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Recent posts by Hub Arkush
So here we are, it's football season again and training camps are open throughout the NFL. All 32 teams have a shot at a Super Bowl, and the true fans — the crazies, if you will, in their pig snouts, cheeseheads, 40-gallon hats and team colors in all manner of clothing and head coverings — ring practice fields across the country, but ...
I've been visiting NFL training camps since the early '70s, and there are two things I've learned. The first is that nothing gets the juices flowing for coaches, players, media and fans like the opening of NFL training camps. And the second is that in 10 days to two weeks, we'll all be facing an early burnout with at least three, maybe four fake games to snooze through before the real action begins.
When I first started on the job, teams actually played six exhibition games and a 14-game regular season. I remember well the cries of joy when the switch was made to 16 of the real things and just four pretend games. It wasn't long, however, before the joy wore off, and it was at least 12, 13 years ago that I wrote in this space for the first time of the need for the league to switch to an 18-game regular season with just two tune-ups. While it has taken a long time, it seems folks are finally listening.
I believe NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prefers to call it "the enhanced schedule," but call it what you will — you can put this one in the bank. The commish is on board, and if the 2011 season begins on time, it will be an 18-game regular season. If it's delayed by collective bargaining or a lockout, a focal point of the settlement will be the '12 season and beyond featuring the two-game preseason plus 18-game regular-season format.
The reason the NFL owners and players appear so divided on a new CBA is simple. The owners believe they need more revenue to continue to grow the game, and they also believe they are entitled to a bigger share of the total revenue than what they are currently collecting. What we can all agree on is that every business needs to continually generate new sources of revenue if it is to continue to flourish and grow. From the players' point of view, while everyone wants more money, their main goal seems to be at least not to give back some of what they're already earning, with the owners allegedly having asked them to give up approximately 18 percent of the 60 percent of gross revenue they currently receive. Let's choose sides later.
What we know for a fact is that television and radio rights holders, sponsors and fans purchasing tickets, concessions, merchandise and parking will all pay more for real games than exhibitions. And if gross revenues go up, both sides' shares of gross revenue go up.
Right now owners are complaining that a longer regular season will force them to adjust roster sizes, injured-reserve rules, offseason conditioning programs and all manner of things in order to survive the grind and maintain competitive balance — all of which will cost them more money. Players are whining, "Not so fast, my friends. The two extra games will dramatically increase wear and tear on our bodies and careers, the risk of injury and quite possibly cost us money."
Please! Eighteen games works for everyone, so why don't you guys use it as the platform to begin a new deal instead of continuing to retreat further into your corners? Sure, they'll still have to get over the owners' greed in claiming they need a bigger share of the pie while refusing to open their books to the players to prove it, not to mention what to do about a new salary cap, a rookie wage scale, significant safety issues, new concerns about performance-enhancing drugs and other issues that need to be solved.
But this one couldn't be simpler. The next full NFL season after 2010 will feature 18 regular-season games and only two exhibitions, because it just makes too much sense not to.
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