By Darren Rovell
When work stoppages happen, the natural question that follows is, what will the impact on business be? Some labor wars have led to big damage to a particular company while others have managed to get by. But, if the first few days of "Back To Work" for the NFL is any indication, this upcoming year is going to be the most successful year, business-wise, in NFL history.
The lack of any news over the last four months, combined with the frenzy of free agency, has led to an insatiable desire by the fans to soak in all the information that is coming in at warp speed. If there's one fan who is sitting out this season because he's mad at the petty owners and players, good luck finding him.
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ProFootballTalk.com set its all time traffic record with 3.88 million page views over a 24-hour period once free agency hit.
"Fans were concerned they would lose games," ProFootballTalk's founder and editor Mike Florio said, "When people think they're going to lose something, they love it even more when it comes back."
Florio said he's encouraged by the momentum and the interest, but cautions that if popular teams lose more games than projected because of a lack of offseason preparation, fans of those teams could tune out sooner than usual.
Ticket sales have been robust early on 48 hours and brokers who were concerned that fans might be slow to come back are seeing their phones ring off the hook.
"Between the relief that football will in fact happen coupled with the pent-up excitement, we have seen a lot more fervor about locking in tickets to the biggest matchups," said Nick Cubero, co-owner of The Ticket Experience, a brokerage in Houston. Cubero said that he's hoping that prices hold for the "not so marquee games."
And the betting action that has led to much of the NFL's popularity is ticking up rapidly.
BetOnline.com spokesman Dave Mason said that the gambling site took in more bets on "week one" action than the bets they took in during the previous three months.
Agent David Canter says that he feels the energy of this shortened offseason more than any other.
"The NBA Finals happened and then there was this total drop-off for many sports fans," said Canter, who negotiated the five-year, $40 million contract for his client, Eric Weddle, with the San Diego Chargers.
Canter partly credits Twitter with the resurgence in interest, saying that fans who have that insatiable appetite to interact can't get enough of it.
"The amount of fan support is amazing," Canter said. "For the [previous] three days, there was a group of fans from Jacksonville who wanted Eric and were using the Twitter the hashtag '#signweddle.' " Canter added, "they wanted to be heard. As an agent, it was overwhelming."
Canter said that "there won't be one person who has a fantasy team who doesn't follow the athletes they have on Twitter."
ESPN's John Clayton joined Twitter recently and quickly picked up 65,000 followers.
If TV ratings and attendance increase this year, it wouldn't be the first sports league to see a bump after a work stoppage. After a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season, fans came back stronger than ever before setting records in attendance and overall revenue.
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