I love football. I love professional football, college football and high school football. I love playing flag football with my sons and I love watching my daughter try and play running back. It's an exciting game with a accessible history.
What I mean by accessible is that I have watched meaningful, historical games. I've watched Troy Aikman win three Super Bowls. I remember Joe Montana, I remember Fran Tarkenton running around the backfield and I had the privilege of watching Walter Payton, who in my mind is the greatest player of all-time.
So the history of football is linked with my history, unlike baseball. I never watched Babe Ruth, Ted Williams or Ty Cobb. I've heard stories and read books, but those legends are not immediate to me in the same way that football is.
I say all this by way of saying that as I get older, I get more passionate about passing this love on to my children and I have deep bias towards continuing the games.
I believe a missed season, or a season of non-National Football League quality players, will devastate the game. The hard core fans will continue after a missed season, but the casual fan will turn away in disgust and as much as I love the game, I will also turn away in disgust.
There's no better example of that than baseball and how the strike shortened 1994 season affected Major League Baseball until at least 2001.
The basic economic issues in the NFL work like this—the NFL generates $9 billion of cash per year. Half of that comes from TV sponsorships, half from ticket sales and advertising. It does not include the revenue from licensing and some luxury boxes. Currently, the players get about 50 percent of that revenue and they would like more.
The owners are willing to give more, but they want an 18 game season and rookie salary caps. The players would like to see the finances before they make a decision, the owners are not showing the finances.
On the face of it, both sides seem to have a reasonable position. But they don't.
I believe the owners have a moral obligation to pay the players more for the following reasons.
1. The average NFL career is 3.5 years and if you play for three years, you get five years of health care. HOWEVER, the average lifespan of an NFL player is 55 (52 for lineman) versus 77 for the general population. NFL players are literally trading years of their life for money. If they want more money, give it to them. No one ever died from being too rich, but players are dying from the consequences of playing football earlier in life.
2. Concussions. Research is still coming out on the effects of concussions, but all the data is bad. The players need continued medical care after football and the union needs to ensure they get it.
3. 78 percent of NFL players go bankrupt within two years of retirement. The solution isn't to give a greater salary to the players, it's to provide a pension and deferred salary to help players as they age.
The NFL owners are running businesses, which I understand. They have an obligation to their customers to offer the best entertainment product possible, which they do every single week. BUT, they also have a moral obligation to their employees to take care of them for the sacrifices the players make. I don't think the owners do a good job of this, and I think the players should get more money.
The easy counter argument is to look at Matt Leinart or Carson Palmer. But I'm not talking about those guys. I'm talking about the average lineman who makes $1.2 million per year and plays for three years. The strike has to be about the lowest paid players, not the highest.
We are watching men who are literally sacrificing their life versus men who are sacrificing money. It's easy to see who loves the game more.
Pay the players.