NBA labor handshake agreement: Fan reaction mixed; businesses happy

Published: Saturday, Nov. 26 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

EnergySolutions Arena will likely be filled with Jazz fans late next month. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) EnergySolutions Arena will likely be filled with Jazz fans late next month. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Saving part of its season was a victory for the NBA on Saturday.

Of course, winning back some fans might be an even more difficult challenge than getting owners and players to agree to labor terms.

In fact, the NBA would have to play in the driveways of John Manning and Cort Murdock to get those Utahns' viewership.

"I will not watch one game this year," Manning said in response to a deseretnews.com poll Saturday. "Sick of both the players and owners."

"I would not go to a game, even I got free tickets," Murdock added. "They act like a bunch of overpaid crybabies. They need to join the real world — owners and players alike."

They certainly weren't alone in their forget-the-NBA reactions. Multiple fans told the Deseret News they would boycott the NBA and even products endorsed by its athletes.

On the Deseret News Facebook page, David Welling said he's sticking to college and high school hoops. Steve Landon said he's become "soured on the No Basketball Association." And Jeff Hilton asked, "Who needs the NBA?"

But other basketball-hungry fans were in a more forgiving mood after Saturday's surprising news.

"Bring on the jazz, i can't wait!" pate123 wrote on the deseretnews.com poll.

"I'll be glad when it starts!" Valeen Haslam exclaimed on Facebook. "This was great news to wake up to! Can't wait for the first game!"

One group of Jazz fans was so excited upon hearing the news, the online friends met at a diner for a celebration meal at 2 a.m.

Reactions were mixed among those who braved the cold to shop at The Gateway later in the day. Jim Hardcastle, of Salt Lake City, was skeptical of the tentative agreement.

"I've heard that a couple of times now," he said, of the reports that a deal had been struck. "I'll believe it when I see it."

He downplayed his enthusiasm for the Jazz, stating: "It'll be nice to have them playing." But his wife, Becky, chimed in, "He follows everything on his phone. Even in public, he's telling people: 'The Jazz are up!' "

Lance Brown was literally reading the news on his phone when approached. He typically goes to three or four Jazz games a season. His opinion on the proposed, shortened season was that something was better than nothing.

"I don't care if they start later as long as they play," he said.

Brown's friend, though, was annoyed by the lockout and the attention it received.

"There are more important things in life than watching people put a ball in a hole," Peter Larsen said. "I think they're all overpaid anyway."

Michelle Gilbert of Logan said she hasn't followed the Jazz with any regularity since Kyle Korver left for Chicago, but questioned the impact the lockout had on the economy. Her sister used to work for the team.

"Now there are people that don't have a job anymore," she said.

"The only ones that I am happy for are the workers, shop owners and the little people," T Scott Rees said on Facebook. "They are the most important, not the players."

A handful of people expressed zero interest in the Jazz or the lockout, but Vernal's Jerry Kenczka has noticed the sport's absence.

"You kind of miss not having the games, whether it's the Jazz or anybody playing," he said.

Fanzz general manager Steve Eliason said the announcement had already generated business for fans who were excited and anxious for the upcoming season.

The store carries products for the NFL, NHL and MLB, but Eliason said "this store is an NBA store, especially a Jazz store."

Pierre Vandamme, owns Bruges Waffles, which is a couple of blocks away from EnergySolutions Arena. Sales of Belgian waffles and French fries weren't fazed by the stalled season, but he admits the basketball season brings a different feeling to downtown.

"It's a great atmosphere," he said. "It's good to have them back and back playing."

It also brings in the occasional customer, who happens upon the place en route to the arena.

"The more souls," he said, "especially in this area, the better."

Judging some fans' reactions, the Jazz might sing a similar tune when the season begins in a month.

Contributing: Alex Cabrero

Email: jody@desnews.com; EMorgan@desnews.com. Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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