Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 10 reasons why an NFL Lockout Won't Happen

According to AdAge, an NFL lockout for the 2011 season would cost over $12 billion in lost television ad revenue, sponsor activations, ticket and merch purchases and more.

Stats like this always make me wonder... where would the money go? Would we suddenly have hundreds of thousands of guys with four figures of cash in their hands from unsold tickets, and companies having bonus cash instead of ad bills? Would we lower overall unemployment from a spike in consumer spending that isn't game-related, or would all of the cash just be lit on fire by morose tailgaters in their driveways?

Anyhoo... here's the top 10 reasons why you can rest your widdle head easy in the knowledge that nuclear winter will not happen, and that me and my friends will all be back in the fall, wondering just why on God's green earth the Eagles can't stop the tight end.

10) Paycheck to paycheck. NFL players are not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer, and it's not as if they are all great at long-term financial planning, banking their money, cutting loose poor relations or saving for a rainy day. As the NBA lockout showed, even some of the big earners can be close to destitute in two to four weeks, and when that happens, they'll cave. They've done it before, and they'll do it again.

9) They are already working twelve months a year as is. With off-season workouts, the constant need to get bigger and stronger and healthier, and the increasingly sane in-season workout load to curtain season-ending injuries, no one is going to really stop working when they go from 4 exhibitions and 16 regular season to 2 exhibitions and 18 regular season. The only difference is that you're going to see more teams mailing it in during blowouts, and more starters coming out in the late going of such things. Bad for fantasy honks, fine for the real game.

8) Jerruh Jones doesn't run squat. The single biggest reason to fear a lockout -- that it's a three-way dance of death between NFL+, NFL- and NFLPA, the same toxic cocktail that created the MLB meltdown in the 90s -- is also a reason to think it will settle. Because 31 other NFL owners don't really much give a good goddamn what Jerruh paid for his mausoleum, and therefore don't much care about how he needs a bigger slice of the gate, TV revenue and God knows what else. In baseball, the Yankees ran things, because most other franchises were in their pocket for revenue sharing. In football, the same leverage isn't there, and as the past decade has shown, deep pocket owners like Jerruh and Daniel Snyder have no real performance boost for their bucks.

7) Most teams do not need new yards. In MLB, a bad stadium can permanently retard the gate, and the gate is a big deal, since you are dependent on it for 81 dates of revenue and hyper-profit merch and concessions. In football. the gate matters, but it's only 10 to 12 times a year, and people go for the quality of the team and opponent, not the ambiance. And since that gate isn't incredibly critical, teams with yard or market problems -- aka the Californians, Minnesota, Buffalo, Jacksonville -- can and so still compete. So you have very few teams that start the year with no hope at all, and since that happens, you have very few long-term depressed fan bases.

6) Contracts are not guaranteed. This year, for the first time in what has seemed to be an eternity, the Oakland A's will not have a ridiculous amount of dead money on the books for the utterly tragic Eric Chavez. That deal, and Chavvy's subsequent and total physical deterioration, have more or less taken any real amount of hope for the franchise and put it into the Wait For Later File. There is no equivalent NFL moment; even when Michael Vick went to prison and the NFL made the Falcons keep him on the cap, he didn't do that kind of damage. And the players have been under this thrall for so long, it's like asking the fish about the wetness of the ocean. They are in it, and they have always been in it. They know that long-term deals are bull, and that only the signing bonus matters. More than any other sport, they play for the love of it, and know that it could end at any moment. They aren't going to be able to wring out concessions, especially given the tens of thousands of players that the American funnel produces every year that are just dying to put on the laundry and scab.

5) Networks are everywhere. The NFL is just about the only television show in the past decade that has gained ratings points and audience share. Everything else has consolidated, been eaten alive by DVRs and time shifting, lost to reality shows and the Internet and social media and gaming, but the NFL stands alone. And it's the most valuable property on the docket for ABC (ESPN), NBC, CBS, Fox and the league's own network.

Those are some hard-core media movers. All of whom have news divisions. And all of those news divisions are profit-driven, and answering to advertisers, and at the beck and call of an angry public that will want to know, in no uncertain terms, who is the person who took their games away. If there are any skeletons in any closet, or even any closer that can fit a skeleton, it's going to make the news. In a big, big way. That's going to cause union reps and leaders to cave, even if they weren't going to already. (And maybe even an owner or six. (Though on some level, I'd *love* to hear what the owners have been into. I think it would make Caligula blanche.)

4) It's a slam dunk for Congress. One of the few ways in which our elected reps can garner public favor is by making villains pay in testimony, and a deposition or six in front of grandstanding presidential candidates who want to score some populist points is just about as much fun as root canal for the summoned. The NFL is frequently on public airwaves, subject to interstate commerce laws, takes public monies for stadiums, enjoys tax breaks, and can be rung up on any number of perceived abuses. Threaten for the games to go away, and everyone involved gets to spend a week in DC listening to John Kerry and Orrin Hatch drone on about morality. No one wants that.

3) Someone's going to get shot. We live in a society where a middling Congresswoman gets gunned down for showing her face at a supermarket. What happens to prominent owners, coaches and players in a nation without its primary distraction, particularly anyone that says something militant to a screen? Well, I hope I'm wrong. Unless there's a Manning involved. (I keed, I keed...)

2) There's enough pie here for everyone. For heaven's sake, strike and lockout situations happen when business is stagnant or failing and people are fighting over scraps... not when the heavens are raining money and there's barely enough time to scoop it all in before the season ends. This isn't a battle to save jobs, avoid contraction, prevent cost-cutting or end a pension fund. It's figuring out how much everyone can get into their wheelbarrows before they have to send the servants to buy more wheelbarrows. Not the recipe for disaster, that.

1) Even the owners don't want trouble. With the noted exception of, well, Carolina, there isn't really an NFL team that seems spoiling for this fight. Jerruh's got to have butts in seats to keep the mausoleum from going under. Snyder needs money to keep his theme parks open and the Xenu from invading, or whatever the hell Scientologists think. Minny would hold tight if they got a yard, and now that the roof broke, have more of a case. Everyone else is convinced that with health and another year of experience, that they will go to the playoffs, where New England will crush them like a grape, because the 2011 Patriots Can Not Lose, No, Not Ever, Even If They Played The Games A Million Times.

So relax. Ignore the threats. Know that the goose will be laying golden eggs at the Draft, and in training camp, pre-season and the ever-widening regular season. You can keep playing fantasy football, going to sports books and buying merch. None of it is going away, not now, not ever. Just like the Patriots!

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