Past words of lockout wisdom from The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell

The Washington Post’s sports columnists may be failing to write about the current NHL lockout, but they’ve had plenty to say about past collective bargaining agreement battles. In looking through some old Post pieces on the subject, I came across one from March 2011, written by Thomas Boswell on the NFL labor dispute.

Much of Boswell’s column, which suggested that the NFL learn from baseball’s 1994-95 strike and the damage it did to that sport, applies to the current NHL situation as well. Hockey fans might enjoy this part in particular:

There’s another side of the coin: our side. Fans of the NFL, even the most ardent, should also learn something from baseball’s misery: Don’t care. Or care as little as you can. Don’t live and die with the latest twist in talks. If the current 24-hour extension leads to progress, that’s great. But if this moment of hope leads to nothing, be prepared to mock both sides and, when you can, try to laugh. That’s the only pleasure we’re going to get.

Because there is one certainty when labor fights get this intense: Neither side cares about you. If you pick a favorite and scream your opinion, then you’re probably the sucker. The owners will only listen to those who back them. The same goes for the players.

The sound that really worries them is silence. Try to provide it.

Perhaps the scariest parallel between baseball then and football now is the idea that the healthier the sport, the less likely a disaster. That’s backward. Lots of money on the table brings out the worst in people, seldom the best.

I’m not ready to go silent yet, but I’m certainly not taking sides either. I place blame for hockey’s current situation on both the owners—whose side includes three-time lockout commissioner Gary Bettman—and the players.

Now’s a fine time to make noise that you don’t appreciate what any of the parties involved in this lockout are doing to the fans. But more importantly, the time when people can really make an impact is when the games finally start-up again. That’s when silence could speak volumes or perhaps millions is a better word, as in millions of dollars in lost revenue.

As I wrote in a lockout-related post earlier this week, “Having waited out a few of these NHL dramas before, I wouldn’t mind seeing the league struggle to draw spectators before things return to normal. Considering the two sides had years to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement that could have prevented the cancellation of games and satisfied all parties—including the seemingly forgotten customers—Bettman, the owners and the players deserve it, especially when they’ve behaved as if they learned little, if anything at all, about fan frustration from the 2004-05 lockout.”

Make noise now or go about your business quietly. But when hockey returns, that’s when it’s time for the fans to impose their own lockout, rather than going rushing back to games as if nothing ever happened. Sparse attendance, lackluster merchandise sales and poor television ratings are ways the public can send some well-earned frustration back in the direction of the owners and players.

Perhaps the NHL will never learn, but I’m willing to take a chance that they might by taking my entertainment dollars elsewhere for a bit.

About Mike Holden

Mike Holden is on Twitter at @mikeholden.

Posted on October 25, 2012, in NHL, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Of course, no one did any of that when it came to football returning–TV ratings for the NFL are as strong as ever these days.

    And considering that virtually all of the Verizon Center is sold out to season ticket holders, it’s pretty hard to make any statement by not going to games–as a season ticket holder, I will have already paid to attend the games, so why would I stay home just to make a statement that really won’t matter to anyone’s bottom line?

    And for what it’s worth, while I’d be extremely mad if the season is cancelled, I can’t say, as a season ticket holder, that I’d be that upset if they settled this in a few weeks and we had a 65 game season or something. Eighty-two games is too many, anyway–a shorter season will be more exciting and less expensive.

    • The NFL lockout was different though, in that they settled it before the season started. This is also the fourth time the NHL has been through something like this in the last two decades—they are really testing people. Bettman has now three-peated…in lockouts.

      Perhaps some Caps season ticket holders will choose to dump their tickets after this, I’m not sure. It’s unfortunate that people are already locked in and will have to resell them or wait until the next season if they want to make a statement. They can do other things though, like skip buying new merchandise. I think people could have a much tougher time reselling their tickets in the secondary markets this time around if enough non-season ticket holders decide to skip hockey for a bit. We’ll see.

      I was really hoping to see an 82 game season. I like being able to compare apples to apples when it comes to stats, road to the playoffs, etc. But it’s looking more and more unlikely we’ll see a full 2012-13 season.

  1. Pingback: Take the 30 second NHL lockout poll « BrooksLaichyear

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