How arts viewing strategies help make sense of the NBA lockout

One of the first things an art educator tells a first-time viewer of modern art is to relax and embrace the vulnerability of the experience. Don’t let that feeling of uncomfortableness or absence of resolution dissuade you from interacting with the work.

It’s a fine tactic to use in most facets of life because it’s soberingly true — we don’t know everything nor will we ever.

Confronting a challenging work of art, viewers can find themselves asking things like, “What the hell is happening here?” Sports enthusiasts, the real victims of the NBA Lockout, are asking that question a lot lately. In fact, using tried and true methods of looking at art could help sports fans make sense of our jeopardized basketball season.

Lesson one: draft a checklist of the details that are indisputable. Ask, “What do we know?”

1) The 2011-2012 season was supposed to have started by now. 2) The Dallas Mavs were to have hoisted their NBA Championship banner already. 3) Tim Duncan should be well into the final year of his current contract. Instead, all 114 preseason games have been cancelled, 221 regular season games have been scrapped, and the earliest the season can start now is December 1. And yet players’ first paychecks are due November 15.

Thankfully, art spaces traditionally provide benches for deeper exploration. So take a seat.

The key actors in the work are the more than 400 players represented by the National Basketball Players Association and the owners of the 30 NBA franchises. Seated in the middle is Commissioner David Stern. Both sides have been trying to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement since the June 30 expiration of the previous CBA negotiated in 2005.

A majority of owners contend they are losing money and would like a greater share than their 43-percent of BRI (basketball related income) to combat those losses. Lowering player salaries would do that. They would also like a hard salary cap to create a more competitive league and prevent the formation of “superteams.” All exercised in a 10-year CBA.

Players contend the league has never been more popular and is now enjoying a star power the league hasn’t had since the Jordan era. They’re willing to goes as low as 51-percent of BRI, pending other system concessions, which would free nearly $1.5 billion to the owners over the course of a six-year deal. If owners are actually losing money, the players advocate revenue sharing among teams.

Now truly engaging artwork can create a climax that creates turmoil within the viewer, maybe even ambivalence. Some might contend art should even test your patience, almost like a partnership. For b-ball observers, the plot thickened on Saturday night when Commissioner Stern issued a Wednesday deadline for players to accept the current deal on the table — essentially a 50-50 split. The Players Association deems this “unacceptable.”

With the owner’s BRI demands only increasing, the players have retreated to the drawing board. Player representatives from all 30 teams have been asked to come to New York City, the epicenter of the talks, for a mandatory meeting. According to the union, they will not put the current deal to a vote. There also appears to be growing interest in dissolving the union through “decertification.” If that should occur (130 players petitioning the National Labor Relations Board and a 50-percent-plus-one majority voting in favor within 60 days thereafter), players would have the right to personally file antitrust lawsuits against the NBA.

This nuclear option is seen as the only means by which players can pump the brakes on the owners’ increasing demands, but the process is lengthy and could result in the cancellation of the entire season.

As it stands now, it’s probably more abstract than when it began.

Some Spurs fans might stick around, contemplating while focusing on the positives — the Mavericks haven’t hung their championship banner yet, and technically, Tim Duncan hasn’t started his final contract year. But other fans might mimic the steps of some museum goers when, try as they might, they just can’t “get” a work of art. That is, they may walk away and never look back. •


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