The NFL labor dispute is, to put it delicately, crap.
The sides are vying for your support of their cause now and I would advise you to do to them what both have done to you -- turn your back on them. Dismiss them both. Be disgusted by both. Disagree with both. In a tug-of-war over money, collapse the middle of the rope and make them both pay!
I know, most media have come down on the side of the players, while fewer have agreed with owners. I cannot find a tent in either camp.
Owners are crying the economic collapse that befell the country just over two years ago made the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, signed in 2006, obsolete. They argue they are in financial pain. Yet, they don't want a fully transparent review of their financials by their employees to prove what they're saying is completely true.
I suspect this is because the owners are crying poverty while still turning a profit. They're still flying their private jetliners, still collecting enormous sums from TV revenue, still enjoying overwhelming popularity at the turnstiles, still watching their franchises rise in value, and most notably, still making gobs money.
I present to you the last Super Bowl in Dallas. The same NFL which is asking players for a substantial give-back and rollback of shared revenues made a record amount of money from its latest championship game. It was a financial monster compared to other Super Bowls, a league source is telling me. That, and that alone, is the reason the Super Bowl will likely return to Dallas within a decade or so.
Money. Lots of it.
So how is a league that pays its commissioner $12 million annually hurting for money, again? How is a $9 billion business that is perpetually in the black strapped for cash?
The players, meanwhile, have tried to bind themselves to a bogus class-warfare argument that is specious at best, and an outright lie at worst. Their argument is that they are fine with the last agreement and all they want is the continued good of the game. Their argument is that it is the greedy owners who are asking for give-backs, thus it's the owners ruining things for the fans. They reject the notion that this fight pits millionaires versus billionaires because many of them don't make a million dollars. Their argument is they're just faithful employees trying to do good work at a fair wage.
And that is ridiculous.
First, the economy did tank in late 2008 and throughout 2009. It's not very much better now. The price of doing business is up. Business all around the country are cutting back. That affects workers. Some got laid off. Some got furloughed. Some got fired because their jobs disappeared. Business in America is hurting to some degree or another.
So what makes NFL players believe they should be immune from those truths affecting practically everyone else?
I also have a hard time buying the players' classic class-warfare approach when, indeed, they are paid more now, enjoy more power now, collect more benefits now, and have more opportunities outside the sport now than they've ever had in their history. I have a hard time buying these guys are just like you and me. These guys are at a level the average American cannot even begin to comprehend.
The union filed a lawsuit against the league on Friday. Among the faces of that suit were Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Let's see, last I saw Brady, he was vacationing in Rio De Janiero with his super model wife. Yeah, he's hurting. Last I saw Manning, he was a cartoon figure on a Reebok commercial that his multi-million-dollar endorsement contract allows him to do, thereby augmenting his multi-million-dollar NFL contract.
And what about the schlubs at the bottom of the salary totem pole, you ask? The NFL minimum salary in 2010 was $310,000.
Despite collecting more than that, New York Jets offensive lineman Matt Slauson felt compelled to move himself, his wife and his baby in with his mom recently because he was worried he wouldn't be able to make ends meet during a strike or lockout.
It was sobering that this grown man is so concerned about his family's immediate future. But I really wonder what he did with the $390,000 he made last year. Or the estimated $410,200 he collected in 2009 as a rookie -- signing bonus included, of course.
Think about this for a second: How long do you think you can live on $800,200? Suppose Slauson spent half of that the past two years. If he were to pay himself $200,000 per year -- a comfortable living by any standard -- he could wait out an NFL lockout or strike for two years.
Oh, and when this labor crap is over and everyone is earning again, Slauson still has $1 million left on the final two years of his contract.
Other players? They're not hurting, folks.
Go on twitter and search out 100 or so NFL players on the social media site. Their timelines show they're flying to the NBA All-Star weekend, they're traveling abroad, they're buying cars, they're going back and forth between their in-season and off-season homes.
How many of you have spent the past couple of months doing that?
These guys don't live in the real world but they want you to believe they're like you to gain your support and sympathy. The financial gap between them and you is as wide, in most cases, as the athletic gap between them and you. (And I know that's wide because I doubt any of you can run a 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash and bench press 225 pounds 20 times.)
I say all that to say this: This labor dispute will get resolved. It is ultimately about money and the only reason it is happening now is because this is the dead time for money in the league. Players aren't getting paid their base salaries now and owners aren't collecting game-day revunues.
To put this labor dispute in real-world terms, it would be like 9-to-5 workers striking and a factory owner locking the doors of the plant at around midnight and calling that a shutdown.
Me? I'll start worrying about this thing around 8:59 a.m., or about the time work is actually supposed to begin. That's when folks are actually going to start being invested in the situation because their money will then be at stake.
All the barking you hear about NFL lockout and union decertification has, frankly, no bite. It is a negotiation tactic between the parties. And when they turn to you for support, shouting that the game is at risk, it is basic, straight-up fear-mongering.
Me? I have a hard time being upset that the millionaires are upset about income in their post-career years. You know what? Live off the money you earned and hopefully saved during those God-gifted years you had in the league. Or, here's a real radical idea, do like the rest of us and get a job. A real job. One that pays less than $100,000 a year like the rest of us. Use that college education that your athletic skills got you for free.
Me? I also have a hard time feeling compassion for the owners. Are you kidding me? These guys were sooooo invested in these negotiations, a majority of them never attended a mediation session for whatever reason. These guys all own franchises worth between $700 million and $1.5 billion. Sell if you don't think the business is lucrative enough. Get out!
Me? I think I'll concern myself with things that actually matter right now. The Middle East is on fire. Significant portions of the Far East are under water and under threat of nuclear plant meltdowns. Politicans over here are crooks and liars. In South Florida, a little girl was found murdered in the back of pick up truck. Those are real problems, folks, not this NFL labor strife.
I'm more concerned with what's happening on FOX and CNN than on ESPN and NFL Network. I'll concern myself with my faith and my family. My football? It will not go away despite all the rhetoric and legal wrangling you'll be hearing in the coming weeks.
Football will be back in the Fall as surely as the seasons will change. That's when it'll be time to root for someone again. Now, during this ludicrous labor dispute? I refuse to back either side.