Friday, February 11, 2011

To the NFL and NFLPA

On behalf of we, the football fans of the United States, I'd like to express a few quick comments to you both. This will be brief, as you need to get your tails right back in the same room, sign the piece of paper, take the off-season, and then get ready for football this fall.

To the owners:

1. We fans know why players are paid those insanely huge salaries: you pay them. Guess what our bosses do when personnel costs are too big a piece of the pie? They cut salaries and cut people. They act like they are in charge, because they are. They don't hire new people at twice the salary of existing people either.

2. We fans know why you pay rookies so much. No, we don't. We don't actually understand why you pay an untested person so much more than experienced people. Most of you have other businesses. Do you approve that in those businesses?

3. That your revenues are so high annoys us. How much does it cost the average family to actually attend football games? How much did you get for moving the Monday Night Football games off of broadcast TV and onto Cable/Satellite that not everyone can afford?

4. How much do you pay the part-time workers that actually make the games happen? Field crews and such? Not nearly enough, I'd guess. You're so busy spending millions for a rookie that won't play well that your ticket-takers are making minimum wage.

5. Manage your team like a business, but realize that you're supposed to be running it to please your customers and your customers are us, the fans of your team. Not Fox, CBS, ESPN, NBC. They are vehicles to deliver your product to your customers.

For the NFLPA:

1. Keep in mind that some of your players make more in one year than most of us make in lifetime. The "shortened career so we need more money" argument doesn't hold a lot of water to us fans. The rookie minimum is somewhere around 10 times what I make in a year. That's the minimum. This year's 'Rookie of the Year' has a contract guaranteeing him $50 million.

1a. And can the "dangerous" talk. Really? How about the Postal Service folks that had to drive on dangerous roads? Coast Guardsmen rescuing boaters? School teachers? And don't get started on workers in steel mills and meat packing plants---your jobs are not any more dangerous than many people's work. You have team doctors to help you get healthy rather than worker's comp reps out to keep you from filing a claim.

2. We hear you whining about clubs forcing players to "toe the club line" and remember stories of athletes getting too drunk or too high and doing things that are at the least morally reprehensible and more likely criminal. Then they don't get prosecuted because they're rich and famous. Guess what? We want the players to "toe the line." Actually, we want them way off of it. We kind of expect coaches to be allowed to bench players that don't follow instructions because (ready for this?) the coach is in charge of the team. Not the players.

3. We fully sympathize that there are retired players that need better support. How about publicizing that your proposal reserves a respectable percentage of revenue for them? Something in the 25% or better range? Or is it just lip service?

4. You want to fuss about player safety, but then you do not want effective player conduct policies. Do you not realize that a solid night of drugs and alcohol are more likely to cause brain damage than a single concussion?

5. Nice of you to show up at other unions' activities, as if you really care. How about announcing that you'll take a 1-year deal to ensure the season happens so that all those stadium workers don't lose their jobs while you fight with the owners? You know, a few hot dogs for the masses while you fat cats fight for steaks?

6. One last note: keep in mind, while some players' only chance of a college education came from their football scholarship, they should have taken advantage of that and have a degree. At which point, there are a myriad of career possibilities. Quit acting like all these players could do is play football.

To you both:

1. How long have you known the CBA was about to expire? And why have you been so slow to negotiate it? We see that both of you have held out, and we know it's about money.

2. In truth, we don't really care about 16 games or 18 games. What we don't want are 4 pre-season games hyped as if they are important and ticket sold as if they were important so that we can watch the third-stringers fight it out. Call them scrimmages and have them on Tuesdays without cameras. Have 2 real preseason games that feature more than 1 series by the top players. Keep the season 16 games and go on.

3. We will, certainly, forgive in time that you two have colluded together to mess up the next season. We're like that, us Americans. It's evidenced by the fact that we still vote for Republicans and Democrats, that MLB didn't go bust as they should have post-1995, and that we will tune back in.

However, we're watching you. We're learning, again, that our heroes and role models are not best picked from your ranks. If a hero is going to wear a uniform, it needs to feature rank, name, branch of service, type of service. They need to come from folks who have a rookie pay scale and a boot camp or a training academy where they learn to work as a team, follow necessary orders, and do their job no matter what. Our heroes should be those who fight for freedom, not for one more yard.

Sports can give us inspiration and happiness. In fact, that's what you're best at doing. If you take that away, we'll notice.


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