Lockouts spoiling my 4th of July

I’m reconsidering my anti-hysteria stance on the NFL lockout.

I’m feeling a bit hysterical this holiday weekend.

The sports world is an utter mess. Tiger Woods has fallen and can’t get up. The biggest news in baseball is playing out inside civil and divorce McCourts. Everyone seems certain that the “Who shot LBJ?” saga won’t air until after a long NBA work stoppage. And, of course, NFL players remain locked out.

What the hell are we supposed to talk about this weekend over beer and barbecue? What the hell am I going to write about?

It’s time for hysterics!

I reached this conclusion a couple of days ago when I turned on ESPN and the Worldwide Leader was airing a package on Chad Ochocinco spending the day with NASCAR driver Jeff Burton.

I couldn’t decide if I was amused or offended. Eventually, I determined I was scared.

As long as there is labor unrest and Mort and Scheft and Broussard and Bucher are forced to report on middle-aged men meeting in various 5-star hotels, there is going to be a competitive market for Ochocinco’s attention-whoring.

I’m not blaming ESPN. It’s all of the sports media. We’ve run out of material.

Ochocinco changing tires and riding shotgun in a race car is big, Big, BIg, BIG news. OK, maybe it’s not as big as news of Ochocinco riding a bull. And it’s definitely not as big as news of Ochocinco spending a week in Kansas City trying out for an MLS team.

But, we can definitely say Ochocinco’s attention-whoring is better TV than a remake of “Who’s Now.”

In fact, you might call Ochocinco’s escapades Who’s Not Now.

This is a celebrity attention whore milking the last two minutes of his 15 minutes. It’s sad. If this NFL lockout stretches into August, I fully expect Ochocinco to rent himself out for bar mitzvahs.

Again, I’m not offended by Ochocinco’s behavior. It’s rather harmless. And maybe even some people find it amusing and refreshing that the NFL’s Flavor Flav is wrapping up his career bojangling at rodeos and NASCAR tracks.

But what’s next? Ochocinco joins the Tea Party, moves to Alaska and shacks up with Bristol Palin? There’s a thin line between crossing over and selling out and Ochocinco is dancing all over it.

Obviously, it’s time for the NFL lockout to end. Ochocinco needs something to do, I need something to write about and ESPN needs something to televise.

My expectation from the outset was the dispute would be settled by August and the league would not miss one regular-season game. I still believe that. The NFL and its television partners have invested too much time and energy into turning Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Michael Vick and a handful of other quarterbacks into ratings-driving superstars to miss any opportunity to cash in.

Manning and Brady are Magic and Larry. The QBs only have two or three years left at the top of their games. It would be beyond foolish to harm one of their final great seasons.

As for the NBA lockout?

I’m going to remain optimistic about that, too.

LeBron James could be the most captivating and interesting athlete since Muhammad Ali. James is real and transparent and flawed. He doesn’t hide his humanity. He’s Tony Soprano. We get to see LeBron’s dream/nightmare sequences.

At some point, David Stern is going to step up and help the owners see they have a rare opportunity to ride a unique superstar and unique set of circumstances to unprecedented relevancy and traction. As a TV star, LeBron can be better than Jordan.

The NBA lockout scenario is far different from the NHL lockout scenario. Hockey owners didn’t steal a season from The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

I expect the NBA to play all 82 regular-season games.

Tiger Woods?

I’m clueless and I’m scared to make a prediction. Golf is such a mental game that it’s difficult for me to imagine Tiger ever recapturing the mojo that made him the greatest player we’d ever seen. He’s suffered too many physical and emotional injuries to fully recover. But I’m reluctant to offer a strong opinion.

Happy Fourth of July and let me know if Ochocinco crashes your barbecue!