NFL fans have every right to be angry

BY foxsports • March 14, 2011

The front page of the Saturday morning New York Post read Death Wave, depicting the horror and terror of the disaster in Japan. The picture under the headline showed a house burning in the aftermath of the destruction due to an earthquake that registered to the horrific tune of an 8.9.

The back page, a place where the toy department normally calls home, told a much different story. On the day of this gruesome national disaster, New Yorkers awoke to a picture of a frowning DeMaurice Smith and a confused Roger Goodell. The NFL logo was perfectly placed in between. The white headline was captured perfectly in white bold letters against the black backdrop and screamed one singular and perfect word — GREED! The millionaires and the billionaires couldn’t find a way to share. Now that’s pathetic.

By now you know, I favor the players in this nasty battle. But you most certainly must fault both sides for their arrogance, ignorance and defiance over the last few days. The players association and the league lifted their collective middle fingers and raised them in unison to their amazing, die-hard fans in a grotesque display.

I consider myself to be a fair judge of what the football fan wants. In addition to writing and ranting on, I have hosted a show on Sirius NFL Radio for seven years. If you are listening to my show, The Sirius Blitz, it means you are eschewing the hot button topics in your local market. It means you aren’t locked in on other niche programming. It means you care more about the Titans quarterback situation than the NCAA tournament or the Phillies rotation. This past week, our always flooded phone lines were filled with pure venom. Fans cannot believe that millionaires and billionaires cannot come together to figure out how to divide a $9 billion pie, a pie that the fans are responsible for. The fans pay these salaries. Is a football player a more accomplished athlete than a soccer player in the U.S.? Good question and totally irrelevant. The fan has spoken with his hard-earned money and record-setting viewing, thus making everyone involved in the NFL rich.

And “March Madness” to the NFL fan really got started early this year. Thursday represented the day before the CBA expired. Yet, Pat Bowlen sauntering into the meeting in the late afternoon counted as “breaking news.” Mike Brown deciding to grace us with his presence acted as a story. Why weren’t these integral owners working around the clock? This was totally unacceptable and drove the fan batty. The NFL fan screamed in unison, “WHY DO WE CARE MORE ABOUT A NEW CBA THEN YOU DO!!??!!” Why did negotiations start at 3 p.m. last Monday? Fans stay up past midnight on the eve of free agency. You ask fans on the East Coast to watch Week 1 football until 2 a.m. to give a television partner a Monday night doubleheader. You could at least work around the clock to strike a new deal.

Then on Thursday night, things took a bizarre and out-of-control turn. Some bright people on both sides totally tuned out federal mediator George Cohen’s request for the mediation, and ensuing opinions, to stay quiet. Jeff Pash somehow thought it was in his best interest to call an impromptu presser. DeMaurice Smith found time to go on radio and Twitter and respond. Greg Aiello and George Atallah started hitting back. Panic set in with the fans and their followers on Twitter. The “Chicken Little” sky-is-falling approach took over. Nobody even once thought about the fan. It was a disgraceful, baffling scene.

Even Drew Brees got into the act on Friday. In the middle of tweets wishing the best for those in Japan, Brees sent a series of three posts to create spin for the players. On our show, it was met with sheer disgust and disdain. Yes, Brees is beyond likeable and popular. But the fans wanted action and results, not a PR campaign and a reminder that the association could not go backward financially.

Are these sides just so clueless to the economic times? People get infuriated when they go to the gas pump. They cannot pay for college education. Men and women are out of work and taking pay cuts. And they want to hear about this garbage?

The NFL fan is already angry. The fan is livid about over-the-top personal seat licenses in addition to season ticket prices that price out longtime fans. Several loyal customers have had to give up tickets. The Giants actually had the chutzpah to send out an e-mail about ticket renewal before the original date the CBA was going to expire! The Dallas Super Bowl showed again how the league is all about big business. It goes noted over the weekend that every NFL team sent out a press release and mentioned the fans. They know how angry you are. They know how fragile you are.

We’ve had several callers on Sirius NFL Radio who say they are hurt and aren’t going to financially commit any longer. They will take another vacation with the family. They will watch the NCAA tournament and get ready for Major League Baseball. They feel completely betrayed.

A regular caller, an intelligent and passionate Seahawks fan who goes by “Hack in Seattle,” revealed a bit more about himself this Friday. He told us he has four kids and makes $48,000 a year at his job. Now Hack loves his Seahawks and prides himself on being part of the 12th man culture. But he told me on Friday that if there was an impasse and a work stoppage, he was done. Hack could certainly spend the money elsewhere on his family. And two of his kids are more into soccer, anyway. There are many examples of “Hack in Seattle” across this country. The NFL, with its immense popularity, shouldn’t think it is immune to a backlash. It’s happening. The Orioles and Blue Jays never recovered from the baseball strike. Who will be the equivalent in the NFL? The Bengals? The Raiders? The Jaguars?

This is supposed to be the time of year the die-hard fans love. They forget their troubles with quarterbacks changing teams. But now, it isn’t about Kevin Kolb on the market. It is about what hot-shot lawyer is joining the league in its action against the players. Nobody is talking about the stars the Cowboys will sign in free agency. We are talking about the star judges on the cases. The chatter isn’t about the Jets vs. Brady. It’s about Brady vs. the NFL.

The NFL has a great knack for making other sports cringe. Remember how angry Bud Selig was when Donovan McNabb was traded last year? Have you seen the draft ratings compared to NBA playoffs? But the NFL fan is frustrated. And they wake up this morning to fill out an NCAA bracket. What else are they going to do? Compare notes on Judge Doty and dig in for a long work stoppage?

Shame on everyone.

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