NBA dispute gives perspective to English football
Decent working conditions, sick pay, a minimum wage, paid leave: most of us are lucky enough to take these things for granted but we should remember these are benefits earned by our forebears.
They might be cornerstones of the modern employment contract but these concessions were not readily granted. We are standing on the shoulders of giant strikers.
So how will today's heroes of the labour movement be viewed by coming generations? For what will they be grateful?
Well, if they happen to play basketball it could be for the right to buy more beachfront property because the megastars of the National Basketball Association are in a militant mood.
LA Laker & union boss Derek Fisher sets out the players' position in their NBA labour dispute. PHOTO: Getty
"Share half the sport's revenues with the bosses and agree to a limit on our earning power? Never. Down sweatbands, lads, we're all out."
The recent announcement that the first two weeks of the NBA season, due to start next month, have been cancelled, probably did not come as a shock to anybody who has been following this tale closely.
It is a dispute that has been a long time coming and its twists and turns this summer have been forensically analysed in the US.
But for the majority of sports fans outside America, news that people who earn an average annual wage of £3.26m are starting to sound like Arthur Scargill will come as a huge surprise.
In the interests of sanity I will gloss over the full details of the Great Basketball Strike of 2011 and simply direct the more inquisitive amongst you to the chapter-and-verse coverage stateside.
But there are a number of more salient points I should flag up.
The first is that this is not really a players' strike; it's an owners' strike. Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have not walked out of their places of work, they have been locked out.
This is because the most recent deal between the owners and players, a six-year agreement signed in 2005, expired at the end of June.
That deal covered everything from the NBA's salary cap arrangements, to the creation of a second-tier competition, to a ban on under-19s.
But most importantly it established a 57/43 revenue split in favour of the players.
So, last season, nearly £1.4bn of the league's total turnover of £2.4bn went into their bank accounts, which probably explains why NBA teams filled spots five through 11 in a 2010 pay survey of the world's richest sports leagues.
Among British teams, only Chelsea had a higher wage bill, although Manchester City are climbing that chart fast now.
But here is the second key point about the NBA dispute: the owners are willing to write off an entire season (refund tickets, reimburse sponsors, renegotiate TV contracts and so on) in order to achieve a more equitable distribution and wipe out the £1bn losses they claim the last deal brought them.
Compare that to the 68/32 revenue split Premier League bosses seem willing to put up with (it is a financial model-busting 88/12 in the Championship) and you will start to understand a fundamental difference between US and British professional sport.
In America, both sides are supposed to make money, not just the players.
That 22 of the NBA's 30 teams were in the red last season is unacceptable to your typical US sports entrepreneur.
They might run their sports like Soviet commissars (closed shops, central planning, the collective being stronger than the individual) but they are rampant capitalists underneath. Show me the money and all that.
The contrast with the British professional sports model - so let's face it, we are talking about football - could not be starker.
Here our owners behave like free-market zealots, railing against the very hint of regulation, and then wonder why they must make do with 1970s-style profits.
The NBA's battle lines look pretty entrenched at the moment and it is starting to look like this lockout could rival the six-month dispute of 1998.
But this is hardly new or unusual. The risk of strike action, from one side or the other, is an occupational hazard for the American sports fan.
The NFL season was almost delayed by a similar dispute, baseball's had more strikes than British Leyland and ice hockey lost an entire season in 2005.
So maybe their way isn't so great, after all.
And there is a potential upside for the British (American) sports fan to all this labour unrest: locked-out players need somewhere to play.
It has emerged this week that a dozen of the NBA's biggest stars are planning a two-week tour that will take in four continents and feature six games.
London, lucky old us, is set to get two.
So let's bring out the banners from the days gone by and enjoy some flying picket basketball action.