Until the moment Monday night when the NBA canceled the first two weeks of the 2011-12 season, I kept searching for any sign of hope for a labor resolution in the near future.
This news hits home, and it hurts.
Maybe there's some consolation in the theory that in this market, the clear choice is to cheer for the owners, holding out for a deal that will help small-market teams compete and make the Miller family's franchise viable. The longer this lockout lasts, some would say, the better for the Jazz.
All I know is we'll miss the NBA around here.
The last time the Jazz appeared in the playoffs, facing the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals in May 2010, I looked around a frenzied EnergySolutions Arena and thought: This is why you have an NBA team in your town.
Pro sports are all about bringing people together, unifying then and inspiring them. Even folks who have never attended a game in person plan their lives around the Jazz schedule.
I've always believed that the Jazz meant more to this state than any other NBA team in its market. That was reinforced last year when I researched a story about fans who were so attached to the team that their families were compelled to cite those allegiances in their obituaries. The connection to the Jazz, the bonding of generations via the team and the promise of 82 games being played every season literally gave them something to live for.
Tales were told to me of women in their 80s and 90s whose last wishes were to be able to watch the Jazz game that night. Even the lives of folks who had loving families, rewarding jobs and other enjoyable hobbies were greatly enhanced by following the Jazz.
And the stories just keep coming. In the past year alone, another 100-plus obits in The Tribune have mentioned those Jazz ties, with words such as passion and devotion ascribed to those who occupied favorite chairs and "coached" or "refereed" every game.
Alta Argyle Hart, 91, of Bountiful, "never missed a Jazz game."
Matthew Foger, 27, of Sandy, loved "his family, Depeche Mode and most of all, the Utah Jazz."
Carol Price, 83, of Bountiful, "was an avid Jazz fan, and even made baby quilts for their kids."
This is why you have an NBA team in your state.
If only the negotiators could hear these stories, and listen to family members talk about the memories of loved ones who stuck with the Jazz until the very end, I'm convinced they could solve this thing, and soon.
I understand that both sides have major issues, that the owners need a better system to protect them from themselves and the players don't want to give back everything they've been given. But c'mon. Just get it done.
The Jazz may have been the NBA's best team in October 1998, the last time the owners and players went through this, delaying the season until January. Yet back then, there was some hangover from a second consecutive defeat in the NBA Finals, so there's possibly even more anticipation around here for the 2011-12 season.
Everybody wants to see how Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors will develop, how Enes Kanter and Alec Burks will look. The Jazz will not be great, but they will be worth watching. Fans will live and die with them, as always. That's why we need the NBA to play.
But the Jazz's arena will remain dark until mid-November, and likely longer. As I've learned from the stories of fans who have died, life just won't be the same.
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