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Say you’re done, but history shows you’ll come back to NBA

Oct 24, 2011, 1:30 PM EDT

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That’s it. You’re done. You are going to walk away from the NBA. You’re sick of the pampered millionaire players. You’re sick of the hardline, greedy NBA owners. This lockout — now at day 116 with no talks scheduled and some games cancelled — has pushed you over the edge. You are walking away from the NBA.

You’ll be back.

That’s not the wishful thinking of owners and players (although they both think that, too). That’s history and the pattern of fans. They did the research over at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which led to an interesting story.

Statistical analysis compiled from the last seven major American labor disputes — ones that forced cancellation of regular-season games — shows fans eventually return to the arenas and stadiums. Although talk shows and Internet message boards roil with anger and invective as games are being lost, supporters rarely stay mad forever. They come back to their couches, their PSLs, their fantasy leagues….

“It might take a season or two, but fans usually forgive and forget,” said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute and author of Money Games: Profiting From the Convergence of Sports and Entertainment. “Sports still play a vital role in our society. A lot of people see them as a pleasant diversion, a respite from the grind.”

This lockout is not the same as the last one the NBA suffered, or even the devastating one that cost the NHL an entire season for one reason — the economy. In a nation where teachers are getting laid off, where people can’t figure out how to pay their health insurance bills and where unemployment is at the highest levels in generation, this lockout strikes a more raw nerve. Fans will stay away longer.

But usually, when the local team starts winning or giving reasons for hope, the fans come back. That is the pattern, according to the study of past lockouts.

The story of the ’95 Indians supports their theory. Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith (Mass.) College, considers the ’94 Major League Baseball strike as one of the most damaging in sports history. Average baseball attendance waned for three seasons following the labor discord, but not in Cleveland.

A robust local economy coupled with a contending team that played in a new downtown ballpark helped draw 455 consecutive regular-season sellouts for five-plus years.

Go ahead and be angry. It’s to be expected. But know that the players and owners believed that you will come back. It may take five years, but the game will bounce back. And they are betting big on that right now.

  1. cmack21 - Oct 24, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    nobody really cares untill after football season… youre not the NFL and that is what everyone is watching right now.

  2. BrownsTown - Oct 24, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    Just like Kurt with LeBron, we fans just can’t quit the NBA.

  3. skids003 - Oct 24, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Baseball fans came back after ’94, but only because of Ripken’s streak, and the HR chase of Sosa and McGwire. And the NBA doesn’t have the history of baseball. I am finished with them.

  4. mikey1977 - Oct 24, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    I’m sorry to disappoint the NBA…you can count me as a FORMER fan. I can spend my hard earned money elsewhere…The NBA thinks fans are fools…have fun playing in front of half filled arenas…news flash NBA…your product stinks….

  5. mikey1977 - Oct 24, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    I hope the league will be able to handle the reality, when all of you overpriced dropouts decide you want to play again…many fans can, will, and should spend their hard earned money elsewhere…

  6. mikey1977 - Oct 24, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    I can’t stand the NBA brand or culture anymore…basketball is an international sport…this smug league and its players will learn the lesson the hard way…

  7. savocabol1 - Oct 24, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    “This lockout is not the same as the last one the NBA suffered, or even the devastating one that cost the NHL an entire season for one reason — the economy. In a nation where teachers are getting laid off, where people can’t figure out how to pay their health insurance bills and where unemployment is at the highest levels in generation, this lockout strikes a more raw nerve. Fans will stay away longer.”

    Just want to confirm that you are indicating that the economy wasn’t down last year Kurt……record attendance and rating last year…..just saying…..

  8. redbaronx - Oct 24, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Kurt and the NBA. I’ve got news for you. I haven’t been to a game in two years. I have about $600 in disposable income a month and i’m nearing 40. My income is the mean average at 52k a year. Average take home for the average American…right on the dot.

    First of all I’ve been priced out as i cannot afford $100 for a decent ticket. Secondly, despite loving the game i am SICK and tired of feeling like players and owners don’t give a RATS ASS about fans. it’s no wonder when you watch games you see most arenas the PA system makes more noise than the fans, because the only people that get seats anymore are the people that probably make 80 to 90k per year, and i feel sorry for the die hards like me that have to severly stress their budget to attend a game.

    10 years ago I used to take dates to games. Today i can’t even affort a single ticket. Again I haven’t seen a game in two years when I used to go to games all the time.

    Again I have news for you. It isn’t that fans won’t be back. It’s that they’ve already left. Most fans can’t get tickets as it is. What happens when they won’t watch TV? The NBA is full of pigs and its time to stop enabling them. Even if I win the lottery I refuse to donate money to these pigs by buying a ticket. MAYBE I’ll watch on TV. Maybe. From 1990 to 2005 I used to see at least 5 games a year. I haven’t bought a ticket in two years… don’t think that’s trouble?

    A very disgusted fan!!

  9. redbaronx - Oct 24, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    BTW….there should be an ‘Occupy NBA Arenas’ movement so these idiot owners and players can get a taste of what real fans are going through. $100 seats, $7 hot dogs. Are you kidding me? How about both sides take 40% each of BRI, and the other 20% go back to lowering tickets for fans!!!

    i really wish fans could have some sort of part in these negotiations and take the piss out of owners and players.

    A Very Disgusted Fan

  10. bernie19kosar - Oct 24, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    The ’95 Indians are a poor example for the above reasoning.

    The ’95 Indians were a perfect storm. Many, many factors played a role in the Indians becoming the “hot ticket” in Cleveland:

    1. The Browns were gone. Clevelanders were left with a gaping hole, and the Indians got hot at the perfect time.
    2. The economy was great and downtown Cleveland was “reborn” with Jacobs field, Rock and Roll HOF, the Flats etc. Money was flowing and people had tons of income to spend.
    3. The Indians spent money like crazy back then. They were some of the highest spending teams in MLB.
    4. The Cavs were horrible and no one spent any money on them.

    Look at what happened with the Indians now. They won at the begining of the year and people stayed away. As a fan of a small market team, I hope the NBA gets it right this time, because MLB never will.

  11. rajbais - Oct 24, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    Kurt’s right!!!! Look at 2011!!!!

  12. asublimeday - Oct 25, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    They still lose money. The point isn’t that well never watch another game, it’s that they lose money.

  13. philtration - Oct 25, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    The Indians are a poor example of what really happened to MLB after the strike.

    MLB attendance dropped 20 percent the season after the 1994 strike and it took over 10 years to get the attendance numbers back and that was with a better economy.
    The NBA only has a fraction of the history that MLB has in this country and people will find something else to do. They do not romanticize basketball they way they do with baseball.
    For every Lakers hat sold there are millions of Yankee hats being worn.
    The NBA also competes with the NFL until late January and THAT is the sport that the public prefers.
    If the league believes that they can blow an entire season the fans will come running back then they are even more out of touch than I thought.

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