The Missing Party at the Table

I have been a fan of most sports since I was born.  There is something compelling about the competition and sheer artistry that sports provides.  I have been fortunate to personally witness some fantastic moments (Yugoslavia’s stunning Bronze medal win over Italy in the 1984 Summer Olympics), and some dreadful moments (1986 ALCS, Game 5, aka “The Donnie Moore Game”).  Sports offer at once an opportunity for euphoric celebration and a silent depression.  Yet, no matter the outcome of any game or series, fans return time and again to cheer on their favorite teams and players.

Within this context and background as sports fan, I am quite miffed at the two major sports leagues currently in a lockout—more so at the NFL than the NBA (still steaming about the SuperSonics debacle).  Like many management-union clashes, the arguments boil down to money, perks, and fairness, which everyone wants and no one seems to be getting.  However, while the representatives of the owners and players go at it in a private room, the fans who actually support the leagues are left out to wonder if our fantasy leagues will have a shortened season or even happen.

Fans always seem to get neglected in such disputes.  Remember the 1994 World Series? Of course not, because it was cancelled due to a work stoppage.  Sorry Expos fans!  In all honesty though, fans are neglected in the deliberations, yet whatever is decided usually results in a ticket price hike.

The point of my rant is not to whine about no pro football or basketball this year; the college ranks will more than satisfy my craving.  Rather, as an advocate for peace and a believer in the mediation process, I need to point out that the way to make peace is to involve all affected parties.  Durable agreements will only be made and kept when all necessary parties negotiate and agree to the terms.  I have often thought that US support of Israel would actually decline if Arab Christians had a greater voice in the Israel-Palestine conflict.  When a significant segment of a population is not allowed to participate in a negotiation, then they will always feel oppressed.

Sports can often mirror aspects of society: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” as ABC’s Wide World of Sports used to put it.  Perhaps in these two instances, the leagues can demonstrate their care for their fan base by inviting to the table the average fan who takes his daughter to a game instead of shutting them out.

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