Agreement Safe, June Follows Flair

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - June 29, 2005
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Now that the NBA has come to an agreement with the players’ union we can all rest knowing the threatened lockout will not happen. In fact, it was never going to happen.

This is not to say David Stern and the boys were playing possum in an effort to pump life into an NBA Finals suffering low ratings. The threat was real. Real in the sense that the league was serious about getting its way in the negotiations.

Did it? As much as Stern would like to think he raided the chicken coop, the boring fact seems to be that both sides came out even.

The players received their pay raise and for the league the length of guaranteed contracts was shortened. Since neither players nor owners wanted to admit any problem with drugs or illegal performance enhancers, the stiffer penalties for violators is a wash. Automatic arbitration for suspensions of 12 games or more for any on-court misconduct, also known as the Artest- Sprewel rule, plays to both sides. The players don’t want to miss a payday and the owners don’t like to lose at the gate while their stars are sitting it out.

On the face of it, the new minimum age requirement seems to be a win for the owners — thereby tilting the scales of victory in their favor. As with most things, however, the truth is not as sexy as the perception. By raising the minimum age to play in the NBA, the league is encouraging players to enter college or hit the European trail. This not only saves the jobs of veteran players, but helps keep the owners from dumping millions on players who have not proved they can play in the NBA.

Other issues regarding free agency and guaranteed contracts for rookies were minor issues that had no real bearing on the success of the negotiations.

There is no way Stern was going to follow the lead of his buddy and former underling, NHL commish Gary Bettman, into the abyss of a ruined season, labor distrust and angered fans. No one wins in a holdout. Both sides realized this and moved on. Hopefully this will be a lesson during future talks and for other leagues. But it probably won’t.

Taking on a challenge
Let’s all remember the words of the Nature Boy. “If you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” Ric Flair wasn’t thinking of UH while he spouted the phrase time-and-time again over

his 73-year wrestling career. But the man who’s dirty ways kept the American Dream from winning more than three world titles, did capture the essence of success in sports. You don’t get recognition by standing on the sidelines whining about respect.

The only cure for anonymity is victory. And not just any win will do. You have to knock off a big boy now and again. That’s the reason Rick, Tully, Arn and Ole went after Dusty — there was no one bigger. Literally.

Yes, UH will take its lumps at times by playing USC, Michigan State, Wisconsin — and starting in 2008 the University of Florida at The Swamp. But it’s what must be done.

And give June Jones some credit for this. How many of us chuckled not too long ago when Jones said he would play anyone anywhere. He went after the big boys. Not just those large in notoriety but small in accomplishment.

Maybe putting three of those schools on the list this year was stretching just a bit. OK, a whole lot. But you can’t schedule thinking about graduation and who may come along in the future.

Playing it safe is easy, but not very productive. What if Naitch” thought like that? He would still be Richard Fliehr of Memphis, Tenn and Rhodes a 10-time champion. Whoooo!

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