October 23, 2011 32 Comments
Ball so hard, this shit crazy
Y’all don’t know that don’t shit phase me
The Nets could go 0-82 and I look at you like this shit gravy
-Jay-Z, N****s in Paris
Must be nice (Lyfe Jennings voice) Jay-Z, regardless of the Nets’ futility or this impending lockout, you will (still) indeed be balling. Even as a minority owner, you’ll be cooling. Same goes for the other owners around the league. As for the players, you’ll be good too, as long as you manage your money better than Charles Barkley and Antoine Walker ever could. I am actually 100% certain that is the exact reason the NBA has a “Money Management” seminar shortly after players are drafted… but I digress. As for the rest of us… the rest of us that have some employment connection to the NBA as arena ushers, concessionaires, game-day operation staff, well, we will not be as fortunate for however long this lockout lasts and continues to cut games. The ENTIRE NBA business model has decimated the preseason slate and is slowly chopping regular season games at the knees in two week intervals. The employees (and jobs) that are integral to making sure that the “system” runs properly for all of these NBA teams are being put up on the Mayan sacrificial altar as alms to the idol of the dollar sign in a vain attempt to make a collective bargaining agreement. Just like in Apocalypto, I am Jaguar Paw and that is not about to fly… not while I have a voice that yearns to be heard amid the dross of “I NEED MORE MONEY,” from the owners and players.
What I desire to achieve in this post is to describe the real dollar and cents loss in the odious aftermath of this continued lockout. I tread cautiously because of the hats I wear in this situation/debate/debacle/idiotic posturing/”asshattery” (as described by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com): I am an incredibly dedicated Trail Blazer fan (as well as a die-hard NBA enthusiast), I am an employee at the Rose Garden and I work all 41 home Trail Blazer games, and finally I am a post-college graduate living in America (more specifically Oregon, where the unemployment rate is as high as Rosie O’Donnell’s weight) trying to make enough money so I can pay off student loans and get by. Now of those three fitted caps only one takes the utmost importance and that is living life (obviously)… I say I tread cautiously because since I work as an usher at the Rose Garden, I am told to not speak to media or speak out (period) in regards to the lockout (no, I am not the one that sent Canzano the email from Mr. Oxley [who is a really nice guy. The two of us talk during games often, respect to the man]).
Strong wording since it would, in essence, make it impossible to talk about the lockout with anyone. It’s a novel idea, but as a part-time worker on the lowest level of NBA knowingness, I am not remunerated (thanks Archer! See, TV is educational) enough to be subjugated to a “keep silent” order. I feel this way for many reasons, two of them being: 1). What information would I have to add on this matter other than pure conjecture? How would whatever I say be different from the multitude of talking and writing heads that are already working on this?; 2). I have worked in the Garden for 4.67 years, it will be 5 in February 2012, I have not had a raise in 2.5 of those years. After receiving .25 cent raise (I’ll get into the numbers momentarily) per 6 months over the first 18 months of employment, my wage stagnated and sits at $9.25 since AEG Live, Inc. took over managing the Rose Garden. (Here I go talking about the company, uh-oh!) It is not as if AEG knows that they haven’t handed out raises, it is hot issue that arises every so often with many of my co-workers saying, “So what about a raise, eh?” in jest and it is met with a smattering of awkward laughs and forced smiles, with the seriousness of the issue only felt in the pit of the employee’s stomach because they know the corporate heads don’t really care. Again, I digress: I do not get paid enough to be subjugated to a gag order, and this was eloquently stated by a friend yesterday: “Nobody making < $50k should be subject to a gag order. If they want you to be quiet, they need to pay you for it, not give you less.”
So here I sit ready to expose how this NBA lockout affects the John Everyman, not just the millionaire basketballers and the billionaire owners. While the owners refuse to open their books to show where these massive losses are coming from, I am more than ok with opening mine to show how trite their complaints seem. The rich arguing with the richer is a bad look, especially with so much business, so many people’s employment and the overall image of the sport at stake. Get ready to finally understand the untold story of the arena worker.
As everyone who follows the NBA knows, the entire basketball year breaks down into three segments: pre-, regular and post-season. At the least, many arena ushers, concessionaires, food service and game-day operations are going to be able to work 3 or 4 preseason games and 41 regular season games. At the most, say like the workers at the American Airlines Center/Arena (Dallas and Miami have the same corporate title name sponsor), were able to work through the Finals. Each round of the playoffs definitely guarantees 2 more home games, and potentially guarantees 1 more upon staving off elimination/allowing the opponent back in the series. For example, the arena ushers at the Mavericks’ American Airlines Center worked 4 preseason games, 41 regular season games and 11 postseason games (thanks to Dallas’ championship run). That is a total of 56 basketball games over October to June, an incredible amount when you account for how long the shifts are (and how much longer they are if they are on national television, as Dallas was for most of the year). It also speaks to the stability of an arena worker’s job with the consistency of basketball games they will be scheduled for, and from there the team’s success dictates the potential for postseason work.
Compared to the Mavericks’ 56 home games played, the Portland Trail Blazers played 4 preseason games (3 in the Rose Garden and a throwback game in the Memorial Coliseum), 41 regular season games and 3 postseason games for a grand total of 48 home basketball games. I worked every game except for the throwback Memorial Coliseum game, I tried to pick up the shift but it didn’t work so I listened to it on the radio. This is where numbers get used heavily, and as a way for me to track all of them I made a spreadsheet of all of the earnings that I made over the last NBA season. The spreadsheet not only houses the Blazers shifts (which are bolded), but it also holds the other shifts that I worked. I did this because I wanted to do two things: refute any claims that I am “complaining about not getting enough work because of this,” I work plenty as you see– but a good chunk of my income comes from the Blazer games; and I wanted to do my own BRI (basketball related income for the unlearned) calculation to show how MUCH the NBA playing games means to an arena workers earnings.
If you reference the spreadsheet, every Blazer game shift lasts approxiamtely 4.25 hours (except for a quick Cleveland beatdown on St. Patrick’s Day that was done in 4). The only times that the shifts deviate from that constant is if the game goes into overtime OR it is a nationally televised game. Now, nationally televised games are a gift and a curse: a gift because it means an extra hour going onto the timecard, but a curse because it is one extra hour closer to midnight (which is usually the time many of the employees arrive home, myself included). Thanks to those oh-so-necessary television timeouts, a usually 2 hour and 15 minute game turns into an almost 3 hour marathon. Not that I complain too much, it’s an extra $9.25 in my direct deposit. Based off of what I lose for taxes, an average game check is $9.25/hr multiplied by 4.25 hours multiplied by .16 for tax purposes, which equals roughly $33.02 per game. I have done the math, and the tax percentage is not always 16%, it has been as low as 13% (I threw out the 10% from September 2010 because it wasn’t indicative overall) to as high as 20%. Major fluctuation was noted, but high 16-low 17 per cent taxation was seen. It’s all there in the spreadsheet.
Below are the totals from the spreadsheet broken down into four sections, net total income from an entire season at the Rose Garden, the net total income solely from Blazer games, Blazer income per game and my own personal BRI number, which coincidentally is in line with what the NBA players made over the past 10+ years from the revenue split. I laughed when I first saw it too, it was just too good to be true!
|Net total from 9/29/2010 to 5/13/2011||
|Blazers Net Income (total)||
|Blazers Income/Game (Preseason, Regular Season, Postseason)||
|Basketball Related Income||
As you can see from the table, I don’t make much money. But the majority of the money I do make is a direct result of working Blazer, er, NBA sanctioned games. 56.49% of all earnings for me last year were basketball related income, which speaks to how much I (along with my fellow co-workers) depend on the NBA to have games play as scheduled. The main reason I decided to apply at the Rose Garden was because of the chance to work Blazer games. By the end of my first half year working at the arena I was granted the opportunity to be a part of their “Familiar Face Program,” which I was awarded the section I work at for all 41 regular season games. I am able to request that same position right after the NBA schedules are released in August, and the only way I am in jeopardy of losing that position (as well as losing the ability to be scheduled for all 41 regular season games) is if I miss more than 3 regular games. The NBA, in my eyes, is job security to those working at the Rose Garden. Without that guarantee of being able to work those game shifts, I would be (and currently am) at the mercy of being scheduled (in competition with a few hundred other ushers) for the leftover events. No NBA games equals an inconsistent amount of shifts, which leads to inconsistent pay, which leads to increased difficulty in making ends meet.
(Editor’s note: here is where not being rewarded with a raise over the last 2.5 years comes into play and is slightly irritating. Had AEG kept with the half yearly raises of .25 cents, I would be at $10.50 an hour. Even if I am getting an inconsistent amount of shifts, the extra $1.25 makes up for the losses in games a bit; it also, in actuality, increases my earnings if the games were scheduled. [I should mention that the raise would stop at about $13, which starting from $8.50 would take 9 years to accomplish. Just an interesting bit to mention because the chasm between $9.25 and $10.50 is massive.] It’s just a talking point, and while it is irritating, I don’t mean to harp on it… even though this is harping like the cherubs.)
The NBA arena workers in this situation are allegoric, albeit on a less grave note, to the workers that Pablo Neruda speaks of in his poem La United Fruit Co. This became extremely apparent after the owners tanked talks by saying it was either their way or the highway and that they don’t care much for anyone else other than themselves. It is obvious that profits for the owners overtakes looking out for the common good, the common good which is looking out for all that are affected in the loss of NBA games. Just like the “disposable native workers” that the fruit companies exploited for work and exploited their land of resources, arena workers are being left out to dry with little hope of an NBA deal being decided upon. The metaphoric death or disposability comes from the difficulty to bring in meaningful income from working part-time in the arena and the owners implying that the arena workers who interact with the fans who buy the tickets to see their team, the arena workers who serve them and the fans food, the arena workers who provide security and protection DO NOT MEAN ANYTHING. In their business plan, the ones that make sure everything functions properly so they can generate money mean absolutely nothing. Do they understand how idiotic that sounds? Do they, or have they, wondered what it would be like if there were no arena workers in their building? (Aside: not that I subscribe to the sensationalism that Adrian Wojnarowski wrote about Paul Allen potentially selling the Blazers, and the Blazers potentially leaving Portland… BUT it would all but kill the Rose Garden and slightly cripple the economy in Portland. There is zero doubt that Portland would fade further into obscurity and be known as “that one city that has a TV show that makes fun of it.”)
To recap: I have shown how many games arena workers have the potential to work, though I cannot say that they all have similar “Familiar Face Programs.” I have mentioned how long shifts usually are, depending on whether or not it is a nationally televised game. I have used my own personal story as an example to demonstrate how vital working NBA games are to me earning income. Finally, I have added my own personal critiques about how the selfishness and greed of a select few affects a large number people, a number that is possibly 1000 times that of the minority (how funny that things don’t change, that a few dictate what happenings to thousands). So far due to the lockout, I have lost work on 3 preseason games and 4 regular season games (2 of which were nationally televised), which equates to $289.06 (gross) and $242.81 (net; that’s 2 months worth of loan checks right there). That is 14.9% of what I made (again, speaking about net wages) from working basketball games last year! Those numbers are only going to balloon the longer this asshattery continues. Unlike the season ticketholders that are given a refund, plus interest, we arena workers are given a letter stating that games are canceled and we are to remain patient as this situation sorts itself out. It angers me that instead of meeting in August to figure the odds and ends out, both the NBA and NBPA decided that not meeting was the best course of action, and then the audacity of them both to think that 11th hour meetings and mediation were going to prove fruitful. I’ve been duped, you’ve been duped, we all have been duped.
I hope that this post has opened some eyes on how deeply this lockout affects arena employees. I also hope it goes to show what some people (read: journalists and blogississts who think they’re fancy) don’t understand when “fans” (who also happen to be arena workers) say that “star players who were never involved in the labor discussions do not have the right to derail positive talks and dictate how others make their living.” I’m looking at you @jonesontheNBA, for your tweets on Friday, October 7th around 6ish PST (oddly specific, I know)… they make enough money as it is, what is sacrificing a bit more so that the ENTIRE NBA working community has a chance to make a living as well. This was written because even though I have been asked to refrain from speaking about it, I feel I have to tell how devastating this is and the over-arching impact it may have on people’s lives. Money for rent, food, medicine, car insurance, student loan payments is being lost because billionaires feel like they’re losing a few million. That’s why they want to keep the arena workers loss confidential: to exert control and make their interests the only ones that are heard.
Postscript: As I have read more and more lockout related news recently, the theme of race playing a pivotal role in this lockout has become increasingly popular to write about. Bryant Gumble recently compared David Stern to a plantation owner and TrueHoop stated that the black players in the league are asserting themselves against the tryanny of the 98.2% old and white NBA team owners. Journalists, blog keepers and Bryant Gumble (who, with that Stern remark actually makes Wayne Brady look like Malcom X, #amirite Dave Chappelle?): I know this lockout has been arduous, lengthy and downright boring because of the lack of positive news… but that DOES NOT make it OK to posit race as an underlying factor in any of this. It actually makes you look that one friend who tells terrible stories that turn everyone off and make them wonder when you’re going to shut the hell up. It makes you look idiotic (cough, Bryant Gumble, cough), it makes you sound ignorant by tossing around a charged and controversial topic and it emits a “well, I know I have nothing to talk about, but let’s see how far this takes me.” If you haven’t anything new to report, just state that simply and leave the conspiracy by the wayside. Nobody needs to hear that rubbish because not every issue is or needs to be made an one of race (especially if Rev. Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton have not come to say that it is, #jokes). That is all I need to say about that.