Thursday, March 17, 2011

NFL Lockout, Who Cares?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It seems like all I hear, see and watch these days in sports are labor conflicts.

The NFL's eight day lockout is the latest squabble between millionaires versus billionaires and to be frank with you, I'm Sick And Tired of hearing about it!

As far as I'm concerned, the owners can lock out the players until the day that I die!

With the economy in shambles, we have a bunch of greedy individuals that are disputing on how to divide a boat load of cash for a sport that's enjoying a Super Bowl that drew a record 111 million viewers!

What angers me the most about this conflict is the owners and players should still be at the bargaining table until they lose their voices.

Instead, the players think they can take their so called injustices to the court and manipulate a judge to force the owners to cave in!

The only thing I can say to the players is "Good Luck."

These owners didn't become wealthy individuals because they were stupid!

The players can use all the angles they want, but in the end, when the players do go back to work, it's the owners that will still sign their paychecks.

At the moment, the players can be as disruptive as they want. If they want to discourage top NFL Prospects from attending the upcoming Draft, that will only make them look like bigger clowns. After all, these are the players that they'll be taking money from when the new Rookie Wage Scale is inserted when this labor mess eventually resolves itself.

But if the players are smart, they won't influence the rookies to not attend the NFL Draft. These youngsters that get invited deserve a chance to be welcomed to the league by Commissioner Roger Goodell just as they were at the beginning of their careers.

Also, the fans deserve to see one more piece of Football Business before the next game being played is "Chess in the Courtroom."

Unfortunately, as things stand right now, there is no Sense Of Urgency to make a deal.

The paychecks don't start coming in until September. When the players fall behind on their bills, then there will be the pressure from their significant others, children, bill collectors, etc... and as I've seen so many times in these disputes, the deal that was on the table was better than the new agreement.

As far as the major issues are concerned, I'm not going to be getting into any major details. Instead, I'll comb over them briefly.

First, I have no  problem with the NFL playing an 18-game schedule. Stadiums are half full during the pre-season, major injuries still occur and teams usually rest their regulars the final two games. It's inevitable that teams will expand their rosters by 10 players and more jobs will be created. I have a feeling that the salaries will increase slightly to accommodate the extra two games.

But more importantly, the NFL will have the ability to play a couple games in Europe, Mexico, Japan, Canada, Spain, Germany and perhaps Australia. The global effect of the product will go beyond just additional sellouts but also in merchandising. Teams that travel overseas will likely get the following week off to recover from jet lag.

Second, as I mentioned, the Rookie Wage Scale is long overdue! To me, how unproven NFL players make more money than established veterans goes beyond my imagination. If a team makes a bad pick in the higher rounds, not only is he a bust on the field but also a bad business decision for the books. When I think of former San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf and Detroit Lions wide receiver Charles Rogers, I get sick to my stomach.

By the same token, when a guy like Tom Brady wins three Super Bowls for the New England Patriots, those are the stories we want to hear about.

When a team wants to trade down in the draft because they don't want to get trapped paying too much  money for a top 10 player, but they can't, this prevents them from making the trade which could also allow them to add late round picks that become sleepers and future stars.

Third, there is no question that the time is now to address the needs of retired players. When a player sustains injuries that limits their ability to make a living due to physical or mental problems, are not properly given adequate medical insurance, there are problems. There have been numerous stories that players in their 30's, 40's and 50's have died prematurely. 

The most recent being former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson (50), who committed suicide on February 17, 2011, and asked that his brain be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine which is conducting research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) due to playing pro football.

I can think of many other examples in the past but this one stands out the most. We don't need any more of these stories.

But in this game of billionaires versus millionaires, I still would like to know who benefits from all of the bad publicity and mud slinging that goes on? Nobody!

Right now, team employees will be without jobs, players won't be able to seek treatment from team doctors, and it will be tougher to prepare for next season.

Yet, as the players seek litigation over collective bargaining, they better realize the following trends that other sports leagues have set in past years and what lies ahead in the future.

In 1994, the Baseball Strike lasted from August 12, 1994-April 2, 1995 and it wiped out the World Series. Major League Baseball had the public relations nightmare of a lifetime. For years, the World Series was always played during wars and other nationwide conflicts, yet it took a labor dispute amongst rich men to eliminate it, thus alienating a fan base which has never totally forgiven the game.

It destroyed baseball in Montreal as the Expos eventually moved and became the Washington Nationals. The Montreal Expos were 74-40, six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and were on a pace to win 105 games. They were my favorite to win the World Series.

When play resumed, it took Cal Ripken Jr's Ironman streak where he passed Lou Gehrig along with a season long home run chase by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire who broke Roger Maris 61 to get fans interested again. Commissioner Bud Selig would continue to add extra playoff series and interleague play to add to the healing and growth processes.

The 2004-05 NHL Lockout cancelled the 88th season. This was the first time in a major sports professional league in North America that a league didn't play as a result of a labor dispute. The lockout lasted 310 days, from September 16, 2004-July 22, 2005. The NHL still hasn't recovered as the league pays for its airtime to have NBC broadcast The Game Of The Week. How many cable subscribers can get Versus?

It seems that the NBA could be headed down the same road as the NFL and follow the lead of the NHL. Commissioner David Stern wants a hard salary cap and has gone on record that he'll take a hard stance to get it. Baseball's labor agreement ends in December but for some reason, I have a feeling this one will get worked without much resistance.

But back to the NFL.

Fans won't be without football too long.

There is the UFL which does play in the fall but more importantly, NCAA Football returns. For some reason, the NCAA Football Gods will be smart enough to schedule games on Sundays to fill some of the void left by the NFL.

The New USFL is tentatively set to play in the Spring of 2012 and that league could experience much quicker growth is the NFL doesn't settle it's conflict soon.

So the bottom line is, it's best for these sides to get back to work and start negotiating. I haven't seen anything positive develop from these most recent work stoppages and nothing good will come out of this. It's time for cooler heads and common sense to take over.

The players have to realize, that everyone in the real world is struggling to make a living so there will be very little sympathy thrown their way.

I'm Sick And Tired of all this nonsense and at some point it has to stop!

The government doesn't have time to get involved in this dispute. It has to run this country at perhaps the most difficult time in our history.

Both sides need to get back to the bargaining table and don't leave until a deal is done!

Right now, the only people that wouldn't mind if there isn't football on Sundays are the women that want to spend time with their men. Otherwise, it needs to get resolved and if there is no football in the spring, baseball is waiting for this as a golden opportunity to steal fans and get them to watch the postseason and see if the San Francisco Giants can defend its World Series title.

But again, I'm Sick And Tired of hearing, listening and watching the latest episode of "As The Greedy Get More Greedy" and I'll wake up when this debacle is over. Or I'll just get sun burned at my pool or at the beach.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/. Gladys Echevarria contributed to this story.

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