Open Letter to the NFL and NBA: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? (or: WWJVD?)

We have reached a monumental point in American professional sports. In the midst of an ongoing lockout battle between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), it was announced on Thursday by National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) head Billy Hunter that a lockout was certain to be enacted by NBA ownership once the current collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight Friday morning.

Who to blame in either case depends on who you are and what you personally believe, but the fact remains that two major sources of entertainment, touching millions of folks in the USA and abroad, are at stake. There are so many players, so many influential persons involved, from rookies and veterans to coaches, owners, and even the judicial system. But I truly believe that, by channeling one specific person, all this could go away and we can get back to the games. Read on to find out who. (HINT: 1993 ESPY’s.)

That person is one James Thomas Anthony Valvano, AKA Jimmy V., the famed NC State Men’s Basketball coach. Jimmy always had a strong drive to win, as evidenced by his NC State squad’s shocking run through the 1983 NCAA Tournament, culminating in a defeat of the juggernaut Phi Slama Jama team of Houston in the finals. But he felt just as strongly about loving and being happy, if not stronger. He knew that there was much more to life than wearing a frown and being serious all the time, and he practiced what he preached quite often. Folks on both sides of the lockouts have a lot to learn from him.

I will take some quotes from that famous 1993 ESPY acceptance speech, in which Jimmy V. was presented the inaugural Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award, and use them to display what the NBA and the NFL can do differently, to end this whole lockout fiasco once and for all.

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.

I don’t believe any of these things are happening currently, on either side. Laughter, strong positive emotions, and even rational thinking have gone out the window, due to the stubbornness of many folks close to the negotiations. Everyone expects to get everything they want, and neither side is willing to see that the stubbornness is hurting both parties.

This is serious stuff, I get it… but it doesn’t have to be so heavy! Laugh a bit, have fun with it, and lighten the mood – the increased morale can do nothing but help the negotiations. The owners and players also cannot lose sight of how much of an impact professional sports have on the lives of so many people. The positive feeling that folks in unfortunate situations get from watching their team win should be enough to move anyone to tears. As far as thinking… well, that’s the easy one. Just do it. Think outside the box, be creative, and don’t allow yourselves to get stifled or stymied.

I remember where I came from. It’s so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now.

Know where you are, ladies and gentlemen, and most importantly know where you came from. Sometime in the past, you were probably in our shoes. You probably had teams that you rooted for, and teams that you hated. You probably lamented when your star player made a stupid play, or were elated when a no-name came out of nowhere to win the game. Don’t forget that feeling you had when watching your favorite teams, because that’s what we still have. Or rather, what we had, and what we hope to have again.

Va fa Napoli, buddy.

This Italian gem roughly translates to “go to Hell”, and that’s exactly where I feel that some folks at the negotiating table need to go. No more biases, no more closed-off minds. Those if you can’t approach this with an open mind and a desire to make a fair deal, then you can take a hike. The old guard has to be removed before true progress can occur, and that holds true for both sides of the equation.

Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

Last, but not least, is arguably Jimmy V.’s most memorable quote, which remains the motto of the Jimmy V. Foundation to this day. It won’t be easy, but it WILL happen if both sides stay at it. If negotiations are stalling, unstall them. If there is a sticking point, unstick it. If neither side is willing to budge, introduce some new dialect, or even a new individual to bring a unique perspective. If everyone is too uptight, get a lil’ smoke and pass that shit around. Whatever it takes, y’know? Every minute that passes is a minute that could bring both sides closer to a deal. Work it out, keep at it, and soon everyone will be able to share in the rewards, including us fans.

In conclusion, I don’t think there’s a person on this planet who doesn’t stand to gain from living like Jimmy V., and the NBA/NFL owners, coaches and players are no exception. The bottom line is this: if enough important folks on both sides consider getting a deal inked as the absolute paramount goal, then it’s gonna get done, and probably much quicker than people expect. It takes two to tango, but with one side doing the salsa and the other doing the Charleston, someone’s bound to look foolish, and likely both sides will. Get your heads out of your asses – ALL OF YOU – and let’s get back to playing ball.

And for goodness sake, don’t ever give up.

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