In a lockout, there are no winners. You have billionaires fighting millionaires, and the wonderful fans of the NFL suffer the consequences. This entire situation makes me sick and angry.
But if you truly study the issues, if you really know the story, there is only one group that deserves all the blame. That would be the greedy NFL owners, who have absolutely no business locking out the players.
It’s disgusting, disgraceful, irresponsible and not fan friendly. Imagine that concept: thinking about the fans. These are the same fat cats who have priced out the average fan with ticket costs and ridiculous personal seat licenses. Fans are angrier than ever and rightly so. The owners and the league have been in spin mode and very disingenuous.
The sea of negativity bubbled over in a disgraceful war of words via the media and Twitter on Thursday night. And it all started with NFL vice president Jeff Pash, who thought it was somehow in his best interest and the league’s best interest to ignore the media blackout and blast the union, saying the NFLPA didn’t want to make a deal.
What? Wasn’t it the league that tried to hoodwink the players by pocketing the TV money before US District Judge David Doty’s ruling? Pash set off a firestorm of negativity and fan panic, prompting barbs from both sides. It was irresponsible, clueless and a failed attempt and spin.
Pash should’ve been reined in a long time ago!
Let’s examine the issues:
TV network money
Doty issued a gigantic ruling Tuesday when he declared that the owners could be prevented from using the $4.8 billion coming in via network TV contracts. The owners were banking on this cash during a lockout. It has been accurately described in NFL circles as "war chest" money.
The league has lacked urgency in these talks over the winter because it thought ity could use this money as a financial bridge during a lockout.
The NFL tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the players association and the fans. It thought it had a reserve fund of cash. It’s illegal and wrong.
Expanding the regular season to 18 games
This issue makes me queasy. I cannot believe the league has the nerve to want to add more games and jeopardize its players. You cannot act like the league office does, with every high-ranking executive preaching player safety, and then turn around and try to subject these warriors to more pounding by adding two regular-season games. Every year, playoff teams are barely recognizable because of injuries. It will water down the playoffs.
And do you really want more players getting seriously hurt? You want to increase the likelihood of season-ending injuries, career-threatening injuries, life-altering injuries, addiction to painkillers and brain damage? This is not hyperbole, folks. This is the reality of life in the NFL. And, thus, this is all about pure greed.
If you add games, the television contracts are worth more dough. If you play two more regular-season contests and eliminate two preseason games, you will actually get fans to attend. And when fans attend, they park their cars, they eat and they drink a lot of beer.
Roger Goodell is in full spin mode on this issue, saying fans want more games. That’s not true based upon the fans who e-mail me and tweet me after reading a column or watching our videos on FOXSports.com. It certainly isn’t the consensus of fans who call us on Sirius NFL Radio. The only groups of fans who want more regular-season games are the season-ticket holders, because the piggish owners are screwing the customer by charging them regular-season prices for meaningless preseason games.
Every player I’ve talked with — including player reps DeMeco Ryans, Jay Feely and Gary Brackett — is 100 percent opposed to this concept. There is absolutely no benefit to the player in the short term or the long term.
And the league won’t start the season on Labor Day weekend with families still away on vacation. So when is the season going to end? Are we playing into March? What does that do to FOX and its NASCAR deal or CBS and its golf and college basketball packages?
By the way, although fans hate the preseason, coaches need it — not that the owners would actually care what’s best for their teams. Coaches need it for true evaluation for the tail end of the roster. For some players, it is how they actually make it into the league.
The piece of the $9 billion pie
So the players cut a great deal in the last collective bargaining agreement, where they get 59 percent of all revenues after the owners take a billion dollars off the top. (It still cracks me up how that gets glossed over.) Now the owners feel they are entitled to take a cool $2 billion off the top. For what reason would this be the case exactly? Why are the owners reluctant to open their books? What are they hiding?
The players proposed three weeks ago to split it down the middle. That prompted the owners to act like scorned 4-year-olds on the playground and get up from the negotiating table. That’s pathetic. The players deserve 50 percent of all revenues. They are world-class athletes performing at the highest level. It is supply and demand. The game has never been better or more popular, and that’s because of the players. We pay to see the players. We watch to see these compelling sporting events. We get mesmerized by Tom Brady, Andre Johnson, Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews. They deserve it.
And I don’t want to hear the mismanaged, clueless teams like Cincinnati or Buffalo complain that the system isn’t fair. Here’s an idea: Go sell naming rights for your stadium. It’s idiotic to say there is a divide between the big-market and small-market teams. Green Bay just won a Super Bowl. Indianapolis is managed brilliantly. There’s a divide between intelligent and moronic management. As a result, the owners aren’t all on the same page, and that’s a huge problem in these negotiations.
Rookie wage scale/salary floor
It’s easy. The college grads shouldn’t make the most money. The system is backward and totally flawed. There should be a slotted system for rookies.
And everyone is on the same page here.
Goodell has preached this for years. But the owners need to understand you have to give it back to the deserving veterans with a legit salary floor. You have to let these rookies hit free agency in a reasonable period of time.
So at this very hour, we should be in free-agent frenzy mode. You should be checking FOXSports.com for Jay Glazer’s breaking news on gigantic moves. It’s one of the best and most thrilling times on the NFL calendar. Instead, the offseason is on hold and could be defunct. There are no blockbuster trades. There is no movement. There might not be any football.