So the mediation has broken down between the NFL owners and the playerâ€™s association, otherwise known as nifulpa, the phonetic pronunciation of NFLPA. And now the owners have locked out the players and the playerâ€™s union has decertified.
The two sides tried almost everything, even at one time unleashing â€śthe Sheenâ€ť so that Americans would be focused on the lunatic rantings that came out of his mouth instead of fretting too much about the negotiations and the potentially catastrophic events that look more likely to result, mainly the cancellation or delay of the 2011 NFL season, thus providing fewer opportunities for us to view the fifth season of the Dos Equis â€śMost Interesting Man in the Worldâ€ť campaign.
To better illuminate the intricacies of the negotiations to you, the fans, here are the main issues on which the sides would like to find common ground:
On the surface, this shouldnâ€™t be a sticking point. The owners are more than conciliatory with the players. â€śYou want 50% of our total revenue pie, you got it!â€ť they say. And then they nibble a little from the pie to the tune of $1 billion and split the remaining part in half.
Hmm, for those of you who are mathematically challenged like me and the other six people in my think tank quartet, thereâ€™s something not quite right about that 50-50 split. And the owners want to increase the size of the slice they take before they serve the rest of the pie. Hey, itâ€™s really good pie. [MENTAL NOTE: Never go to a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party with these owners.]
The players want a little more than that considering they sign contracts that never mean anything once the guaranteed money is doled out.
â€śCongratulations on signing your four-year, $80 million deal. You deserve it! However, weâ€™ve decided youâ€™re overpaid and have to become a salary cap casualty. Weâ€™ll gladly resign you for a more modest one-year, $400,000 deal.â€ť Advantage: Owners.
Hey, and since youâ€™re divvying up the spoils, letâ€™s not forget about us fans. Most of that . . . no, wait . . . all of that is our money. How about a little how-do-you-do? for us? You gotta do something for the fans, your bread and/or butter. Heck, if I buy 25 cups of coffee at Starbucks, I get one free. The NFL should implement the same system.
We could receive Rooney Bucks after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Andy Rooney. Or is it Mickey Rooney? ... Ed Rooney? ... Well, whichever Rooney it is, if we buy an $80 replica jersey, we get, say, five Rooney Bucks. Eventually, youâ€™ll earn enough to purchase one of those helmets with the cup holders and long straws coming out of it. Or if you get a whole lot of Rooney Bucks, youâ€™ll be able to sit in the ownerâ€™s box as part-owner during a game. (Those cost about 300 million Rooney Bucks, though, so good luck with that.)
The players want to be taken care of long after theyâ€™re retired. Right now, reports are that 70 percent of all professional football players go broke after their careers are over. (Weâ€™re talking about those not named Michael Strahan who apparently signed a deal requiring that he endorse every product in the country.)
It seems that after theyâ€™re done giving their blood, sweat, some bone, and lots of brain cells, they get a plaque and a handshake and then have to buy themselves a walker since the owners arenâ€™t about to help them out once they can no longer score touchdowns. On the plus side, they are allowed to keep each and every one of their surgical gowns.
Câ€™mon, fat cats, at least let the retired players use one of your vacation homes in a time-share arrangement. Theyâ€™ll leave when you want to use it. I promise.
If itâ€™s to avoid bankruptcy for them, might I suggest something akin to the Rooney Bucks? â€“ A Kraft Kard named for New England Patriots owner and fan of macaroni and cheese dinners, Bob Kraft. These cards can be used for anything except exorbitant and irresponsible purchases such as gold faucet handles, an SUV that turns into an amphibious water tank, bling, or of course, pitbulls. But this could be used for food and maybe, in cases like Antonio Cromartie, child support.
This one is a hard one to swallow. After a year of positioning itself as a league that cares about its playersâ€™ safety, the NFL and owners are endorsing an increase in the number of games from sixteen to eighteen, thus further rendering what the Miami Dolphins did in 1972 even more obsolete.
The players, under no circumstances will allow this to happen. They have their health to worry about. Someone has to provide for their families. No, they are too proud to back off this stance . . . unless â€“
(Looks like wrestling legend Ted DiBiase was right -â€“ â€śEverybody has a price for the Million Dollar Man;â€ť in this case, the owners.)
Now if this happens, and players are worried about wearing down, then how about changing some of the rules. Yes, each team will expand rosters, thus creating more jobs for players who will go bankrupt in retirement. But why canâ€™t the NFL do what the NBA does?
Thatâ€™s right -â€“ mid-season free agency!
Donâ€™t like your team? Just force a trade to another team. Or ask for a buyout. Sure, youâ€™ll only get a pro-rated salary for the final few weeks of the season, but think about how much less destruction youâ€™ll be doing to your body. You could probably play into your forties and then wonâ€™t have to deal with retirement for a while. (Brett Favre, please disregard this last line.)
And since youâ€™ve picked a team that was obviously headed for the playoffs, youâ€™ll get a couple extra bucks for that playoff bonus, something that players in Houston can only fantasize about.
You tell me the NFL players arenâ€™t watching the NBA and saying, â€śHe just asked to be traded to the Knicks and he got it? And Iâ€™m stuck on the Browns?! Aw, hell no!â€ť
Though Iâ€™m still firmly in the camp that the league maintains a 16-game season. There are plenty of other ways to earn revenue.
Hereâ€™s one just off the top of my head: open up practices to the public. And by that, I mean allow the public to participate. Send â€śJoe the Plumberâ€ť over the middle with Ray Lewis covering. Itâ€™ll be like baseball fantasy camp. You know there will be people dropping coin down for this one.
Rookie Salary Cap
Well, this one I gotta side with the owners. Up until now, someone whoâ€™s never worked a day in his life is given millions of dollars for what he could do. Ryan Leaf got paid millions of dollars, for heavenâ€™s sake! Heck, if thatâ€™s the case, I wouldâ€™ve skipped class and just spent my days writing. I mean, really, did teachers think that diagramming sentences and finding the cosine of angles was going to get us anywhere? We were conned and never got anything to show for it.
These players should have to go through the same realization we did. Let them go a couple of pay cycles wondering how they are going to pay rent. And honestly, how many of them even bothered to diagram the damn sentences?
All right, so the owners will still be paying first-rounders millions of dollars, but theyâ€™ll know exactly how much ahead of time, so they wonâ€™t have to deal with deal with agents, at least on the early picks.
All in all, we are walking a very tenuous line right now and any false move, like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones calling NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith â€śchubbyâ€ť or NFLPA executive committee member/starting center of the Indianapolis Colts Jeff Saturday insulting the acting of Kate Mara (â€śWe Are Marshallâ€ť), a direct descendant of the ownership of both the Giants and the Steelers, with word get back to either camp, can blow up the entire bridge between the two parties.
And with labor agreements scheduled to expire in the three other major sports very soon, a work stoppage could set a bad precedent. Imagine for one moment if sports fans everywhere, across the worlds of balls and pucks, were rudderless, with nothing to do. Would they turn to college fare such as intramural rugby or cheerleading competitions?
More likely, their covers as able-bodied men (or at least bodied men) will be blown and theyâ€™ll be forced to spend the time painting the house, sodding the yard, caulking the bathtub, etc. There will be many losers in this scenario (some are losers even without a strike), but only one winner â€“ the women.
Though lest not the women get cocky, for this may all backfire on them and men might snap, in the interest of finding something to root for, and become fans of â€śDancing with the Starsâ€ť (â€śI really like Hines Wardâ€™s tangoâ€ť) or even the world premiere of the new â€śSex in the Cityâ€ť movie on USA Network (â€śHow can Samantha end up with that guy?â€ť).
I shudder to think what the fallout might be. So letâ€™s get those compromises on the table and sign the agreement. Otherwise, NFL, you might lose your fan base to the music of â€śGlee,â€ť which is a fate far greater, and more tragic, than any playoff elimination one can imagine.