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NFL Brand: Why Fans Are Powerless To Affect the NFL Lockout

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NFL Brand: Why Fans Are Powerless To Affect the NFL Lockout
Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Here's the NFL model that would make the most sense for the fans of the game.

First, team management would be turned over to the host city, whose "athletic department," (similar to a collegiate athletic department), would be in charge of hiring a team general manager and overseeing the operations of a stadium that the taxpayers have largely paid for (whether they are football fans or not).

Second, players would still operate under a system whereby they collect approximately 50 percent of the game revenue (somewhat less if they want to negotiate pension plans and health care).

Third, residual revenue would go to the team with a certain percentage going to subsidize the cost of tickets, concessions and parking, and the rest going to help alleviate the tax burden of the struggling citizenry and lend solvency to our bankrupt cities.

Why can't this happen?

Well, there are many reasons that I can think of, one stemming from the fact that this would be an expansion of the NFL's financially socialist model.

And we all know how dirty the "S" word can be.

But, when you consider the fact that the government already owns the "means of production" of the NFL because it largely funds the stadiums, and the workers (players) own themselves, then it's difficult to see where the NFL owners really fit into this competitively exempt model at all.

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Basically, they collect a hefty percentage off the top of what is ostensibly a socialist model already, with the key difference being that the extra revenue is not going back to the taxpayers, but to them.

How do I sign up?!?!

The only thing the owners contribute to the NFL is the actual brand itself, a thing that most current owners played absolutely no role in developing.

And that brand is a powerful thing.

It has history.

And glory.

And disappointment.

And rivalry.

And regional loyalty.

And statistics—decades worth of statistics for the loyal fans to pour over.

Though I am a Detroit-area sports fan, I generally say I'm a Lions fan when indicating my football allegiance.

And "Lions" is an NFL brand.

I've been a Lions fan my entire life and have dedicated a lot of time, energy and money in support of the team and have associated very personal experiences with my family and friends surrounding this franchise.

Leon Halip/Getty Images
Even the most dissapointed fan still proudly sports the logo.

I've stuck through the worst of the worst times with arguably the most abysmal product the league has to offer based on my devotion to brand.  If, somehow, another Detroit professional football team surfaced to rival the Lions, even if it prescribed the sensible system above, I'd have a hard time buying in.

And the funny thing is that I'm not a brand guy.

I buy my shoes at Walmart and I buy my clothes largely online at superstores dedicated to selling things cheaply.

If you're a brand-name distributor and your products are not at least 50 percent off, don't even talk to me.

Only with the Lions am I willing to pay the hefty brand tariff into the pockets of an owner who, until recently, seemed to view my donations with contempt.

Only with the Lions have I been willing to put up with a poor product, poor management and poor customer service.

Only with the Lions will I waste hours of my precious Sunday, leaving the "to-do" list undone, watching the bills mount and allowing my respite time to quickly fade into another ominous Monday morning.

All this for a brand.

And it is this very brand that holds all fans of football hostage when it comes to the ongoing and thoroughly ridiculous negotiations going on in the NFL right now.

In some ways, I literally define myself as a Lions fan, and I'm sure the same can be said of the Steelers, Raiders or Packers fans out there.

And it becomes much more personal when we are denied something so integrated into our being.

So while some writers are rightly saying that the NFL isn't the end-all be-all of football, that there are other sports to be watching, that the NFL risks alienating its fanbase and that the fans have the power to affect change, I know that this bluster is secretly not true.

We, the loyal followers of the NFL, are brand addicts.

Like all addictions, there are some signs that it isn't particularly good for us.

It wastes our time.

It makes us drink more.

It makes us eat terrible food.

It makes us exercise less.

It can cause relationship strife.

It costs us money and productivity.

We're treated like dirt and yet we keep crawling back for more.

We're the junkies and the league is the dealer.

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Such is the power of brand and such is the reason why even if a rival league was initiated, it would be destined to fail or be mired in obscurity.  It would have a different name and a different history.

I am a Lions fan and it would take a major intervention to change that.

And even if I could somehow kick the habit, like all junkies, I'd secretly be craving more, living life on the precipice and awaiting the inertia to fall back in.

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