Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mutually Assured What Now?

Bill Simmons on the NBA's labor problems:
For that reason and all the others, I keep saying "no" whenever anyone asks me if there will be a 2011-12 NBA season. Just know that there's no side to take — it's mutually assured destruction in its purest form. That's difficult to explain to anyone losing their job over these next few months.
Putting aside all the inherent problems in comparing the potential annihilation of the human race to a single league's labor negotiations, this is an inappropriate metaphor that Simmons has used more than once. MAD was a long-term mechanism for a tenuous peace; if the NBA were the Cold War, this is a parallel version where the missiles are flying, something we avoided thanks precisely to MAD. Indeed, the fact that the NBA is heading into its "nuclear winter" itself is proof that the metaphor is inapt. The way this would work is if there was a horrible CBA for 40 years whose limits would be pushed but without anyone bailing, knowing that it could easily trigger the end of the league. But clearly that's not what is happening.

So what is the best possible international relations metaphor for the NBA? They are all limited, but I think maybe World War I is the best fit; two sides misread their opposition and underestimate the potential damage, and in so doing blunder into a tragic and avoidable catastrophe. And the power relationships everywhere are likely to be completely scrambled in very unpredictable ways. (That part may be a reach.) So where are we presently? I'd say it's February 1916.

No comments: