In the spirit of the approaching holiday, I spent a modest amount of time researching the word “turkey,” because I wondered how it might symbolize the essence of the current NBA. There seemed to be a logical connection.
One web site pointed out that the poultry bird became a popular food item because it was an excellent source of meat, and beyond that, it was “easily shot.” Our heroes at the NBA have done an excellent job of shooting – themselves and each other. So there was that.
Ben Franklin thought the turkey to be such an honorable bird that he wanted it to be the symbol of the U.S. rather than the Bald Eagle, whom he described as a “coward.” The key words in that passage are “honorable” and “coward,” but, of course, I’m not going there.
The turkey was commonly served at Thanksgiving in the late 1700s, according to my research, but did not become a national staple until the 1800s. Lots of tradition there – kind of like having NBA games in November.
I never found a definitive explanation of why “turkey” became a word to describe a loser. There were a number of references to the fact turkeys have small heads, thus small brains and, well, they aren’t the brightest animals in the farmyard. Some dispute that but the key words in that passage are “loser” and “brightest.” Of course, I’m not going there.
According to Houghton Mifflin Word Origins, in the 1920s “turkey” became a description of a play or movie that failed, and in the 1950s for a person who is incompetent. So the term has been around a long time and unfortunately as we prepare to miss two games on Thanksgiving and 14 more on Friday, we find ourselves in the midst of a great number of turkeys – and I’m not talking about Ben Franklin’s honorable kind.
As those associated in a variety of direct and non-direct ways with the NBA prepare for Thanksgiving, we try to imagine ourselves sitting with them at the dinner table and giving thanks for the current predicament of the league. And for those with no sense of humor, a warning that these are served with a healthy dose of acerbic trimmings.
So who will the key players be thanking on Thursday? Some possibilities.
David Stern: Thank you for the new owners, who have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the league and, as you know, I’m a guy who’s all about money. I really can’t say thanks for tying my hands and not letting me make a deal because with just a little less asshattery (thanks to my buddy Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for that word), I could have gotten the deal done. And although it’s true you new guys have been the largest force in damaging a reputation that I worked so hard to build for the last 28 years as commissioner, you’re still rich and we should all give thanks for that.
Billy Hunter: Thank you David Stern for being so pugnacious. I know you were under pressure from owners, but if you had acted with a little humility, I would have convinced the players to offer a few tweaks and we could have gotten the job done. But now your demeanor has galvanized the players and made me look – at least to them – like the greatest statesman this side of Churchill. You’re a good man. And by the way, unlike you, I’m still getting paid.
Minimum wage players: OK, we make nearly $500,000 a year when we get to play and we owe thanks for that. But most of all, we want to thank the veteran players who have made more than $100 million in their careers and have enough saved up to not work the rest of their lives. Guys like Kevin Garnett and LeBron James have been big loudmouths about not giving in to the owners. Some of us may never play in the NBA again because we are the guys who are the 13th or 14th man on the roster and we are replaced nearly every year. But, hey, thanks vets for teaching us the value of principles. Unfortunately, principles don’t buy Christmas presents, but despite having less money, we are better men because of you guys. We have principles! Yeah!
Lawyers: Thank you David, Billy, owners, players, everybody. We are now officially the controlling party in Occupy NBA and unlike other demonstrators, we are in the top one percent and we owe it all to you guys. Love you. Let’s keep disagreeing.
Fans: Thank you to the commissioner and the owners. You won the negotiations handily over the players. They gave you almost everything you wanted, but you had to have more. The only greed comparable would be if Bill Gates got caught for shoplifting. Thank you owners for teaching us the evil – and the depths – of excess.
Agents: Thank you Paul Pierce for buying into the fracture in the NBPA leadership and helping us organize our conference call with players and our disclaimer of interest movement. We couldn’t have done it without you. Now don’t forget to send us four percent of whatever it is you get paid once this thing gets settled.
NBA Humor: Thank you for @FakeCoachPop: There are a number of people who use Twitter anonymously and use the name of someone famous. The NBA has its share but none of them are as clever as FakeCoachPop, obviously using the nickname of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. FakeCoachPop writes concisely and has effectively captured the tone of the real Pop. Whoever it is literally uses one-liners that make you laugh out loud, especially if you have ever talked or listened to Popovich. During the lockout, FakeCoachPop has been on his, or her, game. Legitimate humor rather than tragicomedy.
NHL Dreamers: Thank you for all those columnists and commentators who suggested an NBA lockout would lead to greater NHL attendance. Hardly. Various reports in late October and mid November indicate NHL attendance is down. In Dallas, where the fans have not been able to celebrate the Mavericks as defending champions, attendance for the Dallas Stars has dropped from 15,073 to 10,432 a game. They are different sports. Fans of both support both; fans of one support only that one. But the silliness of that suggestion provided a humorous moment and we are thankful for every little one.
NBA Cares: Thank you to both parties for caring about playing only when it’s to your benefit. Right now, you simply do not care enough about the most important activity — playing games. Therefore, we’re announcing a name change with approval of all arena workers and business people affected by the lockout. Going forward, your current program will be known as NBA Doesn’t Give A Damn.
Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years in between media stints. His columns appear every Tuesday on SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub.