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Monday, July 25, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

Sound the horns!  Roll out the red carpet!  Bring to me all of your finest meats, cheeses, and ice cold beers!
The King hath returned.
The king of American sports that is – The National.  Football.  League.  It’s true, after 133 days of conversation, negotiation, litigation, and watching re-runs of Californication, the NFL is back in business.  Players were hugging owners, owners were hugging players, and cats and dogs were living together in perfect harmony as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith stood in front of the NFLPA headquarters in Washington D.C. like two proud parents of a new bouncing baby boy.  As they announced the newly agreed upon Collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners, one that will bring labor peace for the next decade, NFL fans throughout the world celebrated the fact that there would be a full NFL season.
Bone crunching hits.  Acrobatic touchdown catches.  Pinpoint passes and acts of great strength and athleticism.  For four and a half months, NFL fans were paralyzed with fear that they would be left without the mainstay of the fall, the lynchpin of American Sports.  They were so disgusted with the thought of watching Washington St.-Oregon St. and other PAC-12 games on Sundays that they failed to see what was so blatantly obvious.  So much so that they never sat back and realized what I’ve been saying for six months now:  there was a ZERO percent chance that they would lose any games, preseason or regular season. 
It’s the circle of life (or business in this case), what goes around comes around.  This whole mess was started with greed, so it was obvious it would end with greed.  The owners opted out of the old CBA because they wanted more money.  The players refused to come to an agreement because they didn’t want to give up any money.  They pushed and postured and prodded all the way to the very last minute, doing their best to squeeze every last penny possible out their deal.  However, the bottom line is that for every week of the pre-season that would have been canceled, league revenue would have decreased by approximately $200 million dollars.  This is money that is to be split amongst the two sides, so there was no way they would let it be lost.  The NFL is so profitable that everybody involved is going to make money.  If fans are naive enough to believe that either side was willing to risk losing one cent of that total dollar amount, I have some ocean front property in Arizona for sale that they may just be interested in.
As for the NFL fan who has hard feelings about the lockout, the guy who says his opinion of the NFL is changed forever, I’m calling B.S.  As soon as the first training camp report from Adam Schefter hits ESPN you will be back to posting on message boards and reading fantasy football magazines – and you should be!  The truth of the matter is that the NFL is a multi BILLION dollar business.  There should be no hard feelings about the lockout.  It’s business.  I laugh to myself when I hear fans that say things like, “I can’t believe that they are fighting over all this money.  I would play this game for free if I could!”
My response:   I wouldn’t go watch you play for free if you did. 
There are approximately 1,700 roster spots in the NFL.  Every year there are 1,500 college football players:  in the state of Texas alone.  Less than 1% of division I college football players even get invited to the NFL scouting combine.  These players are the best in the world at what they do.  Their talent is the reason why the game has risen to the unbelievable heights that it has in the last 20 years – completely lapping the field of professional sports.  They work in a projected $20 billion (that’s billion, with a “B”) entertainment industry.  They deserve to be compensated as such, and they cannot be blamed for trying to get the best possible deal that they could get for themselves.  You and I would do the same thing.  (Or at least I would)
As for the NFL owners, their group is made up of 32 of the wealthiest, most intelligent, most successful billionaires in America today.  They did not get to where they are by making bad business deals.  The previous CBA, in their opinion, was not working for them financially.  They decided that a change was needed, and they went out and got the best deal that they could get for themselves.  Sound familiar?
Both the players and owners will make gobs of money in this deal, but the real winners are the people who make their livings through the league.  The bar owners, shop owners, stadium workers, and NFL team staffs all depend on the NFL, either directly or indirectly, to pay the rent and put food on the table.  Imagine the money a sports bar owner would lose if there was no NFL games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday?  The NFL is such big business, that brings in so much money on so many different levels, that the trickle down effect on each NFL community's economy would have been significant.  Luckily for all involved, this was avoided.
The most important thing in this whole mess is that the NFL is back.  There are going to be between 500 and 700 players that will hit the free agent market in some shape or form this week.  Starting Tuesday, NFL teams will be able to start negotiating with free agents and consummating trades.  On Friday, these teams will be able to officially sign free agents.  NFL teams will begin reporting to training camp in waves, corresponding with a 14 day period before their first pre-season games.  Basically, NFL teams will have to sign undrafted rookies, sign their draft picks, sign unrestricted free agents, and make trades – almost 5 months worth of work - in a 7-14 day window. 
It’s the NFL equivalent of the California Gold Rush, and definitely will lead to some interesting story lines in this condensed off-season, such as where the big name free agents will sign, what players will be released to save salary cap room, and where will QBs such as Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Kevin Kolb, Vince Young and the other available veterans will end up in this game of QB roulette.  The next week will be an unprecedented event in modern professional sports - and  I can’t wait.  Let the games begin!


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