15 Ways How Lockout, Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Made NFL Better
Rob Carr/Getty Images
As it appeared in my inbox, this assignment read, "15 Ways the Lockout Made the NFL Better." While I respect the infinite wisdom of B/R's powers that be, that title seemed painfully inadequate.
In a vacuum, the lockout didn't do much of anything.
It robbed us of football (or the guise of football we weren't actually having anyway). It pelted us with legalese. It made mild mockeries of even the priviest insiders, none of whom knew what the hell was going on or when.
So, to save me a headache and my credibility a hacking, I knew I had to take a liberty, acknowledging the impact of the 2011-2021 collective bargaining agreement.
What, specifically, did the deal do to better the game, the business and our fandom of both? What terms positively impacted gameplay? What clauses did wonders for which revenue streams? What considerations made watching and rooting at stadiums or on La-Z-Boys altogether funner?
And to include the CBA, you'd have to incorporate negotiations (which do, in fact, offer their own, isolated and indelible lessons) toward the CBA, very much affected by the lockout.
Given the prospect of losses—games and dollars—how did sides conform to the situation? What concessions had to be made?
In other words, we're looking at this ordeal start to finish and making sense of what's been made better.
In case you're wondering, we had plenty to choose from.
Criteria: What Do We Mean by "Better" and for Whom?
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Sometimes winning is zero-sum. For Day 2-drafted veterans to secure more guaranteed money, rookies had to take less. For the legitimacy of the union to endure, individuals—like side money-seeking rogues Logan Mankins and Vincent Jackson—couldn't.
In other words, you couldn't have winners without losers.
And if we were to try to put this list together on an individual, result-for-party basis, we'd epically fail. Contradictions and caveats and asterisks would litter the slides like bad jokes at the ESPYs. (1)
Couldn't have that.
So we're looking through the broadest lens at the biggest picture. We're factoring in all relevant nuggets of information and applying them to all vested stakeholders.
And if the marginal detriment of something berthed by the last four-and-a-half months of football-lessness outweighs the marginal good, it's considered a loss overall.
If not, it's bound for this list.
(1) Consider this the eulogy of the Seth Meyers jab. That was like four months ago. Even though he ignores the shelf life of a joke...
I'm done. Really. Done.
1. Life of New Collective Bargaining Agreement
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
This one's pretty simple.
This ordeal was defined by ebb and flow. Steps backward as a prerequisite for the strides made. Things may be better. But we paid a toll to get there.
In other words, this sucked for a while.
Love his work, but 175-plus days of Roger Cossack teetered on overkill. Felt like one of those zombie-eyed extras in search engine overload commercials.
So the second the longevity of the new deal circulated, victory horns sounded for fans. The 10-year life of the agreement hedges against similar contention for a decade. So we won't be dealing with a lockout for a while.
Nor, like, will we with a strike. It's possible that players walk, especially without the opt-out clause in Year 7 they fought for. Typically timed immediately before or abruptly after labor deals expire, strikes aren't expected before industry-union agreements wane.
Safe to take the under in a 0.5-line set for the number of stoppages to arise by 2022. In fact, consider this officially relinquishing ownership of that intellectual property to whatever bored Vegas bookie needs it.
If conventional prop bets about beers-to-boobies in Super Bowl commercials get stale, feel free to use mine, sans royalites.
Nice guy, I am...
2. Reduced Training Camp, OTA Calendar
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
If you're of the belief that the reduced burden on players—the CBA cut OTAs from 14 to 10 and nearly axed two-a-days (1)—has capped the softification of the NFL feel free to stop reading. (2) Like, please. I'm begging, if not imploring or ordering, you.
Much how Bill Simmons and A.J. Daulerio sunbathe in the pride of having sports journalism's savviest readers, I'm shooting for a readership with a mean computing power somewhere between a bath towel and a toddler.
If you think more 100-plus-degree practices—a euphemism for injuries—are good, you're pulling that number down.
So please. Stop.
And for obligatory statistical substantiation...
ESPN's Sport Science estimates that some 70 percent of all NFL injuries occur during practice. And though the breakdown isn't readily available, conventional wisdom tells you that injuries cluster during the beginning and end of seasons, both of which can be assuaged by curbing training camp intensity.
On the one hand, you figure the most prominent injuries occur during the most caustic practices. And, for those of you who've never played or watched four seconds NFL Network programming between August and September or HBO's Hard Knocks, camp practices are tough like no other (or like a mother or both).
Needless to say, most injuries likely occur in camp.
And like mitigating any risk, reducing opportunity reduces undesired outcome. In other words, less practice means fewer injuries.
Or—as it is entirely possible—you could argue that injuries flare during the tail-end of seasons. Coaches might relent some as the leaves turn, but players' bodies have had enough by then and buckle. They've been too beaten for too long and simply can't handle more.
Largely because of the early season loads from training camp.
So whether you whittle the calendar to cushion against seven other Mikell Lashoure/Nick Fairley camp couples or to diminish the likelihood that Aaron Smith's triceps explode in October is irrelevant. Fewer injuries means better quality football.
Aka, not the XFL (3).
I can live with that.
I can also sleep knowing that my selfish fandom doesn't contribute to how others live their lives, i.e. with dementia or Alzheimer's or whatever further examination reveals the degree of concussion-related trauma triggers.
(1) And if two-a-days are nipped, so too are three-a-days, transitively speaking. You know there were still a few whackjob loonies who'd have pushed players for 34 consecutive hours in sweltering haze with only a thimble's worth of of water if they could.
Now, they can't.
(2) Or trying to read. There are really only a few conditions under which I peg opinions to assumptions of intelligence. This is one of them.
I'm pretty sure if you align with Bart Scott on this one, you're either the roided out supporting character in Blue Mountain State, some slovenly meth head extra from Breaking Bad or a curiously toothed bumpkin akin to someone—anyone!—from Deliverance.
Or just your own brand of patently stupid. Some people...
(3) May you rest ETERNALLY. In peace or pieces or whatever. Without intervention. Might've been the worst thing to ever happen to sports. Ever.
While I'm on the topic, consider this a formal movement to set parameters to discipline anyone who tries to bring it back. Should a sports league defibrillation so much as pop into someone's thought bubble, real, conventional hospital paddles should be slapped on their ears.
Don't even have to implement a plan. Or utter a word. We're talking Minority Report precog status. So much as the thought deserves punishment.
3. Free Agency
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Look, I get it.
This is presumably a one-time gift, the product of rare and unforseen (and largely unfavorable) circumstances that isn't likely to surface again, at least not for another 10 years.
Though it could.
The architects of the collective bargaining agreement and relative heavy hands could legislate this frenzied free agent signing and trading period back into football. It's totally feasible.
And if they're hurting for ideas, well...
You simply institute transaction periods. Isolated windows. Brief opportunities.
Three to be exact, one in the 48 hours before the April draft, running through Day 3 (1). Another during the week immediately preceding the start of the first training camp, exactly how this one went. (2)
And one last call between preseason Weeks 2 and 3. Figure this lets teams shuffle their decks when players go down with injury.
That means 19 days of free agent transacting overall, before the season starts. Once the regular season hits, teams would be allowed to sign or trade (or sign-and-trade) players until the typical, Week 6 trade deadline.
Think about it. Not only would you shore up the only identifiable deficiency with the past NFL draft— that teams couldn't swap players, clipping the normal volume of player and pick transacting and 99 percent of fan interest in the event—but you'd turn it into the weekend's single-most strength!
The same urgency that defined these last two weeks would be multiplied like a gerbil, bookending the conventional free agency period that lingers on for months and for months doesn't really matter. A period diluted by nothingness.
Kind of like other popular sports complaints...
If you've ever uttered, "When will the NBA, NHL or MLB take something off the top of their schedules? They're too damn long!" you have to side with me by default (2). Structuring free agency in short, intermittent spurts like these carve all the fat away.
Significantly fewer distractions at OTAs and training camps, because the ravenous free agent markets before both—and knowing that a missed opportunity only offers one second chance—would pluck malcontents and unmotivateds from rosters.
Everything would matter.
And for those of you reading those parenthetical examples as a contradictory argument (if it just happened under those circumstances, why wouldn't it in the future?), remember that this was the first time teams operated under that system. Of course there'd be growing pains.
Moving forward, though, front offices can learn. Can use these as examples as consequences of dawdling.
And those who can't will be relinquished to bad GM purgatory. There's already a series of tests that stratify executives—winning in contracts and trades, talent evaluating, savvy drafting—and this just adds a wrinkle.
And not, like, Cameron Diaz wrinkle that no makeup artist can powder away (3). Like, plot thickening, wrinkles of an enhanced, bettered game.
(1) Assuming they stick with that format. You never know, given the 10 percent ratings walloping ESPN took during this year's selection show, both the first under the new, three-day template starting with a 7 p.m. ET kickoff on Thursday, and through the yawns of a lockout-frozen trade block.
If it's blamed on the first (which it shouldn't), network execs might shuffle the schedule, returning to the Day 1-Day 2 mold of the past or redrafting for something newer or better. Truthfully, I'm not sure they need to.
If it's blamed on the second (which it should), the shot-callers might let draft weekend marinade for a few more years, to see how it normalizes over time. Pretty sure that the single best non-football football event of the year and prime time were made for one another.
(2) This year, that would have been July 15-22, ending with when St. Louis and Chicago's camps were set to open. It's technically earlier, but you're assuming the preseason isn't accordionned.
(3) And even if you haven't, because in this imaginary realm of my B/R archives—of which this becomes a part the second it's written and over which I rule supreme—I said so.
(4) Unequivocal travesty that the woman had to age. And so fast! There's Something About Mary feels just days old.
4. Media Coverage
Christopher Polk/Getty Images
I don't think people—and by "people" I mean sports fans; and by "sports fans" I mean consumers of sports news—realize how much they'll benefit from the lockout as it pertains to media coverage.
Not only are reporters seasoned in digesting and disseminating the meaning behind cluttered legalese in its most understandable form, but their breadth as newsbreakers widened substantially because of it.
While the former applies almost entirely to lightning-fast turnaround—more-than-complicated by 300-page documents (1) and half-hourly from 2-6 p.m. (for radio), 6 p.m. (for SportsCenter) and 11 p.m. (for print) deadlines—the latter alludes to "treble damages" and Sherman Antitrust Acts, topics the average journalist hadn't really seen before.
Yet they learned it, and spat it back at us in what I'd call pretty commendable fashion (2).
Now there were some bumps; people were more-than-uninterested in the updates, however pivotal to their understanding...
Oh? You mean nobody cared about the state of the lockout? Like, didn't want to hear anything other than it being over? Like at all?
Guess the media learned that too, that people look at sports as their escape, not a game of intellectual Twister with more red and yellow and green dots than their stiff mental flexibility lets them touch at once. They'll adapt.
Not saying they'll gloss over the information entirely, but the prominence of that news, meaninglessness of everything else and indifference of the people pretty clearly demonstrated that outlets need to tailor their coverage. Make it simpler. More palatable. Intriguing, if not entertaining (or both).
You'd figure that's nothing new, given the overwhelming yawn that follows most court cases (i.e. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Michael McAdoo and U.S. Department of Justice probe into the BCS and everything else mentioned and unappreciated here).
But the difference was this was football. This was all that mattered.
Granted, the lockout overlapped with a relatively dead period in the league calendar, but that didn't complicate the position of The World Leader and others. They had to dedicate copious amounts of time to covering the lockout, yet couldn't afford to.
I'm reaching on this in lieu of ad revenue lines to all the networks and newspapers to support it, but I'm fairly certain that SportsCenter and the rest of ESPN's lineup suffered massive ratings hits during the last four-and-a-half months.
Think about it: The lockout was simultaneously the most important news topic (meaning it domineered face time on the network) and the one people cared about least (meaning they likely tuned out).
Conventional wisdom would tell you that you would frame your coverage to fit viewers' tastes, to spread the most news (or at least news that would actually reach people, given that news fallen on deaf ears isn't really news) and rake the most cash.
In other words, that news outlets would cover the lockout significantly less.
Needless to say, they couldn't exactly gloss over the single most significant juncture in sports history as if it weren't happening. This goes more for broadcasting—there's been a disconnect between newspapers and readers for, like, nine zillion years, and the light bulb doesn't show signs of flashing— but the credibility of news entities nation-wide were at stake.
They couldn't ignore the lockout into irrelevance, no matter how badly it hurt their bottom lines (again, a complete assumption that it did). They had to report it, report it well and in a fashion well-received by the masses.
You started to see some of that toward the tail-end of the agreement—much more visuals, bullet-pointed graphics and other synopses that painted a clearer (and consequently more engaging) picture —but something's telling me that won't be good enough.
In retrospect, some VP of Programming is going to reflect upon the coverage during a conference call with the VP of Marketing Relations and say, "Well Scott, really screwed the pooch on that one, huh? Guess we can't have that again."
And in that moment of reckoning, two beautiful products will be berthed: Evolution and information. They'll find a way to retool the way they cover that news to pull the most viewers and revenue dollars, however it has to happen.
That could be different instruments and more of them, like graphics and framed conversations (round table vs. stand-up) or whatever they throw together. Or it could be a different breed of sportscaster, which if it gets me a job, I'm totally for. Whatever it takes to pique people's interest.
(Important to note: That could be applied to conventional news sources, like your major networks and newspapers, neither of which anybody seems to give a damn about.
Again, this has plagued print journalism since the Cretaceous, when wily haired and curiously toothed writers first refused to conform to a dynamic news environment.
But you figure the brink of insolvency and obsolescence might up the ante a little. Maybe now, the memo that "abacus" does not belong in any joke, in print, the spoken word or otherwise, and witticisms should be capped at 13 words will reach one desk at the New York Times.
Or at least push someone close enough to a ledge to try and give me a job, fragile and tragic a state of mind that must be.)
All the while, they'd synchronously make understanding it seem more urgent for sports fans. More urgency means more interest, more interest means more learning.
And there you have it, the berth of the savviest generation of sports fans ever. You thought sabermetrics was the Limitless pill of our time. Psh.
Other noteworthy benefits:
Twitter. If there were ever questions about Twitter's indelible place in news breaking, or the news media's indelible role as primary news breakers, let's put those to bed: Twitter's here to stay, writers' and broadcasters' exclusivity isn't.
Look no farther than how @Clayton_ESPN became as stapled in pop culture as the True Blood near-overnight. Dude had 10,000 followers the first hour he publicized his page and how athletes broke as many stories as reporters in 140 characters or fewer. Crazy phenomenon.
Radio. Radio programming might have been as poorly suited as any a medium to handle this influx of information. Print ads are completely compartmentalized. And while TV has the same time constraints and need to use some of it to plug advertisers, broadcasters have visuality as an advantage.
Logos are infinitely more important by way of brand recognition and can be—in the case of, say, Coors Light "Cold Hard Facts" on SportsCenter—left on-screen to optimize advertisers' exposure. In other words: They don't have to spend as much time talking about who's paying the bills.
Thus, you have a time crunch.
And, given the relative size of a radio programming department versus that of a TV network, there are fewer people to inform talent of what's going on.
Not to mention radio's impossible complication of continuous two- and four-hour blocs, compared to the one-hour duration of your typical TV news show, during which time the next crew to hit air can prep with the latest information available (much of it updates on stories that happened in real time as the comparably shorter show before them was in progress).
Pretty tough to break, if not make sense of, news as it happens when the whole world is listening to your sputtering train of thought, the same choppy process that all of us go through to stumble upon our opinions and reactions to hot-button issues.
Nevertheless, radio adapted (3). Stations already knew how to glue themselves to individual outlets.
Say, both the Tampa Bay and Philadelphia newspapers during the Flyers' flirtation with then-restricted free agent Lightning player Steven Stamkos but blossomed into entities capable of poring through multiple sources for several overlapping stories at once, not to mention Twitter and RSS feeds shoveling news down their throats faster than most people should be able to process McDonald's dinner plans.
It was pretty impressive to watch (4). But not nearly as much as it will be in this, immediate future, seeing the little-little brother of the media emerging as something vastly more authoritative.
(1) In the case of the latest (and ultimately last) proposed collective bargaining agreement, the only one that was actually put on paper. But that doesn't mean every previous offer didn't have the same girth and trickiness and cloudiness, even if only in theory. Still a lot of information to process and pass onto the people.
(2) "That" being the information they were given. Needless to say, it was pretty frigging frustrated to thumb through AP news wire update after ESPN Radio interview after SportsCenter appearance, each of which promised me the lockout was all but over, only to find another month-plus of indecision. But those were details unknown to the reporters.
While it's the reporters' job to ascertain those details—you know, the ones with heavier implications than anything actually being reported, since they'd render said reported details obsolete (if not inaccurate)—that's an entirely separate conversation for another slide.
(One that yes, is totally coming...)
(3) Trust me when I say, I can attest to this personally. So long as you believe in me, the good, honest and somewhat ambiguously budding radio personality, you should believe in this.
(4) And if you didn't believe me for footnote No. 3, consider this really lobbying for your confidence.
5. Idle Hands Are, Well, Somebody's Playground
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
I actually sided with Ray Lewis' forecast for rising crime rates in lieu of football. It was a few years ago, but ever the since fuzzied details of Dr. Charles Fenwick's criminology class tells me that generally agitated people (disgruntled football fans) with sudden loads of free time (bored football fans) roaming empty city streets (lifeless from the sucked-dry traffic to and around stadiums) is a pretty cookie-cut equation for crime.
And if there were to be a foremost party responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime, you'd figure that would be players with more time on their hands than they could handle.
Funny thing, though, is that there wasn't. Much to the dismay of Kenny Britt's and Cedric Benson's best efforts to hike the per capita arrest total for the rest of their comparably law-abiding peers, most of the players stayed perfectly behaved throughout those four-and-a-half months.
Even better were the heart-hugging stories: Leonard Pope saved a six-year-old from drowning in a local pool. Devin Hester contributed to a Chicago-area magazine in a column geared toward urban, African-American parents.
Does it get any better than that? (Or a Rick Reilly column?!)
Look: I know that it's probably short-lived, or not nearly as attributable to the lockout or CBA as Pope and Hester individually.
But under the criteria set forth on Slide 2, any positive outcome prompted, precipitated or enabled by the lockout, negotiations or agreement, all of which, considering how long they were dragged out, provided the opportunity for these acts (1), these totally apply, even if only as one-time feel-good stories.
I'll take it.
(1) It's likely that Hester would've been too busy to train, though, admittedly, he might've still had time to contribute. Pope, on the other hand, would have been at Chiefs training camp the day that Bryson Moore sunk to the bottom of a public swimming pool before being saved.
6. Rookie Wage Scale
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
This was fair.
Like it or not, highly drafted rookies do deserve a disproportionate amount of money, maybe even teetering on ridiculousness, considering their relative inexperience.
But for years, that premium was hundreds of percents worth of veterans' salaries. That's not straddling the fence. Ít's so laughable that it keeled over into the neighbor's bushes.
Within this CBA rests the happy medium.
Teams have to shell out money for players whose last impressions in college warrant the insurance money, in the event of some career-threatening injury to a top pick who's vested everything and then some into football and deserves it because he panned out.
But they're not on the hook to the degree that they used to, for five- and six-year deals worth exorbitant amounts of cash.
Works out great for players, too, who might have to take the initial hit of relatively devalued deals but can more-than-compensate with a more quickly approaching free agency, for which they're eligible after three years, or a franchise tender, for which they're eligible if teams pick up their fourth-year option, binding them to a payout worth the top 10 (franchise tags are top five, though this is still pretty good) of players at their position.
The only losers here are the frauds, players whose college reels dupe players into overpayment. Can't really feel bad for them.
7. Collectivism Prevails
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
I've more-than-filled my quota of shots at Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins—not just in this show, pretty sure I hammer on them like a critical Habitat For Humanity home builder (1)—but I'm having trouble justifying stopping.
Look, they nearly compromised the entire collective bargaining process for their part in the 11-client class-action lawsuit.
Totally get that a few dudes might miffed by the franchise tag. And while I don't like it, I stayed out of their generic contractual holdouts, even if they did run through October. Not going to dip my hand in someone else's pocket, making value judgments about their money.
But this quest for individual damages—they reportedly wanted $10 million apiece and a lifetime exemption from the tag—would've been laughable if it wasn't so selfish.
Not sure about you but my impression of the goal of a class-action suit is to hide behind your numbers (2) and for the betterment of said numbers. If a given plaintiff is exceptionally "damaged" by the behavior leading to the suit, they deserve to be made whole again, however steep a cost that comes to the defendant.
They're not, however, supposed to commandeer the proceedings for their own glut, and certainly not at the expense of the rest of the 1,900-player membership. While the assumption is that Jackson's and Mankins' restitution would've applied to the rest of the plaintiffs, if not the entire union, that's not how it seemed.
You generally got the impression toward the end that the damages they sought would apply to them, and them alone.
If not, and if they truly did embody the spirit of the class-action suit, they had a really crappy way of showing it. Again, the schism from the rest of the group, undercutting union leaders (3) and jeopardizing the opportunity for an agreement altogether (4).
But that's not how this shook out. Ultimately, Jackson and Mankins caved under pressure from the union to abandon their original demands or at least that's the logical read on their adamant denial of their reported demands and abandonment of them shortly thereafter.
In the end, the overtone boomed like that of a union, even if one in defeat. That's the spirit of a suit: a collective outcome. Maybe one shared marginally more or less, comparable to the individual plaintiff's damages (5) but ultimately under the umbrella of a group-wide decision.
Score one for collectivism.
(1) If there was such a thing. Sweet people, those Habitat-ers are...
(2) Kind of how the cripples band against Peter Griffin in Family Guy, joining together at the spokes to form that Power Ranger zord-looking thing.
(3) Prompted the following quotes from DeMaurice Smith, blatantly jabbing at Jackson and Mankins: "Every individual person has to make a decision on whether they want to become part of a union," Smith said. "The individual decisions are something that our players take extremely serious." Yeah...
(4) Remember: Players had a deadline to ratify the owner-approved CBA proposal after which time owners said they'd pull it. But in order to stamp that offer, and recertify as a union, the NFLPA needed to settle all outstanding court cases, one each for retiree benefits, owner-hoarded TV broadcasting revenues and the 11-plaintiff suit of which Jackson and Mankins were the a part.
(5) If we're talking about a Civil Action-type suit, someone with ostensibly greater detriment to their health. Not that anyone's cancer or malformation or compromised health is worth more or less than anyone else's, just that healthcare for varying medical ailments is.
Here, you'd have to sell me that Mankins and Jackson were not only both more deserving than Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning of a lifetime of franchise tag Teflon, and more financially clipped because of it. Have fun with that in the comment box below...
8. 16-Game Schedule Stays
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Feel free to refer back to the "reduced ofseason calendar" slide. Pretty much the same applied logic, only toward the senseless rigor of an expanded regular season schedule by two games. Just dumb. Patently, primed for "Moment of Zen" dumb.
Also, the 18-game schedule's smothering (1) preserved the preseason.
And, truthfully, I actually like the preseason. Know I might stand alone on this one, and similarly be throwing myself to the frothy-mouthed dogs of critique for it, but I genuinely enjoy the position battles.
The David Carrs scrapping for backup snaps in New York and Carolina (2), the Victor Cruzes (3), the rises of obscure college players whose back story only I care about (4).
All of it. I sincerely love preseason football, however littered with laundry and atrocious special teams it always is.
Long live the preseason!! And pro running backs wearing single-digit numbers!! And more unathletic white guys than one TV broadcast should be able to handle!!
(1) It wasn't shot down, more shelved for now. CBA legalese allows the players to revisit the issue, if they so choose. Let's hope, for the sake of the preseason and their physical well-being (not in that order of priority, obviously), they don't.
(2) I was so impressed from Carr for two years running that I legitimately thought he deserved a crack at the 49ers gig. I know, not much, suggesting that someone else should have Alex Smith's job. But Carr?! It was knowingly sacrilege, and I was consciously indifferent.
(3) Pretty sure every word association game with "Victor Cruz" last fall went something like this: (You) Victor Cru... (Me) BOSS!!!
(4) Like Micah Hyde, for example. Pretty sure nobody knows who the hell he is, or that he intercepted then-Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert to ice his Hawkeyes' Insight Bowl win last winter.
But rest assured, if he comes out in 2013—he's entering his junior year—anonymously, I will totally be wearing a T-shirt with his name and number scribbled on it in the colors of whatever team he signs with in free agency after he goes undrafted.
Guess that might not happen, though, with Hyde pretty highly touted coming out. Hmmm... Maybe I should've just gone with Quentin Griffin...
9. Expanded Thursday Night Football Schedule
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The league's unquenchable thirst for cash (1) also bore an expanded Thursday Night Football schedule that runs throughout the season.
That's right, 16 games of Brad Nessler (yay), who's totally worth it, even if it means a year worth of Mike Mayock. Can't wait until 2012.
(1) I'm really only kidding. Only using that tone to play up the, "Bad owner!" sentiment shared by 99 percent of my readership. Actually think the owners and players should wring this puppy for every dime of revenue. That's what capitalism is all about (2).
(2) And if you don't like it, yet feel your skin crawl at the thought of socialism (yuck!), you're a breathing paradox (3).
(3) Not to mention completely uneducated on a.) the tenets of socialism and b.) the 2007 financial crisis, precipitated by the very deregulation that socialism—a moderate government regulation of business— would've hedged against.
10. Absence (Or Apprehension of Absence) Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
No, we didn't end up missing a single snap, unless you count the Hall of Fame Game, which ironically (1) fell on my birthday weekend in Atlantic City, rendering it to the after burners of a wild two days of clubbing and shenaniganing. At least for me, the only one who would've watched anyway.
But the expectation that games would be missed, the prevailing sentiment both at the very beginning and near-end, should make football that much more appreciated this fall.
Not sure my fandom needed a shot in the arm (2), but if it did, this more-than-sufficed.
(1) Really wasn't ironic. Only reason I didn't see it coming was because I somehow failed to connect the dots that an Aug. 7 Sunday game would've overlapped with my annual brain cell-killing trek down to AC.
Don't know how I botched that one, but I guess it didn't matter anyway.
(2) I wanted to say buttox, but wasn't sure if a steroid reference was appropriate. But for those of you saying, "Damn, dude. Really think you should've went all ''adult reference' there," I use footnotes for reasons like this exactly.
Feel free to copy and paste this entire text into a Microsoft Word document, click the "find and replace" tab and replace "arm" with "buttox."
We call that one consideration of readers.
11. Hold the (Unjustified) Holdouts, Please
Al Bello/Getty Images
I'm not dissenting of holdouts; actually think they're pretty constructive tools, when used properly and by the proper(ly slighted) individuals.
Not for rookies, be they No. 1 overall picks quibbling over percentage points solely because they haven't netted a full $10 million over the deal signed by the previous year's first pick (JaMarcus Russell).
Or for those confused by appropriately lesser figures than those offered to position players taken before them in the same year's draft (Michael Crabtree).
Or for your quintessential malcontent, who only marginally and ambiguously outplayed their contracts (if they did at all), but roam the sidelines of training camp moping (if they showed up at all), Osi Umenyiora.
Now, if you're entirely against the principle of a holdout, and shutter at the mere mention of an alliterative word for the entire month of July, you're out of luck.
There will be holdouts, even with a CBA that fines players $30,000 a day for every day of missed training camp, strips players of a year of league service who don't report by Aug. 9 (1) and mandates that free agent candidates accrue four before hitting the open market.
If you identify with my constructs for a justified holdout, you're as much a winner as I am. Because the only holdouts you'll see are the ones that are worth it.
For one, they won't be nearly as selfish as the ones of old. Should a player choose to hold out, and do so for a long enough time that his team has to cave to his demands, he's not only a.) tragically underpaid, given that no agent would let a player who didn't have a near-inarguable case for a raise lose more money in fines than his base salary, and b.) valuable enough to a playoff-bound team that the fear of said player missing only one or two games conjures imagery of a 6-10 season, scare tactics enough to cough the money out of them like a Heimlich on a piggy bank.
In other words: He's a player who has every reason to hold out. And I'm totally cool with that.
(1) Or whatever arbitrary date is set for future league years. Today's Tuesday date is only relative to the smushed contingency date in this augmented league year.
12. Tighter Salary Cap
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Any time a league willingly tightens its belt to mirror the financial constraints of its regressed fans' economy—you know, like in the "real world"—I'm totally for it.
And that's not just talking about the salary cap, some $9 million per team less than the $129 million in the NFL's last capped year. It's likely also going to apply on an individual basis, the eventual polarizing of certain position players' worth (1).
You know the number will rise in step with the ballooning value of a league soon-to-be the only one in operation. But the days of monetary recklessness are over in pro sports (2), much in part thanks to this clipped salary cap.
(1) Pretty pumped about that also. Not sure if it's going to be a book yet—kind of tough to write The Blind Side of sports business forecasting without the heartwarming anecdotal nuggets you're using to illustrate the trend you're suggesting when they haven't happened yet—but definitely an essay or thesis or something on the future of football compensation.
Again, kind of like Michael Lewis' book, only proactive to a shift I think is coming, rather than reactive to one that has.
Whatever the format, it's pretty needless to say that I'm stoked (3).
(2) Given that this past free-agent period is over, that is. And though you'd think it contradictory to credit the lockout/CBA for instilling a little frugality in the league and noting the near-ridiculousness of DeAngelo Williams' and Charles Johnson's contracts as some of the first orders of business, it's important to be heady of the bigger picture.
This was a necessary evil, only because of the unexpectedness of this compressed free agent period.
Again, UNEXPECTEDNESS. Not "compressed."
If anyone followed my slides/footnotes closely enough to catch that blaming an accelerated free agent/trading period for fiscal irresponsibility (something I don't like) and suggesting that we perpetuate it hereafter (something I do like) would be a pretty damning paradox for my credibility, fear not.
The two are totally separate entities.
(3) If this was radio, my finger would be hovering over the dump button as I talked about this, I'm so excited (4).
(4) No, to any programming director who may or may not be reading this, I totally don't swear or even put my foot in my mouth without profanity. Ever. Like, not even in the heat of excitement about a future project. It's like 100 percent safe to put me on your air. At all times.
In fact, to prove it, I'm officially offering that you put me on air at all times, meaning all day, just to prove it to you. It's selfless, I know. But that's just how I roll, I guess. "True Gentleman," indeed (5).
(5) That part's actually not tongue-in-cheek at all. Holla to any and all ΣAE's checking in.
13. Higher Salary Floor
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Any time an industry forces its players to, you know, operate in the best, altruistic interests of the group overall, I'm similarly a fan (1).
And while the NFL always had a spending floor, the somewhat laughable $50 million chasm between the highest- and lowest-spending teams—the difference in team payrolls between the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, the last capped year—discredited it some.
Almost like a rule for the sake of being able to say you have a rule, even though the rule doesn't really accomplish what a reasonably structured rule could (2).
This one—mandating that teams spend, in cash, 90-plus percent of that year's salary cap—isn't just a formality, though. It does exactly what baseball should've been doing since Stonehenge and has comparably blown as a business because it hasn't for as long. Making owners spend money.
Look, I get it. Most owners got their starts as big-ballin' businessmen, many of whom schmoozed their way to the top by showering clients with can't-forget moments like those sporting events offer.
Seems pretty cost synergistic, then, to simply buy a sports team whose games you can shuttle in whoever the hell you want for your "real job."
But owners should be forced to make money through fielding competitive teams. No, I'm not arguing against anyone earning profits.
However unreasonable they may seem to some people who feel differently on the subject than I do, totally think $900 zillion dollars is not only OK, but embodies the majesty of the inherently capitalistic society we live in.
So no, I'm not bothered by owners who a bunch of scratch but opening your doors shouldn't be enough.
I'd make the argument that, just like parents were at the mercy of McDonald's when it advertised to their kids, fans and families can't be expected to fight indifferent sports team owners who pocket revenues instead of pumping it back into their teams.
For one, fandom is predominantly regional, making it kind of tough for the Tampa Bay Rays fan to simply adopt a new team, especially when the next closest is the Florida Marlins.
And it's next-to-incurable, with only few documented instances of legitimate "true fans" the kind rabid enough to spend money on tickets and memorabilia, to switch allegiances in recorded American history.
Logic-founded arguments aside, it's just crappy, not to mention more-than-mildly contradictory. Pretty sure the most valuable sports franchises also happen to be the most consistently viable (2).
In other words: What the hell are you thinking, (person who I've slammed enough in my footnotes to lay into him here too...)?!?
(1) Just not of Malcolm Glazer, who emerges as the foremost bum of this new economic age of sports, being the only guy to spend next-to-nothing in a blatant attempt to optimize his penny pinching before 2013, when the salary floor rules actually trigger.
(2) Even Manchester United, which, yes, Glazer owns and came into owning via a nearly 90 percent debt purchase of the team, arguably the most fiscally irresponsible decision since your 16-year-old stole your credit card and dove her face into a Coach catalogue.
Yet felt really bad about it and told you because no one's that stupid (one), heartless (two) and stupid (three).
(3) Submitting... my... entry... to... Guinness... for... most... uses... of... "rule"... in... single... thought... (3)
(3) Same... thing... for... elipses... (4)
14. Benefits for Retired Players
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Tough to argue with $900 million (at least) over the next 10 years set aside for retiree benefits, $620 million of which is to be designated for a "Legacy Fund" devoted to the pre-1993 retirees (who weren't properly represented by their comparably weak union during those bouts of collective bargaining).
And $50 million per year set aside for medical research, healthcare programs and NFL charities or for grandfathering in current players into the player medical plan for life.
Pretty cut and dry.
15. Resolution Ripples
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
I've done pretty good adhering to my own criteria throughout this slideshow. Every open-to-interpretation contradiction was clarified with a footnote, while the rest were simply straight shooting.
But given the contentiousness of the NBA's labor talks (and my squeamish feelings about what's supposed to be a buttered path to a smooth MLB labor deal), I figured I'd leave with this parting shot of optimism:
That sides in the NFL's stoppage had the same animosity initially as the NBAPA and owners (1) and substantially more money at stake yet managed to find resolution before games were sacrificed puts the uncozy heat of a scrutinous spotlight on the NBA to get a deal done.
It's classic peer pressure, levied by a rival sports league that scrounged for a solution when one wasn't thought to be feasible.
Given how the NBA is poised to take a substantial earnings hit as is, you could argue that this burden ups their ante substantially.
Who knows? Maybe not.
But maybe it's enough to prompt a moment of consideration among the sides. Even if it can't precipitate a deal in and of itself, that obvious ground for comparison should help the NBA's negotiations along, even if only a little.
(1) We'll have fun with this in the comment box below. Fire away.
Exceptions: Not Everyone Was a Winner
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Pleased as I was overall with the lockout's endgame (beyond football), a few black eyes have yet to dissipate...
Furloughs -- Pretty disgusted with the number of teams that cut or temporarily laid off employees during the lockout. Especially when the bulk of money hadn't yet been lost. I'm privy to the chronology of forecasted losses, the earliest juncture of which was the NFL Draft (anticipated losses of $350 million league-wide). But, in my opinion (1), the marginal savings of dropping a few $50,000-a-year employees for four months didn't even chip that mound -- at least not enough to justify stripping these people of their benefits. Kinda crappy, what Miami, Buffalo, the New York Jets, Kansas City, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Atlanta did, and what all but the Dolphins, Jets, Chiefs and Falcons didn't -- reinstate employees' losses.
Media -- While I gushed over some of the media's accommodations and adaptations to the lockout coverage, some of it was somewhat laughable. Didn't really think the major affiliates -- starting with The World Leader -- gave it ample enough attention (especially in lieu of anything else worth covering) or adequately piqued audience's interest. This mattered -- and they had to make it matter. Pretty sure that clashes with the age-old tenets of the roles of journalists, but I don't care. It's one thing to circulate news with an agenda (the propaganda that what I'm suggesting kind of sounds like), another entirely to clearly articulate the details, and consequently importance, of the most pivotal proceeding in pro sports history. It had to happen, and it didn't.
What needed not to happen, but did, was the cataclysmic botch jobs of stories that all-but-assured the lockout would be over immediately after June 23. I totally get it: A lot of competition among reporters, and speculation among their interview subjects, but someone had to pump the brakes and insist that the information coming from inside sources (2) be claimed by said sources. Kind of an exhibit on the perils of "unnamed sources" right there...
Not to mention that each conflicting or hollow report of a soon-to-be-lifted lockout only alienated fans further -- not only from the game and league (straining networks' relationships with leagues whose games they bargain for broadcast rights of), but of viewers (straining networks' relationships with their audience, who drive their ad revenues).
Bang up job all around, in that sense.
Allusions to lockout -- Pretty sure I was tireder of the corny references to the lockout -- a la "whenever we have football, if we have football" -- than the lockout itself. Look: I get it. You're pressed for time. Stressed. Overworked and underpaid (assuming you're paid at all.
But seriously: Next time there's a sports-wide apocalypse, could you people PLEASE play around with fresher ways to allude to the blindingly obvious labor stoppage -- ABOUT WHICH YOU'RE WRITING?!?!? For the love of creativity...
Sorry, but I'm not sorry. Everybody has pet peeves, and this was mine. Made my skin crawl.
(1) Again: Handling this pretty delicately, given that it's not my money. But I think it's a logic-founded argument.
(2) Assuming, of course, it came from insiders (one), and those worth being trusted (two).