Here at WCG and all across the country, from the water cooler to the internet, the past month has been full of discussions about the NFL labor dispute. Talk about the NFL lockout, the pending court proceedings, the effect on the NFL towns and the effect on video game franchises abound. We've heard players and owners make stupid statements defending their side. We've heard all the spin. But what we haven't heard is how this affects the fans. Follow me to the clearing at the end of the jump and we'll opine together about the most important aspect of this feud.
I don't know about all of you, but I'm already sick of it. And at this point, it makes my blood boil. We're hearing an endless barrage of spin about how we should sympathize with the owners or with the players.
We've heard Adrian Peterson compare the players situation to slavery (No, really. This stupidity came out of his mouth). Do you know what, Adrian? Nobody wants to hear people who make more money to play a game than most of the masses will ever sniff in their entire lives equate their labor situation to the worst human rights violation of this country's history. Just shut up and run the damn ball. You are not helping the situation.
And we've heard Bengals owner Mike Brown criticize the players and their union as being all about the money and nothing else, as if this wasn't also the same problem the owners seem to have. You know what, Mike? If the owners aren't all about the money then open the damn doors and let's play some football. Work out the logistics along the way and let's get on with the game already.
Because in the end, we the fans are the people you are losing. Ask the National Hockey League how this works. They were finally busting into the mainstream in '04 when a lockout that cancelled the entire 88th NHL season derailed the league's gains. At the time, the NHL had worked their way onto national network television. Do you see the 'Hawks on FOX now?
Ask Major League Baseball how work stoppages affected their hold as the most dominant sport in America. Remember when baseball was America's Game? While the younger readers probably don't, the NFL surely does. Those stoppages helped the NFL loosen MLB's grip on America's collective sporting heart. Now a league that plays 256 regular season games a year has twice the profits of a league that plays 2430 games a year.
These games mean something to us. These teams mean something to the masses that spend their hard earned money to buy NFL merchandise and attend NFL games. Especially in economic times such as these, the labor dispute between millionaires and billionaires seems obscene.
These same fans, who are paying the bills for both the owners and the players, are struggling through the worst economic times most have seen in their lifetime. These fans are the same people struggling for work, losing their homes and trying to feed their families. Those games mean something to people who are at the low end. Look at New Orleans as an example. The same league that is so often credited with helping to bring back the spirit and the economy of New Orleans is now too busy fighting over the money pie to notice that they are letting down the rest of the country in pursuit of their own greedy ends.
I speak from the heart here. I spent 18 months laid off when the economy tanked. While times are better for my family now, there are millions in the same place I was. And as trivial as it may sound to the owners and players, the NFL helped us. It gave me and my family something to focus on and something to hope for. It gave us an outlet and a way to keep our minds off of the problems around us. This petty, bitter dispute at the worst of times is robbing their own hurting American fan-base of this. Timing is everything, not perception. And while the NFL and the NFLPA spend all of their time spinning the facts, they missed this very important point. The NFL would do well to note that their timing on this is probably the worst of any major sporting work stoppage ever. Americans are short on attention and long on grudge. If the league and its players deprive the fans for what comes off to many as a petty money grab between millionaires and billionaires, the backlash could be surprising.
While the NFL and the NFLPA/whatever-you-call-the-player-collective-now squabble, these fans will find something else to focus on. Maybe MLB will appreciate the returned favor. Or the NHL. Or the upstart UFL. If the men in charge had been thinking less about ego and greed, they would have been smart to extend the current agreement for three years (you know, the one that made them all rich) and waited to have this fight until they wouldn't have been forcing a nation that is economically struggling to watch men who got rich playing games fight over even more money. The bitterness this very well could create between the fans and the league should not be so easily dismissed. We don't care who's right or wrong. We don't care which rich guy is getting the better deal. We just want our football. Give it too us, or we'll take our money elsewhere.
I hear the Cubs calling right about now....