Falcons and Hawks locked out. Thrashers gone. What to do?

Surely these teams won't get locked out. Surely, I say. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Surely these teams won't get locked out. Surely, I say. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Even in the swelter of summer, it’s possible to envision — borrowing from that noted meteorologist George Harrison — a long cold lonely winter. Let’s call the roll.

The Atlanta Falcons? Locked out.

The Atlanta Hawks? Locked out.

The Atlanta Thrashers? Long gone.

Isn’t there anybody here left to play our reindeer games?

The Thrashers have rolled north to Manitoba. Some Falcons are tossing a football around on a high school field in Buford. The Hawks just got started doing nothing. Reading from the NBA’s official release:

During the lockout, players will not receive their salaries; teams will not negotiate, sign or trade player contracts; players will not be able to use team facilities for any purpose, and teams will not conduct or facilitate any summer camps, exhibitions, practices, workouts, coaching sessions or team meetings.

How have we come to this? Blame the economy. As an NBA executive (not an owner) told me a couple of summers ago: “Even rich people lost real money this time.” The NBA is claiming that more than two-thirds of its clubs are losing money. Some quibble with this, citing the usual creative accounting that can turn profit into loss, but it’s clear the world’s biggest basketball league is undergoing a rough patch.

The NFL is a bit different. Owing to TV contracts, it’s virtually impossible to lose money running an NFL franchise. Even its owners aren’t making that claim. What they’re saying is they just aren’t making the kind of money they’d like to make. (Hey, join the club.)

The NBA lockout figures to be different, in style if not effect, than its football counterpart. The NFL players’ union has decertified itself, thereby freeing it from the constraints of collective bargaining and driving the matter into court. (At last check, the owners were winning the litigation game.) The NBA says it will reach an agreement through collective bargaining, and it probably will. Because the NBA is smarter than the NFL.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the difference between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the NBA’s David Stern is the difference between dull and sharp. And there’s also this: The NBA has longer track record of seeing its players as partners, as opposed to employees. The NBA was the first league to guarantee its players a percentage of the revenue. The NBA also never staged embarrassing games with “replacement players” during a work stoppage.

The latest NFL talks have been reported as productive, but — not to go all Yogi Berra on you — there’s no agreement until both sides agree. July is the month NFL teams traditionally go to camp, and we’re there already.

What will you do if there are no NFL and NBA seasons?

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The NBA has more wiggle room. Its regular season doesn’t commence until late October, and the belief among NBA-watchers is that the key date is Labor Day. If the lockout is ongoing when September arrives, it could last a good while longer. (The last NBA lockout lopped over from 1998 into 1999: I covered a Hawks’ welcome-back scrimmage at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on a Saturday in January; two days later I flew to Miami to cover the Falcons in the Super Bowl.)

Beyond litigation and legalities and all that jazz, we need to say this: These are sports. They’re supposed to be our diversion, our refuge from reality. Now they’re just a double dose of a too-real reality that money’s tight and people are greedy and the world is going to Hades in a hand basket. At times such as this — not that there has ever been a time such as this — we wonder why it is we came to care about these silly games in the first place.

Ah, well. Maybe the Braves will play deep into October. (They’re capable.) And you know how I always say Atlanta is at heart a college football town? Good thing, huh?

By Mark Bradley

300 comments Add your comment

rawdawg

July 1st, 2011
10:23 am

TommyJack

July 1st, 2011
10:23 am

Shame on overpaid players. Shame on greedy owners. Joe Six-pack ends up paying the freight.

Mark Bradley

July 1st, 2011
10:23 am

The rawdawg machine rumbles on. Kudos.

PMC

July 1st, 2011
10:28 am

Not really worried about it. I’m more than certain there will be plenty of other diversions, maybe I’ll get a lot more work done on the house this year.

There are plenty of entertainment opportunities in this area that don’t include any of those teams. We have a great music scene for pretty much every genre. I don’t need any of it, even if I do love football.

Producer

July 1st, 2011
10:28 am

Am I reading Cynthia’s or Bookman’s post? Class warfare on a sports blog? Tommy, the players are not overpaid. They are paid what the market will bear. Are you mad a Chipper or Ryan for what they make? Get over it. Poor, poor Joe freaking Six Pack!

The Falcon Jedi

July 1st, 2011
10:28 am

I didnt want to be first anyway

Bluto

July 1st, 2011
10:29 am

My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.

PMC

July 1st, 2011
10:29 am

The NBA is the league that really is getting fun to watch again, but the economics of that sport are unsustainable.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Ray Ferraro's Bobble Head Doll

July 1st, 2011
10:33 am

Except, the market will not bear what the NBA players are making. That’s why the owners and players will (eventually) agree to a reduction in salaries.

MichaelC

July 1st, 2011
10:33 am

They still play basketball in Atlanta? I can’t wait to see all the Braves “fans” complain about something even though the Braves have the 2nd best record in the NL even with the rash of injuries and lack of offense…..I say again, Move Schafer or Mclouth along with a young arm and some more farmhands for Matt Kemp!!!!

Plus_one

July 1st, 2011
10:34 am

I guess people will have to do something productive for fun instead of watching a bunch of guys play games.

Tired of Losers

July 1st, 2011
10:35 am

What to do? REJOICE!!! They can’t be losers if they don’t play!

destin dawg

July 1st, 2011
10:36 am

watch college sports !!!! H#ll with the pros.. watch Golf.. Nascar… watch Bull Dawg football.. this will be a special season !! Go dawgs !!

[...] Falcons and Hawks locked out. Thrashers gone. What to do?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)The latest NFL talks have been reported as productive, but — not to go all Yogi Berra on you — there's no agreement until both sides agree. July is the month NFL teams traditionally go to camp, and we're there already. The NBA has more wiggle room. …NBA throws books at playersBoston HeraldTIpsheet: Say good-bye to the NBA for long, long timeSTLtoday.comOwners seeking utopian systemFOXSports.comChicagoNow -Bleacher Report -The Banner-Graphic (blog)all 38 news articles » [...]

Michael

July 1st, 2011
10:37 am

Yeah as long as college football keeps playing, we’ll be ok (at least until January…then what?).

Jamaaliver

July 1st, 2011
10:37 am

rawdawg, do you ever actually contribute anything to the conversations?

Or just sit around all day for the opportunity to yell ‘FIRST’?

Matt

July 1st, 2011
10:39 am

No NFL, no NBA… too bad the Atlanta Spirit Group is awfully dumb or malevolent. This coming fall was the GOLDEN opportunity to bring attention to Thrashers hockey.

None of this matters as, much to my chagrin, all Atlanta cares about is college football anyway. Personally, I don’t watch college football for the same reason I don’t watch minor league baseball. In my opinion, if you’re worth watching, I’ll catch you on the big stage and if you can’t cut it there, well maybe you weren’t worth watching and spending money on in the first place.

Happy Guy

July 1st, 2011
10:41 am

I could not be happier that the NBA is locked out!!! I hope the ASG looses everything over this! I hope every one of those owners goes bankrupt! You reap what you sow!! I guess the City of Atlanta wishes they would have stepped up and fought a little harder to keep the Thrashers here to help to keep jobs and business here since now there are PLENTY of open dates at Phillips Arena with no sporting events held there! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I love it…..how does it feel ASG?????

Yurtle_the_Turtle

July 1st, 2011
10:42 am

It’s the NBA. Nobody really cares. If they folded the league tomorrow, my life goes on just as it always has.

nobody

July 1st, 2011
10:42 am

As long as the NFL and NBA are fighting over their own money I don’t care how long they take. The only thing that bothers me is an increasing debt ceiling and idiotic politicians running this country with OUR money.

Jamaaliver

July 1st, 2011
10:42 am

PMC, agreed about the economics of the NBA being unsustainable.

MB, is this further proof that Stern is the worst Commissioner in Pro US sports? Two lockouts in a 12 year span? 22 out of 30 teams losing money? And yet I hear constantly that he actually wants to expand and have a division of the NBA in Europe. The guy is a joke.

Hankie Aron

July 1st, 2011
10:43 am

If only it were that simple MichaelC, keep in mind Matt Kemp is the dodgers best player. It might take Julio Teheran to get them to give up Kemp. And the Braves are not going to do that considering Teheran is considered a Pedro Martinez like top of the rotation pitcher

Hankie Aron

July 1st, 2011
10:44 am

I see your’e point Jamaal about rawdog but hey he did win it fair and square.

Yurtle_the_Turtle

July 1st, 2011
10:44 am

Happy Guy…I’m with you! The lousy ownership known as the ASG is another blemish on the sport’s world. And we are stuck with them. Hope they lose many more millions. I’m NEVER going to another event at Phillips until these losers sell.

NCAA Critic

July 1st, 2011
10:45 am

What to do? When your children act like brats, it is most effective to ignore them. They’ll figure out how to behave when they are hungry.

Hankie Aron

July 1st, 2011
10:46 am

Also MichaelC- I am sure the dodger fans would be thrilled to know they traded their best player when the team has just been taken over by MLB. That’ll sell some tickets man!

[...] GameRamblin’ FanLosing games would be bad for businessNew York PostSB Nation Atlanta -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -Bleacher Reportall 36 news [...]

boots

July 1st, 2011
10:48 am

If the NBA and NHL are not around, who cares? At least we live in the South, the region where college is king. I am much more interested in the Dawgs and other non-professional teams. I just feel bad for people in places up north and in the mid-west where nothing else exists but their pro teams. Bottom line: pro-athletes AND

Lowcountry Bulldawg

July 1st, 2011
10:48 am

The NBA needs to contract. No need to have New Olreans, Minnesota, Charlotte,Sacramento and Toronto. You can also make a case for the Oklahoma and Memphis markets. Lots of young talent so they will receive support for another 3 years. Contract the above mentioned teams and make the league stronger.

Stillinthebar

July 1st, 2011
10:48 am

I spend most of my time and money in Athens anyway. Wish the NFL players and owners would come to an agreement. NBA – except for those who do not make the millions a year, they can stay locked out.

boots

July 1st, 2011
10:49 am

(oops) …AND owners need to feel the pain in the economy the rest of us are feeling. This is not 2000 or 2005. It is a time where the country needs to cut back on spending big time and that goes for pro sports as well.

Happy Guy

July 1st, 2011
10:50 am

ASG = Great Business Model – Let me put all my money into basketball since thats all I care about, spend nothing on my hockey team, sell the team to the bidder who will get the team out of dodge, leave me to focus on my basketball team to then lockout and LOSE MILLIONS MORE!!! GREAT BUSINESS MEN!!! I WANT TO BE LIKE THEM!!! CAN I PLEASE??????

Hankie Aron

July 1st, 2011
10:50 am

Mark- To answer you, I think the reason we care so much about these silly games is because we want to feel like we are part of something. Especially being part of that team that gets to do battle with other teams. Sports gives us that.

Hankie Aron

July 1st, 2011
10:52 am

MB- Believe me when the Gators beat the Dawgs every year, they dont’ beat the UGA football team. They beat the entire state of Georgia

thrashersfan

July 1st, 2011
10:53 am

I’m going to spend my time laughing my ass off at the Atlanta Spirit Group and their 80+ dark dates at Philips Arena.

Jamaaliver

July 1st, 2011
10:53 am

Mark B,

How does the NBA Lockout affect the possible selling of an NBA franchise?

Both from a legal aspect and as an attractive commodity.

Monty

July 1st, 2011
10:56 am

This is an area with a few problems… fitness, education . Maybe we could spend time with the kids playing sports instead of watching them. Maybe read a book. For those without children, I saw where Atlanta was listed as one of the dirtiest cities. Hmmm… I love sports but lack of professional sports is NOT a problem.

William

July 1st, 2011
10:56 am

Who cares about the Hawks, thrashers or Falcons…………there is always college football. :)

MichaelC

July 1st, 2011
10:56 am

Hankie:
I didn’t think it will happen either, but it sure would be nice! I’m just worried with Hanson and JJ both being Boras clients that we aren’t going to be able afford one or both of them after their arbetration clock runs out….

Ted M

July 1st, 2011
10:57 am

Watch the Braves!

who need 'em.....

July 1st, 2011
10:58 am

move high school footbal games to saturday, college games to sunday, and the weekend is covered. i never watch pro basketball until the finals so who cares, they have a year to figure it out. and hockey schmockey…..it’s only enjoyable if you are in the building and since i don’t live in the ATL, not a problem

Matt

July 1st, 2011
10:59 am

to answer the question about how it feels for the ASG… it feels fine to them, they pocketed around $110 million from True North (less the relocation fee) and the anti-anykindoftaxesEVER attitude prevalent in Atlanta assured that the city would not be able to step in and help keep the team here as it made no POLITICAL sense given the strong right-wing, Libertarian leanings of the Metro Atlanta area. I’m not trying to make this political, that’s just a simple fact around these parts. It’s an observation, not an opinion.

John

July 1st, 2011
11:01 am

Go out on Friday night and watch your local high school football game, home or away. It’s inexpensive and entertaining. There are plenty of college football games on Saturday. If you can’t get a ticket to UGA or don’t want to pay the price at Georgia Tech, go see West Georgia, Shorter, Morehouse or Clark or, venture a little south to Georgia Southern, Albany State, Savannah State or Valdosta State. There are even more colleges playing basketball. There is no shortage of football or basketball in Atlanta even without the Falcons and Hawks.

Puck Like A Porn Star

July 1st, 2011
11:01 am

Right on, Matt. This would have been a perfect time to grow awareness of and interest in hockey. Can’t wait for every ASG owner to file for bankruptcy.

RockyMtn Bravo

July 1st, 2011
11:01 am

Whatever will we do without the 5th seed Hawks??? Who will never make it past the 2nd round.
I am worried about the Falcons as the lockout will hault the turnaround. We are close to something special with that team and I’m not talking about Jamal getting busting doing blow at MD.
My advice to you is to get behind the hometeam. The Braves. Show up to games, cheer, and repeat.

Kramer

July 1st, 2011
11:01 am

College football, college basketball, and family. Pro sports can kiss my a**! The economy we are in and these rich little ba*tards want to strike? See ya’! Ray Lewis was right, crime will go up…amongst the very rich jerks on strike.

Runnin With The Dawgs

July 1st, 2011
11:07 am

I say start over. Fire ALL of the players in the NBA and the NFL, and hire new players at a wage that is reasonable WITH salary caps for all. …………….and there will be players, and they will play!

John K

July 1st, 2011
11:08 am

The Thrashers were the only Atlanta pro team I cared about, so now ATL sports are completely off my radar.

I’m just eagerly awaiting college football!

Downtown Yahoos

July 1st, 2011
11:08 am

We’re gonna riot, loot, and pillage because we’re expected to.