Friday, January 28, 2011


The Superbowl is still nine days away, but the saga of the NFL lockout is looming like a dark cloud above cowboy stadium. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced earlier this week that if no new collective bargaining agreement gets done for next season he will reduce his salary to one-dollar for next year. It will be a big hit to his paycheck, a $9,999,999 dollar hit.

A large part of the conflict is about the season going to eighteen games. As fans we all think its great, but it will dilute the product. An increase of injuries and heavy doses of Brodie Kroyle's instead of Tom Brady's will have fans turning off their T.V.'s.  The stars that we want to see won't be playing by week 14 due to injuries and playoff seeds already locked up. The reason why football is so popular is because every week is so important. Baseball, hockey, and basketball have so many games that each becomes less important, less vital, less pivotal to their season. The games are watered down. With 16 games in the NFL, concussions this year were at an all-time high. Adding two more games means more physical punishment for these players that are all held together by tape at the end of the year as it is. Then the teams that are in the playoffs, will have half of their roster on the injured list.

As fans we always want more football. Nothing is worse than when the Superbowl ends and the realization sets in that football is over for six months. But when we take a step back, smart fans know eighteen games will hurt the product on the field. I admit it's hard to feel bad for these fights between millionaires and billionaires when average Joe's making $40,000 a year are worrying about jobs, debt, and health care. The reality is that the average career of an NFL player is 3.2 years.

In the media all we see are the marquis players, their signing bonuses, and multi-millionaire dollar deals. The truth is 70% of players run out of money three years after retirement. If a deal doesn't get done, it will hurt players and fans. The owners, the billionaires, will be the ones that suffer least. For most owners, owning an NFL team is a side job and they will have money coming in from other revenue streams during the lockout. For 75% of the players who don't make the mega-millions, the river will run dry quickly.

The impending lockout with the NBA is different where the owners and eight or nine teams are actually losing money. The NFL does nothing but grow every year, get more advertisers, and attract new fans each season. The NFL is a money making machine. This is a big part of the reason why players are so upset. Football today is as popular as soccer is in Europe. Every week football is the highest rated program on television. The NFL is what people spend the whole week waiting for. I wonder in this age of technology if twitter is helping to make sure there is a lockout.

The Twitter Revolution

The downfall of the new collective bargaining agreement could come at the hands of the social network. Twitter has been great for players who are mature and think before they tweet. But, this week, consequently when labor talks have been heating up, the solidarity that is the NFL fraternity has been tested, bended, and nearly broken. It first started when current and former NFL players tweeted how soft Jay Cutler was for not playing on his MCL knee sprain and his detached indifferent body language on the sideline.

Arizona defensive back Kerry Rhodes tweeted, "Cmon cutler u have to come back. This is the NFC championship if u didn't know!"

Then the Seattle Seahawks' Raheem Brock tweeted. "Cutler u little sissy," he wrote.

Former star Deion Sanders weighed in. "All the medicine in pro locker rooms this dude comes out! folks I never question a players injury but I DO question a player's heart," his tweet read.

The unspoken code of players sticking up for one another broke with that first tweet. Never before had we seen the fraternity of brotherhood that is the NFL been breached like that before.

Cromartie called the head union rep an explicit name. “They got their guys acting like a-holes,” he said. “So they just need to get their (expletive) together and just get it done.”

Antonio Cromartie, the clown of the NFL who should focus more on covering receivers instead of talking, blasted the NFL's labor talks. In turn, Seahawks quarterback and seemingly good guy Matt Hasselbeck tweeted "Somebody ask Cromartie if he knows what CBA stands for." He later deleted the message but not before Cromartie got word of it. He tweeted back, "Hasselbeck had something to say, he should be a man about it," adding: "Don't erase it. I will smash ur face in."

The NFL has to be very careful here. We all thought the NBA was immune from losing popularity during the Jordan era, but when he left and clowns of the NBA began talking smack, the popularity among fans dropped significantly for almost a decade. Roger Goodell, who holds the most powerful position in sports needs to send a message and fine Cromartie. The media has to do a better job of not giving him a microphone.

Cromartie is like the guy at the party who tells jokes that are never funny. He's the 300 pound woman who wears a 2-piece to the beach. I don't want a guy who fathered nine children from eight woman in six different states to be the voice of the NFL. I want player reps and smart people to talk on behalf of the athletes, not the court jester of the league.

Kevin Mawae, President of the NFLPA, who played 16 years in the NFL doesn't want to budge on the players demands. I'm neither a current NFL player, former NFL player, or an NFL executive, but I have a few suggestions as a fan who wants to see football next season:

1. Games should stay at sixteen. I know the argument that it went from twelve to fourteen to sixteen and whats another two. Another two is more injuries, less starters at the end of the season, and more teams out of it by week 13 playing in games that have no significance.

2. Owners want to cut 18% of players salaries. Players obviously don't like this, but how about cutting 9% and taking the other 9 % and putting it into a 401k retirement system (pre-tax dollars), which will help these players during the retirement years.

3. Rookie salaries don't necessarily have a cap, but are laced with more incentives. Instead of 50 million guaranteed, guarantee less and pay more for their production on the field.
Examples: DeMarcus Russell and Matt Leinart

4. Monitor twitter. Twitter takes fans into the private minds of players and in the lock rooms. Obviously not always a good thing.

5. More transparency from the owners with actual costs they would incur for new facilities and stadiums.

6. Players are always stressed in the off-season when they receive no income. Spread the pay checks over a full calender year so players can budget their finances better.

7. Since the average NFL player is in the league for 3.2 years and health benefits kick in after five active years, have it kick in after 3 for players whose career prematurely ends  because of a debilitating injury.

 8. Instead of fines, suspend players for devastating hits to the head. This will deter players from doing it because they will be letting their team down if they miss games. This will also limit mental disabilities like Alzheimer's and dementia player's suffer after retirement.

9. Education about pain-killers and how to use them without abusing them.

10. Let's not have the collective bargaining agreement overshadow the epic battle that will be Superbowl 45 next Sunday.

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