Friday, February 18, 2011

Tick, Tick, Tick: The NFLPA Does Not Do Well With Free Time

Here's the one nasty little fact about a possible NFL lockout that no one wants to say out loud...

Every single day that the owners prevent the players from coming to work is a good day, from a negotiating standpoint, for the owners.

There is no danger -- none -- for the long-term market of people wanting to watch football. Even if there is no professional football in 2011-12, there will still be high school and college, and a lifetime of people wanting to watch this, and team loyalties and knowledge that overwhelms every other sport. If you give Philly Fan the option of one Eagles championship or a full boat of the Phillies, Sixers and Flyers winning, they take the Eagles. It's been 50 years and counting; they just want this more than anything else. And the same thing goes for Chicago Fan, and Detroit Fan, and New York Fan, and so on, and so on. The NFL isn't just the biggest sport in America: it's the biggest five sports in America.

Hell, there's even people who prefer to root for the owners, since Americans love a winner, like to imagine themselves as preposterously wealthy people, and resent people who play a game for making money. Along with hating any union. It's a strange situation. But moving on.

Since there is no other league that will spring up to take over fan loyalties, the NFL owners hold all the cards in the long-term. Sure, there will be some that fall by the wayside due to debt service issues, but there are no shortage of billionaires with ego issues that want to buy into something with a more or less guaranteed equity win. There will also be a PR hit, but you don't get to be a man of those means by being overly caring about what the general public thinks about you.

Now, let's look at the NFLPA members.

They are all candles, most of them with blowtorches, some going at both ends. They have spent decades honing their bodies and easing their excesses with the scheduled discipline of mini-camps, off-season workouts, and the six months of training camps, pre-season and the regular season. They do not have the time off to get truly healthy, or the idle hands necessary to get truly crazed.

Now? Um, not so much. You already have guys talking about boxing careers (hoo boy), sniffing around pro wrestling, trying to be reality show stars, or just fighting the natural urge to continue eating like they are living a life of a nonstop motion machine. When this happened for half a year to the NBA, one of the best athletes in the league (Shawn Kemp) got fat, and never, ever got thin again. This can't end well for them.

And that's why the players will take less money, even in a time of prosperity. And that's why the owners will get the benefit of the PR doubt (along with the fact that, um, the networks aren't going to bite the hand that feeds them the only broadcast show that keeps getting higher ratings in a time of media split), and the NFLPA's leadership is going to take the pipe.

If not now, then eventually.

With every day creating more useless rancor from the fans, and less leverage for people who have none. Even the millionaires.

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