Monday, March 7, 2011

Are NFL owners really asking for too much?

As a fan of the NFL, that considers himself middle class, it is difficult for me fathom billionaires arguing with millionaires over billions of dollars.  My wife and I have a four month old son, and as we learned very quickly, kids are expensive.  We have made cuts here and there to make up funds, I recently traded in a gas guzzling SUV for a smaller more fuel efficient SUV (Just not a mini van guy).  I have to say that in a time of recession we are blessed to both still be employed and we have been shielded from the harshness that others have had to overcome and deal with in today's economic world.  With that said, the NFL contract dispute could not have come at a  worse time.  A lot of people look to sports to get them through their difficulties.  Fans of the NFL look to the  minimum four hours they spend watching every Sunday as a break from reality.  Now we have people who will make more money in a season then the average person will in their life, arguing about a contract with people that make more money then some countries.  The separation of the real world from the priviledged one has never been more evident.  President Obama put it best when asked if he would intervene:

"You've got owners, most of whom are worth close to $1 billion.  You've got players who are making millions of dollars.  My working assumption at a time when people are having to cut back, compromise and worry about making the mortgage and paying for their kids' college education is that the two parties should be able to work it out without the President of the United States intervening."

He went on to add: "I'm a big football fan, but I think for an industry that is making $9 billion a year in revenue, they can figure out how to divide it up in a sensible way and be true to their fans who are the ones who, obviously, allow for all of the money that they are making...My expectation and hope is that they will resolve it without me intervening, because it turns out I have got a lot of other stuff to do."

I did not go to Harvard so I guess I could not have said it any better my self.  But my argument here after stating the obvious regarding the great disconnect not only between fans and millionaire athletes, but between fans and franchise owners; is the question: Are the NFL owners really the big bad wolf in this scenario?  Last I checked, in every industry the difference between the haves and have-nots is larger then the vast infancy of space.  Executives for big oil companies and banks that are "to big to fail" are not really struggling, even as their employees are.  Yes, the NFL owners are absurdly rich and have large estates and backup yachts, but so do MLB owners, NBA owners, congressmen and the President himself. 

Some people call for a unified stance against pro sports or a stance against raising ticket, concession and merchandise prices.  That will never happen, for every fan that gets angry and gives up their season tickets there are tens to thousands of fans behind them just waiting to scarf them up.  Fans will continue to buy jerseys and $8.00 beers (In most cases the beer will cost more then the jersey at the end of a game), because we love sports.  If we had to give up sports and not watch due to a protest or stand against millionaires and billionaires, working class and middle class people would be miserable.  There would be no outlet for release of every day stress and therefore fans would rather pay the prices then lose the game they love.

The fact is that the NFL owners are getting the finger pointed at them (sometimes in an upward manner) because the contract negotiations happened to fall during a very tough economic time.  If things were good, and unemployment was at four percent instead of close to ten, and oil prices were "normal" the economics of these negotiations would not be at the fore front of the media coverage.  People would be more concerned with a possible 18 game schedule, or a rookie wage scale.  Those issues that will be hammered out in the coming week or weeks will be all that is remembered in the end.  No one will care about the nine billion dollars that is being argued about today in a year or two.  All the average fan will care about in the end is how do the new rules effect the game they love to watch?  How does the rookie wage scale effect their team?  That's it.  No one cared about how much NFL owners made prior to the contract talks, and no one really cares how much athletes make as well.  All we care about is watching the game we love and taking a break from reality any chance we get.

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