There’s something about people, whether they’re 15 or 50, that makes them blow things off until the last minute, whether it’s a homework assignment, saving the country from falling off a fiscal cliff or, in this case, figuring out how billionaires and millionaires can co-exist in the National Hockey League.
The NHL and its players association finally ended their labor impasse, agreeing to a collective bargaining agreement that should keep the peace for the next decade. And, like everything else we mentioned, they didn’t do anything this weekend that they couldn’t have done months ago.
The teams will start lacing up their skates right away for an abbreviated training camp and then an abbreviated season – about 50 games — that will be squeezed into a few months. That will make for a lot of games in a short amount of time, which will excite the fans and exhaust the players.
The big question now is how the fans will react. You remember the fans, don’t you? The ones who wear their emotions on their sleeves and pay all the bills? And there will be some fans who are embittered over the childish negotiations – or lack of them – that held up this agreement, and the start of the season, for far too long. There will be fans who swear they’ll never go to another game, that they’ll never spend another dollar supporting the selfish owners and self-absorbed players, that they just don’t care anymore.
But the majority of fans just want to see hockey. They want to root for their favorite teams and their favorite players and they really don’t care about all the haggling and gaggling. They love being a fan, which is what it’s supposed to be all about – having fun, whether it’s watching a game in person or on television. The other stuff doesn’t matter anymore. As one fan said on a local radio sports talk show, “From now on, I only want to hear three words – ‘Drop the puck.’ ’’
I’m not one of those people, by the way. I’m not a big hockey guy, although the NHL’s playoffs are the most intense of any of the major professional sports (and I’m being nice by referring to the NHL as one of the major professional sports). I didn’t really care, or even notice, that they weren’t playing. However, I do understand the fervor others have for it and I’m happy that their favorite sport is back.
But I’m mostly happy for the thousands of game-day workers who were affected by the lockout, the little guys who sell concessions or work as ushers or security or any of the dozens of satellite jobs that revolve around each game. Even though working in one of those jobs is just a part-time gig, for many it can mean the difference in paying their monthly bills or saving a little money for college tuitions or retirement funds.
The players can afford to take that time off, but the little people can’t. Of course, you never hear the owners or players talk about them when they’re discussing the league’s financial problems. The new CBA will put money in the owners’ and players’ pockets, but those support people will never be able to make up for that lost revenue.
But, at least they have their jobs back and everybody is happy. And, soon, nobody will even remember that a large chunk of the season was erased. The jockeying for playoff position will begin and then the red-hot intensity of the playoffs, and the labor strife that we just went through will be a dim memory and eventually not even that.
So, what did we learn from this latest labor conflict in professional sports, the latest episode where much a season and millions of dollars were lost even though it could have been averted? The same thing we learned from all the other ones – nothing.
If nothing else, we are consistent.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.