TORONTO - Is it just me, or is there a real lack of angst in this city over the impasse in the NBA collective-bargaining negotiations?
Shouldnít there be a little more outrage and disappointment expressed by Raptors Nation over the lockout?
Shouldnít the airwaves and sports sections be full of disheartened Raptors fans expressing their anguish over a possible lost season?
There is some, but it seems to me, not a helluva lot.
Raptors Nation, or whatever you want to brand the teamís fan base, appears numbed at this point, even though training camps have been postponed and there are no guarantees that the regular season will start on time, or if at all.
Perhaps this apparent indifference has to do with the Raptors not setting the league on fire in recent seasons and are still a team on the rebuild.
Heck, the last time the Raptors made the playoffs, Bubba still referred to me as Dad instead of Dude.
Or perhaps itís just that sports fans in this city just donít care that much. That theory has certainly been floated.
The Raptors have a strong, loyal core of fans, but, letís face it, if this was a certain other franchise locked out in these parts, the town would be up in arms.
Mayor Rob Ford would be hacking and slashing down at City Hall and hardly anyone, other than a few union brethren, would notice.
You might think that the apparent apathy in this city towards an extended NBA lockout might be a source of worry to the Raptorsí front office. (GM Bryan Colangelo, who couldnít be reached on Tuesday, and other front-office types have been muzzled by the NBA to a great degree).
All you have to do is remember what happened to the Blue Jays following the MLB players strike of 1994-95. Jays attendance has never been the same. Prior to that work stoppage, the Jays were on a major role, averaging over 41,000 fans per game from 1989 on and, in fact, drew a MLB-best 50,098 in 1993, the year they won their second World Series. Averaging 49,402 fans, the Blue Jays in 1991 became the first team in baseball history to draw 4 million.
But since the strike of í94-í95, attendance at the Rogers Centre has dropped steadily and many insiders point to the strike as the real reason why the Jays have gone from leading the MLB in attendance to a perennial middle of the pack club (and a team that has not made the post-season since 1993).
The Montreal Expos, Canadaís only other MLB franchise, never recovered from that lockout.
Could the same happen to the Raptors?
Itís hard to know.
One would have to believe a brief lockout and postponement of games would do very little in terms of ticket sales and interest.
But an extended lockout, or even a lost season, could possibly hurt the franchise. Mega-agent David Falk suggested this week that a continued lockout could be devastating to the entire league.
ďThere will be damage to both sides, severe damage to both sides if we donít have a deal,Ē Falk told the Washington Post. ďYou donít know if the fans are going to come back. And itís especially severe this year because football (the NFL) made the deal. Football showed that they could get their stuff together and make the deal. If we canít show that, I think itís going to be severe repercussions with the fans, particularly because of the economic climate.Ē
We all know, only the Maple Leafs have total immunity in this town in terms of guaranteed ticket sales.
If there is a difference between the baseball strike of 1994 and this current NBA lockout, itís that fans were sincerely angry at the players in 1994 because it was they who walked.
Fans, and most journalists for that matter, donít seem to be taking sides in this NBA imbroglio.
Iím not speaking for the Raptors, but the apathy of Raptors fans, and, to a extent, the local media, has been apparent in this town, and Iíd worry about that.