It does seem to happen in every sport at one point or another; no matter how overpaid an athlete is or how much money an owner rakes in, it just doesn’t seem to be enough.
Now we’re staring a lockout in the face because of $9 billion and seemingly no way to split it up. For this article I wanted to examine what a lockout really means for the NFL, the fans, and the average American alike.
What a Lockout Means and Who it Really Hurts
In case you’ve been wondering just what happens during a lockout, or how it works, here’s my super-abridged version:
The NFL and NFLPA’s (Players Association) contract ran out this March, after the owners unanimously opted for it to after the 2010 season. This meant that all the same problems were on the table again, and there was going to be a pow-wow that everyone knew would be messy.
The NFLPA was able to make some concessions in order to appease ownership, only to have the largest sticking point be just how to divide their $9 billion annual income.
Both sides extended their deadline several times trying to figure out a way through the melee only to continue to butt heads (forgive the pun) in the end.
Now the matter goes over to the courts, with the players suing in an antitrust case and even President Obama chiming in.
There’s another great article that goes into more detail here on the Bleacher Report (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/358168-nfl-nba-lockout-explained-finally).
So, what’s next?
Well, I’ve heard a lot of optimistic reports about how we may only lose preseason, or that there will be a verdict in the courts before that, but to be honest, I’m not on that boat.
We’ve seen this before in Hockey and MLB, and even with billions on the line, the lockout remained.
The fact that there is a lockout is horrible for the fans, but it’s even worse for all the people who depend on the NFL season to make a substantial part of their living (and it isn’t an annual $9 billion living).
There are the people who work at the stadiums (ticket takers, cleaning staff, security, vendors, recording personnel, parking attendants, etc.), and then there are the people outside of the stadium; the local restaurants, local bars, local hotels, tourist souvenir shops, etc. I even read an article about how much the cleaners would suffer from the lack of jerseys from each team, should the season be scrapped.
It would be safe to say that in the poorer parts of the nation, the effects of not having an NFL season would be quite great.
A point I’m willing to go out on a limb and say has been all but overlooked by those with dollar signs in their eyes. Allow me to elaborate on that.
Acts of Treason
Let’s be honest, when we—the average fan, the working American, the kind of person who’s next paycheck ACTUALLY puts food on the table—see a group of already overpaid athletes and owners squabbling about how to divide up $9 billion, it really irks us; or it at least really irks me.
To add to this, they continue to push ticket prices higher so that average people can’t even afford to go to the games anymore.
Your average ticket for a game, depending on the team, now stands at about $75 for the nosebleed seats, and skyrockets from there for anything with a real view.
The playoffs and Super Bowl are a whole other matter entirely.
In fact, one thing I noted (or rather a close friend noted) as we were watching the Super Bowl this last season was just how quiet it seemed.
Sure there were the cheers and the cries from fans, but it wasn’t like any Super Bowl I remember. We chatted about this for a bit and came to the conclusion that in truth, the real supporters of a team—the rabid fans who clamber into their local bar through rain, sleet, or snow—simply can’t afford tickets anymore.
Especially not when going up against the likes of Best Buy, Budweiser, and a host of other corporate giants that hog hordes of them to hand out like party gifts to their prized employees, teams playing be damned.
So ticket prices are going through the roof, and for what my father paid for season tickets in 1980, he could buy a handful of games in the here and now; but what else is there?
Imagine you’re a family of four and you want to support your team, have a fun day out, and see the game. To start, for bottom of the line tickets (those way up high nosebleeds)—$300; and that’s just at the nation’s average.
Now, while you’re at the game the kids might want to get a dog, chips, and a Coke—and you’ll probably want a beer or two and maybe some nachos. When it’s all said and done, you’ve lightened your wallet by almost half a grand, and that’s just for three hours of entertainment.
That’s $166 an hour!
The Fan Cost Index (a tracker of what it costs to bring a family of four to a game) ranks Dallas as the highest priced outing—coming in at an insane $759 per game, or $253 an hour!!
And of course, as long as they fill the seats, they don’t care who’s watching the game. In fact, the NFL has fans by the "you know what" because if they don’t sell out, they blackout.
I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with that by now.
I’d also like to note just how much control the NFL exerts over its brand name.
The NFL has the most lucrative and expensive rights out of any American sport, and—save for soccer—the world. They also have the extreme pleasure of being exempt from American antitrust laws.
In case you’re not familiar with this, it means that the NFL has the choice to broadcast its games whenever, wherever, and with whomever it likes. That’s part of the main reason you have to fork over a small fortune to have DirecTV’s not-so-stellar service.
Another point I think we’re all pretty familiar with: the lawsuit the NFL tried to push through to steal away the phrase “Who Dat” from the New Orleans Saints. I won't even touch that.
To sum up, the NFL rakes in over $9 billion annually. That’s more than the total GNP of Armenia, the Bahamas (and most of the Caribbean), or over half of African nations.
So, while I do respect the fact that people have a right to argue wage, there’s a realistic level—and then there’s Disney dollars.
Now, there is a law of physics that states: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In the case of this possible lockout, I propose our own—the fans'—reaction.
I suggest that the opening game of the 2012 season (should there not be a 2011, of course) be "the game that no one went to." I suggest that the NFL be forced to blackout the game across the country.
It would be an act that would show our distaste for their bickering, while in the end, the fans, local business and employees suffer for real.
I realize that this is probably more of a pipe-dream than a reality, but in the end, the message it would send would be heard all the way up the chain. Right to Mr. Goodell’s desk.
And I’d be willing to bet a pretty nice steak dinner that things would change, even if it were only slightly. To semi-quote Marshall McLuhan: “Beware the Bewildered Herd.”
So we’ll see if there actually is a 2011 season or not.
I don’t want to get my hopes up that the court system can sort out this mess, but I’m happy to listen to the optimists and I certainly hope they are right.
Here’s to hopefully one more exciting NFL season and to dividing up $9 billion!