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Brad Rock: Adding fans to NBA's labor talks would be taking it a step too far

Published: Saturday, July 30 2011 11:35 p.m. MDT

The reader was angry. The NBA lockout was only four days old, but already he was noticing the lack of free agency news. Summer leagues were only a wish. So the reader emailed me me a copy of a letter his friend sent to Jazz CEO Greg Miller.

Basically the letter was a plea for the owners and players to reach an agreement. Immediately. There is still time to make that Nov. 1 season-opener with Houston happen. But the writer warned Miller not to underestimate the fans' dismay.

Among the other things he discussed was a need to build bridges. He pointed out that the public buys tickets, merchandise and concessions.

"It all depends on the fans," he wrote.

Clearly, LeBron James didn't get the memo.

The writer went on to say "standing firm" shouldn't be the players' rallying cry, but rather, "What do we need to do to make sure everyone still wins?" and "What do we need to do to figure out how to share a billion-dollar pie among a very few?" and "What do we need to do to keep our fans loyal?"

I was in agreement until one of his phrases caught me like a Dwight Howard elbow. It said, "The owners and players need to realize that the true driving force behind the NBA has not even been invited to the discussions and negotiations. And that driving force is the fan."

Wait a minute. Invite fans to the negotiations?

It couldn't hurt — except to screw this up worse than it is.

I know and admire a lot of fans. And it's true fans are the foundation for success in sports. Anyone who is loyal enough to paint his driveway with a logo or wear a team tie to work has a right to be upset about this lockout. But sitting in on the negotiations is an entirely different thing. Isn't the process complicated enough without adding someone wearing a replica jersey?

I can see it now. There in the NBA offices are commissioner David Stern, union boss Billy Hunter, a bunch of lawyers, some player reps ... and a guy named Ralph from Bluffdale.

"The fans need to be considered in this labor discussion as well," the letter continued. "From a fan's point of view, it is very frustrating when we see spoiled, arrogant multi-millionaire players arguing with rich, arrogant, multi-millionaire owners."

True, but the idea of fans sitting in on NBA discussions reminds me of the last time I was at an extended family reunion. The noise level was just above that of a battlefield. There was an abundance of opinions but not much action. We couldn't decide which direction to pass the potato salad, much less fix the lockout.

The writer went on to accurately note that fan loyalty could easily and quickly be transferred to Utah, BYU or Real Salt Lake, adding, "The NBA may soon be only in our rear view mirrors."

Still, I don't know of any business where the consumer sits in on board meetings and helps negotiate salaries. The owners take the financial risk, the players do the work. Seems to me that fans have the easiest job of all, showing up at 7 p.m. and yelling their guts out.

Now it appears the fans want representation, which sounds a lot like having moviegoers sit in on film production meetings. Mr. Spielberg, I think we should include an elephant and some pretzels in the next scene. What do you think?

Frustration is normal. I'm going to be frustrated Nov. 1 if I have a column due, but no NBA game to write about. But including fans in the negotiations wouldn't be any more helpful than having my neighbor sit in on an argument with my boss.

Writing letters to the editor and to the team are good ideas. So are calling the club's voice mail and posting rants on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. There really is such a thing as constructive fan input.

But there's also such a thing as having too many cooks in the kitchen.

email: rock@desnews.com

Twitter:therockmonster

Facebook: rockmonsterunplugged.com

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