The Nets: Putin Russia back in Order
As Mason so clearly demonstrated in his recent post, the New Jersey Nets are the primordial slime of a league that is trying its best to alienate its non-owner stakeholders (i.e., the 99%). I could put #Occupy_NBA or something similar, but I won’t. I should put #Occupy_NJ_Nets, since their atrocious performance begs for intervention more than Wall Street. A new, major development has occurred that threatens to give the NJ Nets a positive image—well, at least here in the US.
Picture an autocratic society in which citizens fear the regime, where “special” takes on a new meaning—connections to wealth, jobs, a Mercedes—and sleaze reigns. Picture cynicism so massive that the leadership feels confident in merely shuffling the top positions around with a mere semblance of an election. Picture a society with food so bad that elites go to the UK to shop and eat at restaurants.
In fairness, that last point is couched within the greater wealth that said elite possesses and tries to shelter in the UK. However, the point remains: picture a society, fractured, with deep structural issues and a bleak future. Welcome to Russia.
Добро пожаловать в Россию
In this post-apocalyptic (post-Soviet?) world we find state power arrayed for the benefit of the few; after the petroleum boom from the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, Russia now faces decreasing prospects and political sclerosis.
Into the arena steps a man, the man, for the hour: the NJ Nets’ owner.
That’s right: Mikhail Prokhorov.
Unfortunately, historical precedents point to his impending failure. Let’s check the history books:
- The NJ Nets emerged from a battering 1980s with hopes of a successful decade behind Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson, and a southeastern European, Dražen Petrović. Russia emerged from the dried husk of the USSR behind new leaders, such as Boris Yeltsin.
However, laziness and lack of cohesion broke the Nets’ revival. The Russian Federation faced corruption, economic stagnation and break-up. Petrović was killed in an automobile accident. Russia was sucked into a divisive, bitter, and violent war in the break-away state of Chechnya.
- The NJ Nets advanced to the NBA Finals in 2001-02 only to lose against the LA Lakers and their superstars. A new Russian president—you know of whom I speak—promised to lead Russia into a glorious 21st century. A seasoned Nets team lost again in 2002-03 against the San Antonio Spurs. A different Russian president, a lackey but still the president, took the reins.
- Seasons of decline and disappointment characterize the NJ Nets’ late 2000s. Same with Russia, to be honest.
In short, Russia and the NJ Nets appear to march in step. And the NJ Nets do not appear to be going anywhere. Who’s going to back Prokhorov up (vicariously)—Dan Gadzuric?
Михаил Прохоров: Человек нам нужен.
The sad part of this story, of course, is that Prokhorov already had the opportunity to show leadership—and he failed. Go back up to the top of this post and start reading it again without any preconceptions about the topic. Eerily, this could be applied to the NBA as a whole. David Stern, the dictatorial presence; the oligarchs—here, the owners—who cling to the league yet seek to exploit workers and spit on fans. Where were you during the lockout, Mr. Prokhorov? Why are you abandoning Newark for Brooklyn? Why did you let your fan base slip through?
You had your opportunity: no excuses here about the intransigence of the National Basketball Player’s Association. Politicians have to deal with unhelpful, uncooperative people. Yes, the Duma is currently a rubber stamp, but a remotely independent Duma would cause more troubles than a few basketball players.
You had your opportunity: no excuses about David Stern, either. I have supported Mr. Stern through thick and then for decades, yet his behavior over the last few months has been despicable. Where were you then, Mr. Prokhorov? Yes, Mr. Stern may have seemed like a dictator—but aren’t you trying to stand up to one in Russia?
С наилучшими пожеланиями крусскому народу. Мира.