The NFL took a firm shake of the magic eight ball on Friday and gave just about every waiting fan a valid answer after tossing it aside: There will be no season in 2011.
What a shock, what a surprise.
We expected it to happen, that picture was painted long ago. From the undetermined outcome of last week, to the past 24 hours of humming and haring, an answer was coming, one way or another.
It's just unfortunate it had to turn out this way. Then again, that's something we can all stew over while we sip our coffee in the early days of September and wonder how we can fill the void in our lives.
But try and see the silver lining in this cloud. It won't smack you in the face like a firm Rex Ryan sound bite, but believe me, it's there. You just have to look for it.
We've heard a lot about the fans suffering. The players will also be out of wallet, true. But the loyal supporters who turn up every Sunday will now have to occupy their time with a more constructive hobby.
Maybe that's why one man in particular is seeing dollar signs right now.
Try and see it from Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's point of view. You may not own a million-dollar manor or enjoy a love/hate relationship with fans, but if you can step into the shoes of baseball's most powerful mind—take a second to think about the situation.
Cha-ching! That's the conclusion you should have reached.
Think of it this way, no NFL season puts MLB in the booster seat—not just on television, but also in attendance. New York Giants fans will attend Yankees games, Bears fans will flock to Wrigley Field with even more passion and Steelers fans will attend Pirates games—but we won't point fingers if you shy away at first.
You won't do it because it's the right thing to do. You will do it because it's the only thing to do. That is of course if you choose to overlook the NBA, NHL and the odd time of year when golf actually matters (depending on Tiger Woods' aggression levels).
No, MLB will benefit the most from this untimely event, an area two-time World Series champion David Eckstein expressed his thoughts on.
"If they (NFL) want to take two lessons from baseball, fans lose a lot when you don't play, and they kind of forget, and it takes a long time to get back. Fortunately enough, we've been able to get back to that point," Eckstein said, speaking to the Orlando Sentinel. "We're up for a contract renegotiation also this year, and it's vital to make sure that we get that in play. If we can get that signed, I would see baseball going to the forefront once again and being the national pastime once again if those two sports decide to lockout and not play."
The contract negotiation Eckstein speaks of is critical, especially during a time of such financial worry in the sporting world.
In MLB's case, ratings have been at an all-time low for Selig since the NFL took a bunt for the best. The days of The Sandlot glory years went out with the hi-top fade, and we arrived in a time full of tedious World Series matchups, along with a blown call by Jim Joyce to throw a little egg on the face of baseball.
Case in point, last year's World Series.
Yet that was only the very beginning. During the 2010 season, Selig came off second-best on every occasion when facing Roger Goodell. It was an area that hurt baseball more than the Yankees' endless spending spree or the St. Louis Cardinals' attempt to stuff Albert Pujols' monetary concerns in a sack until next spring.
Consider the following:
- Baseball's amusement park, New York, failed to match the ratings of the NFL. The Yankees' playoff series against the Minnesota Twins drew just 11.9 percent of ratings in the Big Apple, compared to the Jets' clash with the Vikings, which averaged 15.8 percent.
- Think the Braves did any better? Nope. Atlanta faithful tuned into the Falcons' matchup against the Browns, rather than watching the Braves take on the Giants on TBS.
The only team that took control over the NFL was the Phillies. The most passionate sports city on the planet partially ignored the Eagles during Sunday Night Baseball, as the Phillies averaged 27.7 percent to begin the week.
Now it's time for MLB to turn over a new page.
Unlike the NFL, baseball has learned from their mistakes. A players' strike fooled MLB once in 1994. It sent the league into a whirlwind of trouble—something that Sammy Sosa himself couldn't cure. Ratings plummeted, fan interest went down the tubes and baseball built itself back up.
Look out Mr. Goodell, now it's your turn.
Viewership won't necessarily decline for the NFL. People will return in a year's time, focus on the rookies and kick off way they left—enjoying life. I guess it's almost like Charlie Sheen when he exits rehab, but to a lesser extent.
But will it be too late for professional football then? You tell me. We're the ones that make or break the league as fans.
By far one of the biggest problems for the NFL is losing love from youngsters. Kids who have begun to worship Aaron Rodgers may depart for Ryan Braun in Milwaukee, young Cleveland Browns supporters may take a shine to the Indians and for a man like Philip Rivers, who is loved in San Diego, could he really lose out to the Padres?
Some may only dream.
Ratings won't skyrocket for MLB, they will only increase. The NBA and NHL have a lot to gain too (and college football hasn't been forgotten), but if the NFL took over as America's No. 1 sport, folks will return to their previous love; music to Selig's ears.
It's a winning situation for every other league. Those who once envied the NFL can step back into the driver's seat, cut loose from the chair they were tied to and smile when saying, "What me, worry?".
Maybe the joy of filling out scorecards and collecting baseball caps for passion rather than fashion will also seep back in.
I always believed in the church of baseball. It just took a while for that faith to kick in. Now that the NBA is also likely to lock out in 2012, let me say one thing:
Hey baseball, welcome back.
Ryan Cook is an Australian Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a writer for Acme Packing Company. He is also a guest writer for PackerChatters. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.