2011 NFL Preview: Labor Dispute or Not, They Have to Play on 9/11

Derek CrouseContributor IIIMay 17, 2011

The first NFL Sunday is 9/11, are they willing to not play?
The first NFL Sunday is 9/11, are they willing to not play?Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Most fans understand the situation between the NFL players and owners is not going in the right direction at this moment. While some players love the time off, other players are working out together trying to get ready for another season.

September is not far away and will creep up on fans and players alike. The NFL realizes that having a strike is bad from an image standpoint, but this year holds much more meaning than just an average kickoff weekend.

When May 1st brought us the report that Osama Bin Laden had been assassinated by an unknown group of Navy Seals, the country united for a moment again. The U.S. made Bin Laden the poster boy for the war on terror, so it made sense that there was so much celebrating that night when the story broke on radios, smartphones, televisions, and computers.

During the Phillies game, the news broke and chants of U-S-A were loud and proud from both Mets and Philadelphia fans. Ironically, one of the jets that the passengers tried to stop crashed in that state on the infamous morning of September 11, 2001.

When the grief from September 11 gripped the nation, sports were a way for many people affected by the tragedy to escape for just a few hours. The NFL even postponed games out of respect for the country’s traumatic events and held ceremonies to remember the victims the following week. It was the first season that all teams wore the same memorial patch in honor of the victims. The New England “Patriots” ended up winning the Super Bowl that year, defeating the St. Louis Rams.

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks on that fateful day.

While the country will be remembering what was, the NFL will have to ask what is.

Wouldn't this be an opportune time to wipe clean the negative aspects of litigation, collective bargaining, and a sense of greed that some fans get from these lockout scenarios? Putting on the pads and playing on 9/11 would be a symbol of Americans bouncing back. This would be the best outcome for the league to gain all the exposure and popularity that they had prior. If the season does not get underway before September 11, 2011, I guarantee that the NFL will lose dollars and respect.

Football will always have their die-hard fans, but this sport has more casual fans than any sport in our country. This could lead fans to move to college football and the negative backlash from not starting the season could add up.

The league is already on it’s way to losing the hype that is NFL Training Camp. So many fans go to camps because they are free and provide a good family environment where they can see players up close and personal. The exposure that is created from these few weeks can’t be equaled. No other sport has so many people just watching teams practice. We’re talking about practice, not exhibition games.

No training camp will start the negative PR for the league that is already brewing.

No matter how many times we see player reps and owners walking the down the street in their designer suits talking about getting something done, it really doesn’t matter to the average fan. The bottom line is when are they going to be putting on uniforms? If you believe 9/11 was a government security mishap or was a complete surprise, one thing everybody has to agree on is that there were thousands of victims and it gripped the country.

If the NFL decides to postpone the season, numerous fans might unite like they did ten years ago. But this time the nation will come together against the NFL.

When our government was talking about a shut down, they stayed around and something got done. Will the NFL follow that blueprint to get something done when all else fails? They really don’t have any other choice.