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Are You Ready For Some Football?

August 5, 2011 - Al Stephenson
It's official. The National Football League will have a 2011 season after all. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith inked the 10 year collective bargaining agreement today in Canton prior to the Hall of Fame ceremonies this weekend.

It took several months of wrangling, but the powers to be finally realized that they could split up the millions of dollars at their disposal to the satisfaction of both parties. This means that we will not be treated to another lockout for the next decade and that may be too bad. This one was entertaining, if not a bit preposterous. Labor-management relations are always interesting and I tried hard to understand both sides on this one. I've been part of the negotiation process and know what it's like to stick up for what you believe is rightfully yours. Of course I was dealing with a totally different dollar amount, so watching this one was almost comical.

As a teacher I sat with representatives of the school and we argued over money that (supposedly) didn't exist. We were told we were worth more money, but there just wasn't any more. When we held out for $50 (that's right fifty bucks) more per teacher the board agreed. It put a sour taste in my mouth as I felt we were lied to. If there is one similarity between the two negotiations, it might just be that the NFL owners weren't willing to open their books to the players union.

The NFL was just using different figures for their discussions. Eventually they agreed to a resolution and the free agency frenzy started right away. I would love to be an agent that hears an offer for his player of something like $10,000,000 a year and he says with a straight face, "sorry that's not even in the ballpark." Ten million bucks to play a game for crying out loud and it's not enough! Beats the heck out of my fifty dollar raise.

Maybe it was the fact that there was so little time to sign free agents that left me shaking my head. In the course of three days multi-million dollar salaries were offered to anybody and everybody that a team thought could help them win. Character issues were not much of a deterrent to teams. Let's take a look at that side of things.

Plaxico Burress got out of jail in time to get a $3 million deal with the Jets. That may not match the other famed felon Michael Vick's deal, but Burress is not a QB. The Patriots looked an awful lot like the Raiders of Al Davis as they signed kooky wideout Chad 85 and traded for malcontent Albert Haynesworth. Seems like behavior that would have cost many people their jobs doesn't prevent landing a big time contract. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been known as a franchise that does not tolerate poor behavior from its players, but they will have to deal with a quarterback who's off-the-field antics have been questionable if not bad, a running back (Rashard Mendenhall) who might want to stop tweeting, and a linebacker who is certifiably nuts considering he suggested that he would not urinate on the Commissioner if he was on fire. Having a lot of money doesn't mean you will always do, or say, sensible things.

There was money to be passed out and it was - in huge numbers. For most football fans the feeling was "so what". I guess I'm in that category as well. A part of me wanted the season for one major reason. I'm in a fantasy league and it's fun to follow the stats. There was also another part of me that hoped they would stay out all season. I'm pretty sure I could find something else to do with my time. I'm guessing many others would have to.

The view from my seat suggests that the game will be as popular as ever because it allows us to get away from the realities everyday life. Some day though, the fan is going to say enough is enough.

I heard one of the principals in the NBA labor stalemate suggest that the whole season could be lost. I'm sure that is only posturing, but who knows. The NBA is not my favorite sport. If it didn't happen I wouldn't care. If only...


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