Sorry my hardcore football junkies, the National Football League’s Pro Bowl does not count. This weekend comes every football season. For five months those of us who enjoy football have been fed a steady diet of analysis, opinion, predictions, and statistics that would make any human head hurt for a week. Oh, and then there were the actual games. Some games were good, while others never lived up to the hype. So after three weeks of playoff games in the NFL, we are left to fend for ourselves now with the Super Bowl one week away.
For those of you- and there are so many of you who read my blog- that are not sports fan, the major professional sports leagues have player’s unions. I know at least one of you out there understands the nature of how unions work with ownership/management. Both sides have to reach an agreement, usually a contract or what is called a Collective Bargaining Agreement. The last work stoppage in any of the four major pro sports was when the National Hockey League canceled its 2004-2005 season when both the hockey players and ownership failed to agree to a new contract. Hockey would resume 15 months after the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals.
The reason I bring up player-owner relations is that the National Football League faces a major crossroads this March. That is when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends. Sadly, negotiations for a new CBA have been slow, and many in the media that cover the NFL fear that the owners will opt to lock the players out (that is like the opposite of a player’s strike). The NFL owners are pushing expansion of the season to 18 regular season games (currently it is 16 games), as well as reigning in the money spent on rookie contracts. The argument is that the owners are trying to re-appropriate the revenues- increasing them with two additional games- so that they can grab a bigger share. The players appear to oppose the 18 game season, but there is no official consensus yet. However, many players have cited the increase in serious injuries (concussions, etc.) as reason enough to leave the season the way it is. The players are not unanimously opposed to scaling back the rookie contracts as long as the money taken from those rookie deals is given to veteran players. A major issue for the players is health care (sound familiar average Joe). The players are pushing to improved health care, especially long term care for former players no longer in the league. This includes improved pension pay for those former players dealing with health issues resulting from injuries sustained while playing. The argument is that the owners have sunk so much money into improving facilities and launching an NFL tv network that they are losing money. Not being a multi-billionaire franchise owner, I am not able to understand that argument.
So there is a good chance that we are headed for a fall without the National Football League. Both sides are dug in, and they were no closer to a deal after last Sunday’s championship games. Sundays like this one may become all too familiar for us fans. As a fan I would say that I have very little sympathy for a bunch of people who make several hundred times more money than I do fighting over how to divide a pie. If this ends in a work stoppage (no football), this will make great fodder for a book about the people who killed the goose that laid golden eggs.
So enjoy the Super Bowl next Sunday, because it may the last NFL fix you get for a while.