By Brian Tucker
With the NFL lockout having commenced, there's something I'd like to say to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and everyone else involved in the labor negotiations.
I couldn't care less about your labor dispute.
As a matter of fact, about the only thing I care less about is who replaces Charlie Sheen on that galactically awful sitcom … The Guy Who Played Ducky, One Sociopathic Lunatic And An Awkward Teenager.
Other than the fans losing their Sunday and Monday football fix, do you know whom I really care about? I care about the real people whose livelihoods you stand to wreak havoc on — the concession workers, the security, the grounds crew and the nearby hotel and restaurant employees, just to name a few. If this dispute turns into a lengthy NFL lockout, you'll essentially be telling these hardworking people to piss off. Funny, I haven't heard Goodell or Smith mention this nearly as much, as each has engaged in a tiresome battle of he said/she said.
Don't mistake my indifference over the labor dispute for a lack of love of the NFL game. However, anytime grown men are fighting primarily over the split of $9 billion in annual revenue, you're going to lose me (and, I imagine, the rest of the right-minded population). The indifference might have even spread to NFL players. Tom Brady, part-time model and NFL poster boy, was recently observed at Carnivale in Brazil with his supermodel wife, Gisele. Rocking a ponytail that could only have been inspired by Steven Seagal and dancing like an awkward sixth-grader at his first dance, Brady seemed not to have a care in the world. If he doesn't seem concerned about the dispute, why should I? I'll say this for fellow star QB Drew Brees, at least he was engaged throughout the entire process in D.C.
My Brady-bashing aside (something I like to do because he, like Justin Timberlake, just has too much), there are reminders all around as to how absurd this dispute is. Mind you, we shouldn't need reminders that sport is, at best, nothing more than a tremendous diversion; however, the reminders are there if you do need them.
As citizens of countries in the Middle East and North Africa lay their lives on the line for nothing more than basic freedoms and the opportunity to have their voices heard, millionaires and billionaires fight like school kids on the playground (only in $4,000 suits, $1,000-per-night hotel rooms and surrounded by fine catered food). On a day when a tsunami took the lives of thousands of people in Japan, we're supposed to care about whether the league or the players' union is telling us the real truth (hint: the answer is neither).
No, this is one of those rare situations where there is no right and wrong, just wrong. Worse yet, both sides are rubbing it in our faces. When one of the most God-awful franchises in the league, the Carolina Panthers, ranks as the 17th most profitable sports franchise (including ALL professional sports in the world) with a value of $1.05 billion, I think the NFL and its owners can continue to eke out a modest standard of living. I'm guessing even Cowboys owner and egomaniac Jerry Jones still will have enough money left for his annual offseason pilgrimage to the plastic surgeon. (By the way, Jerry, we all know.)
When the average NFL player salary is $770,000 and the average career is four years, players should be able to make do for a while. Yes, it's a savage game, like Braveheart in pads, and one that contributes to long-term physical and psychological deterioration. However, this is the career and life the players have chosen.
Who knows why they're thumbing their noses at fans and those "little people" whose lives depend on the game? Ego, greed, the desire to spend a few weeks in D.C. away from the Mrs.? Regardless of the reason why, the reality is that we, the viewing public, are the reason they'll get away with it. The NFL and the players' union know that even after a prolonged lockout, we'll come back just as we did after the last lockout in 1987. We'll go to the games, increase advertising revenues by watching the games and buy more team merchandise than we need. After all, what are we going to do instead — start watching hockey?
Brian Tucker is a freelance writer based in Chicago.