Like any other red-blooded American football fan, I have been following the CBA negotiations in the NFL with great interest and baited breath.
I remember with sorrow the Major League Baseball strike of 1994-95, which cancelled the World Series. I know plenty of guys who have not watched baseball since because of that strike.
I remember with pain the National Hockey League lockout of 2004-05, which resulted in no one winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1919. Hockey is still trying to recover its viewers.
And now, we are on the verge of losing some or all of the games in the 2011-12 NFL season.
At the crux of the argument is what is at the heart of nearly all misunderstandings between team owners and players in any major sporting league: money.
But lost in the talk of 18-game seasons and player safety issues, between rookie salaries and veteran health benefits, is what is best for the people who pay for everything the players and owners want. Those people are us—the lowly fans.
On his morning radio show, Mike Greenberg, of Mike and Mike in the Morning, had some strong opinions about this situation. Greenberg pointed out that sports fans are the only "customers" who tolerate the treatment they receive from their "service provider."
Do you think the NFL season will start on time this year?
And Greenberg is absolutely right.
The players and the owners know they have a captive audience in the sports fan. What are we going to watch on Sundays in the fall? Tennis? The Real Housewives of Atlanta?
They know that no matter what indignity we suffer, how many games or championships go unplayed because of their greed, we will be waiting here with open arms and wallets.
Think about how much money you spend when you go to a football game. Your ticket isn't cheap. The most inexpensive ticket is still nearly $100 in most stadiums (heaven forbid you don't go to the game because—if the game does not sell out—it might be blacked out in your market).
You certainly aren't going to sit there for three hours and not eat or drink anything, so you can count on spending at least $20 for a couple hot dogs and a soda. Change the hot dogs to sausages, and that soda to a couple beers, and you are now pushing $30.
Nobody goes to a game by themselves, so double all those amounts for your buddy or your dip-stick brother-in-law who your sister begged you to bring with you.
I'm actually amazed that the owners haven't thought to install coin-operated urinals and toilets.
With the current economic environment we are in as a country, with unemployment at nine percent and teachers, firemen and policemen having to take side jobs to make ends meet, it is appalling to me that men who are paid to run, throw and catch a ball can't come to an agreement with men who have already made more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes.
I would never begrudge a player for getting what he can; let them make what the market will bear. And I'm all for the owners making a buck on their teams; most of them bought the team in the first place because it was a money-making venture, not because they have some emotional connection to the team (two of the notable exceptions to this are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers).
What I would ask for, though, as a fan of the game, is that the owners and players remember that the longer they drag this out, the longer they hold us hostage, while they refuse to budge on their positions, the worse they look in our eyes.
Then again, I have my doubts that they care what they look like to us. They don't see us as people. They see us as ATMs from which they feel they have the irrefutable right to extract as much money as they want.
If one single game is cancelled because of this lockout, I think we owe it to the players and the owners to send a strong message to them that we will not tolerate this any longer. We need to show them that a deal should be in place long before the end of the current agreement.
If one game is cancelled, I am proposing that we all boycott opening weekend of the NFL season. None of us should go to a game or watch it on television, unless it is part of your basic cable package. Do not watch it on NFL Sunday Ticket; do not watch on NFL Network; do not even follow on the NFL's or your team's website.
In short, do not pay one dime to watch or listen to a game. Catch the highlights on ESPN.
Believe you me: If we all "unionize" to show players and owners who is really in charge, they will start to get the idea that it is not them.