Despite two extensions and use of a federal mediator, the two sides in the NFL labor dispute could not completely bridge a $1 billion gap. The NFL Players Association has decertified, the owners have locked the players out, and the players have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league.
There are plenty of people to blame, but ultimately the exercise is pointless. When all is said and done, Roger Goodell presided over a horribly mismanaged kangaroo court that has led to the first work stoppage in nearly a quarter century—something unthinkable just a few years ago, when Paul Tagliabue turned the keys of the US's most powerful sports league over to his successor.
Now the fate of the league rests in the hands of a Minnesota appellate court judge. Even if the judge rules in favor of the players, forcing the league owners to allow the 2011 season to play out under last year's rules, it will do nothing more than delay this stare down another year.
In the end, this is a case of overgrown egos and massively over-inflated senses of self importance clashing to cripple one of the most popular sports leagues on earth.
Eventually, the owners and players will still wind up with more money than most fans will earn in their lifetimes, while said fans will be left at the mercy of these negotiations. The fans' loyalty has been repaid with utter disrespect.
Nonetheless, it is the lowly fans who hold the ultimate trump card in this tempest of greed. It is up to them to show the NFL (players and owners) that this is unacceptable.
Perhaps no fanbase is more loyal than the 49ers', and perhaps no team stands to lose more as the stand-off drags on. Will the potential lack of an offseason hamper the 49ers' progress as they try to adjust to playing under Jim Harbaugh? Almost undeniably, yes.
Will the possible cancellation of the 2011 season cause funding for the 49ers' recently approved new stadium to erode—marking the second time in a decade that the 49ers have been denied a voter-approved new home? Maybe.
In reality, the 49ers are probably better off, hoping for the loss of the entire season (stadium issues aside), as it will at least set all teams on a more even footing entering 2012. If that happens, the 49er Faithful would no doubt be chomping at the bit to return to Candlestick 16 months from now, but they ought to do the opposite.
49er fans and fans of all other teams should wield their collective power and boycott the NFL until 2013. There might be a 2011 season, there might not;but I, for one, will not be watching to find out. Individually, we as fans are powerless to force a resolution to the labor dispute, but collectively, we can send a very clear message that this billionaire bickering will not be tolerated.
The saga of the labor dispute has elevated the NFL to the front page of sports sections across the country. Fans are following the league now more closely than ever and most will likely fall over each other to shell out money for tickets as soon as players return to the field.
This is simply rewarding the NFL for its utter disrespect to the fans. It says to the league that it does not have to be accountable for its actions and can continue to do whatever they wish while asking for more and more money in return.
Jumping right back on the band wagon could embolden the league to further degrade the game by moving to an 18-game regular season or making ridiculous changes like the NHL and MLB in the wake of their recent work stoppages.
If the fans stand together and remind the league of who really makes its fortunes possible, they could motivate the league to avoid such a ridiculous spectacle in the future.
I have been a die-hard 49er fan for as long as I can remember, and the idea of taking two years off from the game I love is not a pleasant one. I know that alone, my boycott is meaningless. If we all took that approach, however, the NFL will continue to disrespect its fans and we will face another stoppage at the end of the next CBA.
I expect the labor dispute to take a heavy toll on the 49ers, and it may well negate the promise that the Harbaugh hiring and stadium approval created. I wish them the best over the next two years, and I will see them and all of you again in 2013. I can only encourage the rest of the Faithful and NFL fans at large to join me and show the mighty NFL that its egos and greed will no longer be tolerated.
I have not lost the faith, but for the good of the 49ers and NFL football, it is best I shelve it for a couple seasons. Want to be part of the solution? Join the crusade!