Dear NBA owners and players, forget about us diehards that are old enough to drive and drink. Think about the little kids that look up to you (literally and figuratively) and dream about being a professional basketball player. I want to see these supposed grown-ups explain to children why they've stepped away from the game they allegedly love.
It's like splitting a candy bar, or the last piece of gum, with your best friend. Do you split it evenly, or do you give your friend a bigger piece?
That's how General Manager John Gabriel and the rest of the Orlando Magic staff were answering the obvious question from children during the Orange County Teach-In on Wednesday.
``Why aren't the Magic playing?'' was repeated all over town.
``Everyone wants to know,'' Gabriel said after his brief stint as a teacher at Rock Lake Elementary School. ``With the kids, you have to relate it to something they can understand. Should we split the candy bar 50-50, or should we break off a bigger portion and give it away?''
Paralyzing the entire NBA today is the issue of how to split that metaphorical candy bar - an estimated $2 billion in annual revenue. Until that's decided, there will be no collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players and no Magic games.
Labor negotiations will resume Friday in New York, and neither side is expected to move far from its original demand. Yet both sides know that time is running short. Already six weeks of the season have been lost. The rest isn't far behind.
The players union has asked for 60 percent of the revenues. The owners have insisted on a 50-50 split. Last year, the players took 57 percent in salaries and revenue, causing the owners to pursue a new arrangement.
More than 100 members of the Magic/RDV Sports staff were spread throughout Orange County schools Wednesday morning, explaining what they do to elementary, middle and high school students.
Explaining what they were doing now in the middle of a labor dispute made their jobs a little tougher. But the children seemed to understand.
Since Magic owner Rich DeVos met with some players last week, the organization has been re-emphasizing its commitment to the community. DeVos taped a message to season ticket-holders, thanking them for their patience.
Magic Coach Chuck Daly was reading to elementary schoolchildren Tuesday. He was back in the classroom Wednesday with the other staff members.
Julius Erving, an executive vice president and former NBA star, will be featured at an autograph session at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Magic's downtown FanAttic store.
On Friday, 250 tickets to the session will be given away at the FanAttic. Autographs to people without tickets will be given as time permits Saturday.