could lose about $3 million for every game that’s canceled. And, that estimate doesn’t even include the income from TV broadcasts and merchandising. If the season is lost, LAEDC economist John Blank estimates that the “hardest hit” would be the waiters, bartenders, shop owners, cab drivers and other service providers. In other words, that portion of the 99% that is already frustrated is going to be in even worse shape. So, frustrations are likely to get higher – which means attitudes and moods will get worse. Our city can’t take much more of this stress.
So, even though the owners and basketball players are most definitely part of that 1% that everyone loves to hate, we need them to get back into negotiations so the players can get back on the court and earn their extraordinary salaries so the rest of us can get back to work, relax, watch and, most importantly, get our frustrations out.
NBA, please get it together. Agree to terms and get back to work so life as we know it can proceed. The Occupiers will go home, a good portion of the 99% will go back to work and everyone will be otherwise occupied by your balletic moves on that 95 x 50 hunk of wood.
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