Greed is root cause of Super Bowl seating debacle
Negotiations toward a new NFL labor contract resumed Wednesday in the nation's capital in what had to be a good sign for players fearful of losing their fat paychecks.
There was no immediate word on how much progress was made in the second bargaining session in five days. But the players' union might have been tempted to lock the doors, order takeout, and refuse to leave until a new deal is done.
Because the NFL is suddenly in a giving mood.
OK, so far its generosity is limited to quelling a public relations debacle sparked by the all-consuming greed exhibited at the Jerry Jones Super Bowl. Imagine, though, if the league bargained with players as it did with the 400 fans whose seats were pulled out from under them at the game.
No more looming lockout. No uncertainty over whether Green Bay's win over Pittsburgh will be the last NFL game we'll see this year.
Instead, in a bid to make players happy, the NFL will guarantee their contracts. There will be no mandatory offseason workouts, no 18-game schedule.
Did I mention triple salaries for all?
Won't happen, of course, because the NFL is determined to snatch back some of the money it pays its players, not give them more. It's the same tactic the league uses with its fans, who are subjected to never- ending demands for cash in the form of higher ticket prices, personal seat licenses and exorbitant parking fees.
A microcosm of that was on display in Arlington, Texas, where Jones aimed to break the Super Bowl attendance record while asking the most expensive Super Bowl ticket prices to date. With the blessing of his fellow owners, he crammed temporary seats into Cowboys Stadium and the league collected $800 apiece from the rubes who were delighted to sit there.
Problem was, the hastily installed seats were determined to be unsafe. They were erected so late the fire marshal didn't have time to inspect them and, rather than risk injuries or even deaths that could have really ruined America's unofficial holiday, they weren't allowed to be occupied.
That hardly mattered to the estimated 111 million people who made the Super Bowl the most watched American television program ever. It didn't even matter to the 100,000 or so other people who were perfectly happy with their seating arrangements.
And it certainly didn't matter to the only people who really mattered - the 31 other NFL owners who will be voting when Jones tries to land, say, Super Bowl 50 for his personal shrine. They partied away in their suites while anger grew among the 1,250 fans who were displaced - 400 of whom never got seats at all.
The league started out by offering fans $2,400, or triple the face value of the ticket, for their trouble. When that didn't work, it upped the ante to include a ticket to next year's Super Bowl. Finally, two days later, the league said it would give the fans a ticket to any future Super Bowl, along with round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations.
Generous, indeed. But even that didn't satisfy some ticket holders, who filed suit Wednesday in Dallas against Jones, the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys, alleging breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices.
They're not just asking for future Super Bowl tickets. They want $5 million for their troubles.
If it sounds like too much, it is. But don't forget that some of these fans traveled a long way to get to Texas only to miss what, for some, may have been the game of their lives.
The box score will reflect that Jones never got his record, with the announced attendance of 103,219 falling just short of the record 103,985 who watched the title game at the Rose Bowl in 1980. Even adding 15,000 temporary seats and counting everyone from ticket takers to popcorn makers in the crowd couldn't push the game over the top.
It capped a week of disappointments for Jones, who brought the Super Bowl to the Dallas area only to have it vexed by some of the worst winter weather in the city's history. The game itself was great but everything else seemed to turn sour, from people being injured by melting snow falling from the roof of the stadium, to Christina Aguilera's mangling of the national anthem, to an unimpressive halftime show by the Black Eyed Peas.
True, Jones can't control the weather, and Cowboys fans will tell you he's not much of a judge of talent - the player kind.
But it was sheer greed that cost hundreds of fans their seats at the game.
And Jones and the NFL can share the blame for that.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org