#5 I Love the NBA! (1998)

rat All Rights Reserved © 1998 Thomas W. Day
If you're not watching what's going on in the NBA these days, you could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime. Forget the basketball, it's what they're doing in court that matters. (The basketball hasn't been especially interesting since the early 90's.)
There's this hood, Latrell Spreewell, who made a career of threatening teammates and team employees. A few weeks ago, Latrell took his game a notch higher and tried to strangle his coach, 48 year old P.J. Carlesimo, twice! Both times, it took the effort of several other players to pull Spreewell away from Carlesimo. The punishment for attempted manslaughter (It's hard to imagine Spreewell and "premeditated" in the same sentence.) in the NBA? A year's suspension from the NBA and the cancellation of Spreewell's $25,000,000 contract. Not even a mention of the fact that, normally, this kind of behavior would earn a trip to a controlled environment.
Spreewell's one of the few guys left in the NBA who can score with a shot more difficult than an uncontested dunk, so he's not going to unemployed after the suspension is ended. Worst case, next year, some brain-dead, spoiled brat team-owner will, most likely, sign Spreewell to a $50,000,000 contract. This isn't going to be expensive for Spreewell, in the long run.
Even more important to us is that it might not be expensive to him in the short run, either. The NBA Players' Union has taken Spreewell's case to arbitration. Best case, they want him reinstated with no penalty (my favorite). Second best case, they want him suspended with loss of pay for the period between the attack and the arbitrator's decision. (Honest! I'm not making this up.) The NBA still wants to stick him with their original penalty.
If a high profile, roll-modeling, sneaker-advertising NBA superstar can get away with near-murder, think of what this means for postal employees? If the final penalty for Spreewell turns out to be a half-year of unemployment followed by a much better contract (with a no-firing-for-attempted-manslaughter clause) and lots more money, what could this mean for the rest of us?
If you thought Dodge City was fun in the 1850's, just imagine New York City or Los Angeles in the 1990's with NBA-Latrell Spreewell rules. Wyatt Earp would either be in heaven or be hiding under his bed, depending on your reading of that bit of history.
What about the effect of the "Spreewell Rules" on real work? First, all jobs would instantly be "empowered." After the initial holocaust, American business would be completely revitalized. All the MBA-fast-trackers would be dead, in traction, or in hiding. The only executives left alive would be those few who had enough supporters to provide them with adequate protection. While the stock market seems to be completely incapable of determining which companies are competent, employees would be able to take a considerably more direct approach; also described as a "lunge for the throat." There would be a wave of extremely productive, executive suite "layoffs," followed by a lot of MBA students switching their major to something more practical.
All of the above will be followed by a whole new era of "job security." Just imagine the value of being able to put on your annual review "Hey! I didn't try to kill the fool, did I?" That ought to be all you need to get a 10% salary increase.
Personally, I hope Spreewell gets off. I'd really like to see him get away with it. For most of my career I've wanted to choke an executive or three. I, at least, ought to be rewarded for exercising considerable restraint. I'd settle for a four day work week.
February 1998

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