If you are a true football fan, this whole NFL labor situation should foster the kind of anger and frustration inside of you that makes blood shoot out of your eyes.
The NFL Draft is two days away and the Philadelphia Eagles should have a huge chip to play with this offseason in Kevin Kolb, but the NFL is in the sixth week of its historic work stoppage.
The domino effect in Philadelphia? Almost no one gives a shit about this draft on Thursday. The Phillies are surging in April, the Flyers have a huge seventh and deciding game in South Philly tonight, and even the Sixers are in the playoffs. So you have every right to be nonchalant or unmoved about a league whose owners don't give a fuck about you.
Yesterday's news about the lockout being "lifted" probably got you quite excited at first glance, but looking into it paints a picture. It's a picture that tells us that yesterday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson provides no immediate progress in what will continue to be a long, drawn out process. This process will continue to push away fans of a league where nothing was broken.
To be clear: NFL owners opted out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement two years early. The CBA that expired on March 4th of this year was initially set to expire in March of 2013. The players did not want this lockout, nor did the fans. I'm skeptical to say the same about the owners.
The rookie pay scale and the 18-game regular season you keep hearing about is only a fraction of the dispute between the two sides. The biggest issue is sharing the pie. The owners want more while the players wanted what they were already getting… and that's the reality. It is the single-biggest force driving this public relations disaster unfolding right in front of you.
What's even worse is having to read this pile of shit from Roger Goodell, which the Wall Street Journal agreed to publish this morning. Goodell introduces you to what an NFL without a CBA could actually mean. Here's his bullet point breakdown, which I am reluctantly giving the time of day by posting here:
• No draft. "Why should there even be a draft?" said player agent Brian Ayrault. "Players should be able to choose who they work for. Markets should determine the value of all contracts. Competitive balance is a fallacy."
• No minimum team payroll. Some teams could have $200 million payrolls while others spend $50 million or less.
• No minimum player salary. Many players could earn substantially less than today's minimums.
• No standard guarantee to compensate players who suffer season- or career-ending injuries. Players would instead negotiate whatever compensation they could.
• No league-wide agreements on benefits. The generous benefit programs now available to players throughout the league would become a matter of individual club choice and individual player negotiation.
• No limits on free agency. Players and agents would team up to direct top players to a handful of elite teams. Other teams, perpetually out of the running for the playoffs, would serve essentially as farm teams for the elites.
• No league-wide rule limiting the length of training camp or required off-season workout obligations. Each club would have its own policies.
• No league-wide testing program for drugs of abuse or performance enhancing substances. Each club could have its own program—or not.
Actually, Goodell has great points here. If Monday's ruling stands and no CBA is created moving forward, all of the consequences here are entirely possible. But maybe none of things would be at risk if the owners didn't fucking back out of a deal they made two years early! It is simultaneously laughable and infuriating that Goodell writes this piece in a tone suggesting that the Players Association and the court of law will be wholly responsible if this becomes the NFL that we know.
I'm fucking sick of Goodell trying to make himself look like a hero or voice of reason in all of this. First, he writes a letter to fans in January trying to connect with the fans while explaining where things need to change. I didn't have as much a problem with that. Everyone should get to argue his or her side at one point or another.
Where I really began to take issue was when Goodell announced that his salary would be $1 next year if there was a work stoppage. What kind of public relations bullshit was that? Now we're supposed to look at Goodell like he's a swell fucking guy? It led me to write this about it over at the old blog:
If you say that you know you ‘can and will reach an agreement’, then don’t discuss the circumstances surrounding a potential failure to go back on your word. If you promised us an agreement and you don’t deliver, then how the hell are we going to believe you’re taking home a dollar in a work stoppage?
Now, this latest effort to connect with fans in an op-ed piece for the journal. Talk about a guy who should just shut the fuck up and get both sides talking again. Roger Goodell has only exacerbated the national perspective on this matter.
I'm not ignorant, I know the Players Association had three years notice from the owners that this was a possibility. The rookie pay scale is ridiculous and things in this league clearly need to change. But the owners knew what they were doing when they made this decision. They knew what they wanted and they knew what the players wanted. However, when their side is the one that backs out of a deal of this magnitude, their side should be the first people at the table stating their case and trying to get something done. The effort on both sides came off as lax and absent of any sense of urgency. We, as fans, prefer our last-minute drama on the field, not off of it.
What's more; the owners and the Players Association had three years to revisit this and both sides took their sweet-ass time. The point to which this has gotten to is nothing short of embarrassing. This league is losing fans and doing so quickly, and the owners aren't completely responsible for all of this, despite the fact that their actions put this disaster in motion.
In this city, it doesn't hurt right now because the other teams in our big four are all making headlines, but wait until the fall. What will your Sundays be like? There is no question that this product will get back on the field at some point, but we don't know when. What if we have nothing to do at 1:00 on Sunday until October? November? 2012? How will you feel about the product? The sport? Will you watch? And if you watch, will you be invested? Will the Eagles mean what they have always meant to you? Will your passion shift to other sports? These are the questions that we are asking ourselves right now, if we are even bothering to ask them at this point. It is safe to say that we will hurt from this, if not now, later.
I'm not going to delve into the stay that will be requested from the owners, nor will I offer commentary on a potential appeal. I'm no authority on that matter and if you want to know more, you can sure as hell find it with a simple Google search. Here, I am a fan talking to fans, sharing my perspective on a situation where the owners may win or the players may win. What is certain is that in all of this, the fans will lose.
Essentially, we already have lost something. Our football conversations aren't about trading Kolb or drafting a cornerback. We're not bitching about Andy Reid or Joe Banner. We aren't talking about Michael Vick and the Madden 2012 cover. There isn't even residual conversation on where Donovan McNabb will be playing football next year. That's when you know something is really up.
We're talking about labor disputes and the court of law. That's not Philadelphia football, and this is wrong.