The NFL Lockout: Why Spring Will Feel Like an Eternity

Joe ConchaContributor IIMarch 3, 2011

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn't stick around in DC as negotiations continue
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn't stick around in DC as negotiations continueRob Carr/Getty Images

Barring a Hail Mary (pun intended) there will be no agreement between NFL owners and the Players' Union before the midnight deadline. 

Many owners, including Jerry Jones, went home Wednesday night with more than 24 hours still left on the original clock.  If a deal was to happen before midnight, 'Ol Jerry would have stuck around.

Now the fun part: The union will de-certify (if not tomorrow, then by the new deadline of Saturday at midnight) and things will get really messy once in the hands of lawyers.  Fortunately, there are still six months until the season begins so, if this thing drags out, fans really won't be affected until September.

The fight is basically over how to split up $9 billion in annual revenue between players and owners.  Currently, players get a slightly bigger piece of the pie.  Owners say the cost of doing business keeps climbing and, therefore, want $1 billion off the top.  This means an 18 percent cut in salary for the players.

Earlier this week, a district judge ruled the owners cannot use $4 billion they would receive from TV rights next season, even if no games are played. That takes away major leverage for the owners and may push them to get a deal before it affects the regular season.

Health care coverage for players during the lockout is another sticking point: Players may have to opt for federal COBRA health insurance, which costs between $1,300-$2,000 per month, depending on the size of the family covered. The Players' Union says some players may not be able to afford it.

It's hard to sympathize with the players on this one. The average annual player salary is $1.87 million, and lockout talk has been prevalent for two years. If a player hasn't saved enough money to afford COBRA by now, tough. 

Owners also want to expand the season from 16 games to 18 games, citing the potential of an extra $500 million in revenue. Players say longer seasons could lead to shorter careers. Selfishly, I'd love for football season to extend into President's Day to save me from watching college basketball tripleheaders and NHL regular season games.

However, the players are correct on this one, while the owners are hypocritical. On one hand, owners express their concerns over players' safety and that big fines and suspensions are now part of helmet-to-helmet hits.  On the other hand, they want to prolong the season well into February—a move that will lead to more injuries and shortened careers.

Compromise is simple: a 17-game season and two bye weeks to help players recover from small injuries. 

Finally, there's the small business impact of a lockout. According to an Edgeworth Economics study, there would be $20 million in losses for each game not played next year. That number includes salaries paid to anyone associated with the game—players, front office workers, stadium workers, and all other businesses that make money during games (hotels, restaurants, apparel shops, etc.). 

This serves as decent leverage for the players. Unemployment is nine percent. Many Americans will have trouble relating to millionaire players being forced to "get by" without a paycheck, but they may sympathize with the other folks whose livelihoods depend on the NFL. 

Ultimately, Roger Goodell does not want his nearly-perfect record as Commissioner stained by a work stoppage.  With so many billions of dollars to negotiate over, there appears to be enough money to make everyone relatively happy.

The spring will be long for some fans wanting a resolution, like, now. But come June and July, when America's 30 million Fantasy owners start studying for the season, and when tickets need to be sold, a deal will be made.

It won't be perfect but, like football, no power play ever is.

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