There are hundreds of reasons that this NBA lockout needs to end sooner rather than later.
But in these scorching summer days when the start of the season seems far off and the threat of lost games feels remote still, one reason for ending this lockout has skyrocket to the top of my list.
Check out any team's website, including the Thunder's, and you'll see that dance teams have taken over. Tryouts. Camps. Trips. All of it is front-page news these days.
And the teams that don't have their dance teams front and center instead feature mascots or coaches or stoic pictures of NBA Commissioner David Stern.
I mean, I love mascots as much as the next gal, but is this the kind of NBA world we want to live in?
Since last week when the current collective bargaining agreement ended without a new deal and the teams locked out their players, there are ties that had to have been cut. Players can't workout at team facilities. Coaches can't contact players. Contracts can't be negotiated.
But removing players from websites and replacing them with dancing girls?
As near as anyone can tell, neither the NBA nor its teams have any compelling reason to do that. Not legally anyway. It's likely a symbolic move, a thumb of the nose to the players. It's the league and the owners saying, “We aren't going to promote you during the lockout.”
Among the headlining items you'll find from around the league: the Pistons holding a yacht party for season ticket holders, training tips with Magic strength and conditioning coach Joe Rogowski and the Colorado governor signing a bill authorizing Nuggets license plates.
Is it stuff that would've been mentioned before? Probably.
Would it have been headline worthy? Eh.
All of this is a reminder that the players make the league. They draw the fans. They drive the brand.
Are you listening David Stern and Co.?
Without the players, the league has little more than dance teams and mascots.
Try selling that for 82 games.
Listen, the Thunder has some of the best in-game entertainment in the association. Everything that happens when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and the rest of the boys in blue aren't on the floor is first class. The Thunder Girls and Rumble. The crazy stunts and funny skits. You won't find any better anywhere in the NBA.
But none of that compels 18,000-plus to pack the Oklahoma City Arena every time they toss the ball in the air.
People come for the players, not the sideshow acts.
Which brings us back to these team websites. I guess I understand the reason to strip them of any sign of the players. The teams own the websites, and they can put anything on them that they want, and right now, they are at odds with the players. So, off with the players' heads.
No mug shots. No action shots. No nothing.
Heck, the Thunder has even taken the extreme step of removing the team roster from its website. Some teams have done the same. Some teams haven't.
But as we settle into what promises to be a lengthy lockout, I hope everyone with a seat at the negotiating table remembers the faces of this league — the players. They are the reason that we watch. They are the reason that we care.
Without the players, the league is left with a bunch of dancing girls and life-size Muppets.
This is the NBA, not Sesame Street Live.