NBA lockout? Wake us when it’s over
Similarly, the first round of the 2010 pro football draft — featuring former college players in business suits walking across a stage — drew more viewers than a concurrent Chicago Bulls-Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game featuring stars Derrick Rose and LeBron James playing actual basketball.
When a recent lockout threatened to disrupt the current NFL season, it prompted a nationwide “Save Our Season” campaign from the Washington-based fan advocacy group Sports Fans Coalition, ‘round-the-clock media coverage to rival Ted Koppel on the Iranian hostage crisis and months of sports-talk radio angst.
“I noticed a panic during the NFL lockout — people didn’t think college football would be able to replace it,” said Kyle Weidie, the founder of TruthAboutIt.net, a Washington Wizards website. “The NBA is different. You have basketball junkies who want to match, but they’re not so much panicked as disappointed.
“If they’re deprived of basketball, they can more readily turn to the college game. Or just watch the NFL. A lot of basketball fans are football fans, too.”
Therein lies another reason for NBA lockout quietude: Currently, sports fans have plenty of other viewing options. The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing. Football is under way. So is professional hockey. College basketball is just around the corner, and even the professional soccer season is still going on.
According to former NBA and University of Maryland basketball player Laron Profit, interest in the pro game typically spikes between the NBA All-Star Game in February and the league’s playoffs in June.
“With the NFL, there’s only 16 games in a season, so the time frame is shorter,” Mr. Profit said. “There’s more sense of urgency for fans. NBA fans tend to say, ‘Hey, after the All-Star Break is when I start watching.’
“If this thing drags on [and] you lose that [NBA] Christmas Day game or more, you’ll see the fans react and get antsy. Last year’s playoffs were as anticipated and exciting as we’ve seen for a long time. Lose that, and that’s when the casual fan will be like, ‘Hey, what is going on here?’”
Last year, wagering on football reportedly accounted for 43 percent of the $2.76 billion bet in Nevada sports books. Yearly illegal wagering on the NFL alone has been estimated in the $100 billion-plus range. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, more than 30 million Americans played fantasy football last year — a 54 percent increase from 2008.
Put another way: An NBA game is something you watch or attend after work. An NFL game is an event.
“There are people who plan their fall weekends around going to the games with tailgate buddies and friends,” Mr. Czaban said. “People plan out-of-state trips to go home and see family. They were sitting around this summer going, ‘I would like to buy a ticket back to Denver and see the Broncos play, but I don’t know with the lockout.’”
Ironically, professional basketball’s hoopus interruptus comes on the heels of a renaissance season. James‘ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami as a free agent last summer was a major national news story, likeable young stars such as Rose and former Montrose Christian player Kevin Durant endeared themselves to fans, and television ratings rose across the board, culminating in the third-highest-rated NBA finals game in a decade.
Bleacher Report basketball columnist Nathaniel Friedman — who writes under online pen name “Bethlehem Shoals” — worries that NBA lockout apathy could morph into greater apathy for the sport itself.
“People always like to talk about how the NBA isn’t popular and only NBA diehards will miss these early games,” he said. “But that’s not true. [Casual fans] get excited for the first month of the season, and then the last. [The league] is missing its first chance to hook people.
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