Through the Lens of Lentz

by Dan Lentz | 10/24/11 10:00pm

Dartmouth football, 37-0. That's a pretty powerful win. Granted, Columbia is now 0-5, but for Dartmouth to put up 37 points and shut out a team says something.

Dartmouth men's soccer, 2-0. Men's soccer also came up with a shutout of its own against Columbia, and this win came with even more meaning. Tied for second place in the Ivy League with Columbia, the Big Green needed this. It came up big and now owns the tiebreaker.

Chalk this up to good teams, Homecoming pride, whatever you will. But for these teams it was a good weekend, and for the fans that attended one or both of the games, it was great. Sure, the games were not down to the wire, but Dartmouth won both.

To sum up: Dartmouth won big on Homecoming. Fans came and watched, enjoyed and supported. That is much more than one can say about anything going on in the NBA right now. (Yes I am giving up the chance at an easy Homecoming article. It's been done, it's being done, I have already written one, etc.)

A week from today would have marked the start of the NBA season Bulls at Mavericks for those who care. Last Spring I wrote a column that used a fictional Dartmouth athlete strike as an allegory for the NFL lockout ("Through the Lens of Lentz," April 15). I mentioned that the NBA could be going down the same path. It has done that and much more.

Let's examine what this would be like by using the Dartmouth model again. First, imagine that years ago, student-athletes got an incredible deal so that they have been living like kings for years. Second, imagine that once you make a team, it does not matter what you do. You are set.

Now let's say that the administration realizes this is absurd and decides to say, "This is enough, we need to change things." So they "lock out" the Big Green athletes. Unlike the NFL lockout that ended with cooler heads prevailing, this one goes flat-out nowhere.

One must realize that there are large differences between the two situations. The NFL system was not exactly broken there were problems, but it was not broken. The NBA is broken. Yes, it just had one of its most successful seasons ever, and was geared up to have another. But a fair number of its teams are losing money a fact neither side disputes and as any Knicks fan will tell you, the contract rules are absurd.

This is really one of the more mind-boggling problems. In the NFL, contracts are not guaranteed if a player gets injured, starts playing badly or just pisses off the owner, his team can fire him and he gets nothing (this is for the most part, but there is a movement towards guaranteed contracts). In the NBA, contracts are guaranteed a player makes the team, signs a deal and can't be touched. Eddy Curry had a $60-million contract. Care to guess how much he helped the Knicks? I'll give you a hint: He probably had more impact on Dunkin Donuts' bottom line.

So who is actually stopping this season from happening? Is it the owners who locked out the players? Or is it the players who will not budge on a deal that they won in the past?

My personal opinion is that the players are the problem (for the record, I blamed the owners for the NFL mess). That does not mean the owners are not at fault. They are the ones who give the players these deals, embark on the failed business endeavors that are basketball teams in Sacramento and stubbornly engage in labor talks.

Back to our fictional Dartmouth example. The athletes have their deal, in which they get free gear, good grades, free food, etc. They justify it by pointing out that they work hard in their sports (they almost all do) and that the College profits off of them (for this example we'll assume this is true, though it is not).

The other students at Dartmouth, the non-athletes, have a different system in place. They get rewarded if they do well, and if they start to slack off they get punished. The administration wonders, "Why are all students not like this?" Some athletes do in fact slack off. The administration negotiates with the Big Green athletes, but here is the problem: Every part of this new deal, by nature, is a concession by the athletes. With such a bad deal currently in place, the athletes have no option but to "lose" in this situation.

That is what we have in the NBA. Players have a situation that is incredible compared to that of their peers (the NFL), but are wondering a fair question: Why should they lose what was given to them because the owners acted stupidly in the past?

As for what will happen, let me say this: I am glad we have Homecoming weekends and Dartmouth sports, because we may not have the NBA this year.