NFL Lockout: Beer Thinker's Take

Seattle Lion FanAnalyst IIJune 5, 2011

There have been a lot of articles written about the current NFL lockout.  While not meaning to pile on, I'd like to have NFL fans out there endure yet another one.

I am a Detroit Lions fan.  In the past, by admitting so, I would either get some top-notch insults, a lot of pity and of course, those that would question my sanity. 

As with any fan of any team, I think it's safe to say that many of us don't think the players or the owners have any concept of just how inane this negotiation is.

Is there really any financial hardship either side really has to endure?  I acknowledge the fact there are those "lunch bucket" players that spend most of their careers either getting the minimum NFL salary (as of 2010, the minimum salary in the NFL was $325,000 per year) or having to endure life on the practice squad ($5,200 per week for a 17 week NFL season which translates to $88,400).

And of course, there are the players on the fringe, those just not good enough for the NFL or those that just refuse to hang em up.  But are these really the players that are striking?  No, I don't think so. 

These players have the most to lose so they would have less incentive to strike.  They are indeed, riding on the backs of their superstar players that say they just want what's fair.

I'll get to the owners side a little further on down.  First, I want to share some quotes by the players regarding certain situations.  All quotes are from NFL unless otherwise indicated.

On Player Unity

“The reality is we’ve been communicating to our men throughout this whole process about what the offers really are, what the numbers really are, things that we have tried to agree upon that have not been agreed upon and as a group of men we knew it wasn’t a deal that our membership would accept.” - Jeff Saturday

When Jeff Saturday retires from football, he really ought to do some serious thinking about getting into politics.  There is so much double speak in the above quote, every time I read it I get a migraine.

But I think I know what Saturday is saying here:  That player representatives are doing there best to keep all the players in the loop and they are acting in their best interest. 

“I think we’re stronger than ever. The biggest thing we talked about was trying to find ways to getting back to playing football.” – Tony Richardson

I wonder about this.  Just who is going to be under more pressure to get a deal done? I would think the players more so than the owners since they could run out of money before the owners do.  But what if the networks got together and filed a lawsuit against the owners for breech of contract?  Since the networks gave them some serious money, wouldn't they expect to get what they paid for? 

Just asking.

On Roger Goodell's letter to the players

“It’s his attempt to divide us as a group of men. Anytime you send something out like that after we’ve been in negotiations for two-years plus a 15-day extension — all the things we’ve been through — it’s just one of those tactics different people use during the negotiations.”- Jeff Saturday

A fairly strong accusations considering all that Goodell was attempting to do was to push both sides to an agreement.  He asked that players "return to the bargaining table" to reach a new agreement.  Saturday conveniently ignored Goodell's sentiment that "each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk."  Bad Rodger, using tactics like that...shame on you.

On Decertification of the NFL Players Union

“Decertification was our way of ensuring that we had football. So we really did it for the game. We appreciate all your support, all your love for the game and we’ll do everything we can to get all this figured out.” -Tyson Clabo

Does anyone see that an NFL season for 2011 is a lock?  Please, don't insult these fans by telling us you did this solely for the good of the game.  As for doing everything you can, I got one response to that:  TRY HARDER!

 As for the owners side, there isn't much.  I'm guessing the legal team for the owners have told them not to say a word lest they say something wrong to give the players any kid of leverage.

In a nutshell, the main thing the owners want is an 18 game season.  In doing so, the owners will reduce pre-season games to two instead of four. 

My gut tells me the owners don't see any problems with this.  But then again, they aren't playing the games. 

Pre-season is all about getting the playbook down pat, evaluating new talent as well as depth going into the season and giving those players on the fringe a chance to show what they got.

When I first heard about going to an 18 game season, I thought what's the big deal?  Essentially, they will be playing the same amount of games, right?  The subtle difference between a pre-season game and a regular season games is one counts and the other doesn't

Coaches don't want to make major evaluations during the regular season.  They want to know going in what they have and know what the team's capabilities are.  The more time they have, the better job they can do.

Honestly, I think with less evaluation time, the quality of the game is in danger.  Football is all about preparation...the more you have the better you are.

The other sticking point of course is money.  This is a two-pronged issue.

First is player salaries.  Players want more money and the owners don't want exorbitant salaries.  Again, whose fault is it paying these exorbitant salaries in the first place?  The owners of course.  They attempt to use the same logic as used in the business world regarding CEO salaries.  They feel it's necessary to pay them to not go to another team.

An offshoot issue of this is rookie salaries.  On this point, the owners and players actually agree.  Rookies getting huge salaries before they even step onto an NFL field is a real slap in the face to other players that have proven themselves.

Both sides agreed to a sliding scale of contracts based upon the round in which players were drafted.  Granted, agents are howling about this but really can't do much about it.  They are just ticked because that 10% they get just got smaller.

The biggest issues is how to split the $9 billion dollars between the owners and players.

Can I just stop here for a minute?  $9 billion dollars.  That's a whole lot of money to be talking about how to split up when the current unemployment rate is over 9 percent. 

Sorry, I had to throw that in.  Back to the quibbling.  In the last CBA, the owners were allowed to take $1 billion off the top to cover miscellaneous operating expenses.  After that, the players got 59.6% in the form of a salary cap.  The rest of the $8 billion went to the owners.

Owners say they need to take $2.4 billion as operating expenses have increased.  They aren't asking the players to decrease their percentage, just that there will be $1.4 billion dollars less. 

Players of course were ticked off as that would mean an 18% decrease in salaries.  Granted the current contracts players have would not be affected but any future ones could be in danger.

Owners should not be asking for the additional $1.4 billion dollars.  They are ridiculous rich an can easily absorb any increase in miscellaneous operating expenses.

What it all boils down to is this:  The players would be just fine with the same CBA that expired in February.  The same amount of money for the same amount of games.

And in reality, given if that is agreed upon, everyone would still be getting rich.

At this point, while both sides are "discussing" the issues, we fans are out twisting in the breeze.  We are the reason the NFL is so successful.

There are great players, great teams, great stadiums, great television coverage and great games.  All would be inconsequential if it were not for fans shelling out hard earned money for season tickets, cable football packages and buying up souvenirs.

Fans are understandably angry at both sides right now.  And there have been many of them saying that they would boycott games because of millionaires arguing with billionaires about the obscene amounts of money being discussed.

But I don't see that really happening with any widespread backing.  The owners and the players know that once a deal is reached, fans will come back and all will be forgiven.

But I also suspect there will be some fans that will have very creative signs to hold up during games to send messages to both the players and owners.  I just wonder if the media will have enough guts to show them during the game.

This lockout can and should be ended quickly.  Fans are agitated not knowing if there will be an 18 or a 16-game season or will they have to endure a shorter season because neither side will give an inch.

My suggestions:

  • Agree to put back in place the expired CBA but with the rookie sliding scale in place
  • Agree to have a panel to investigate an 18-game season and what the real ramifications are.  If the players can feel injuries won't increase and coaches can feel confident they will have enough time to evaluate talent, then go for it.  And of they can't, take it off the table.
  • Revenue sharing:  Really?  $1.4 billion additional dollars?  Cut that in half and move on.

To both sides, and I say this for many fans, GET IT DONE!