So here we are. There’s no NFL football and it’s already March. Wait a minute. THERE’S NO FOOTBALL IN MARCH! Ah yes, but there is now also no free agency in March. There’s no off-season workouts in April. Apparently, the new players are not even going to attend the NFL Draft in April. So what right? So what indeed.
The main thing I ask myself is “how do I feel about this situation?” I ask that of myself because I honestly don’t know the answer. I feel somewhat angry as a fan who plunks down quite a few bucks on NFL products throughout the year. They are after all, arguing over OUR money. This isn’t foreign capital from overseas investors they’re fighting over. It’s Joe Sixpack’s semi-disposable income. OUR MONEY.
Not that it’s a terrible thing. I love the NFL and I’m happy to to pay for a product that I enjoy. That’s a basic economic principle. But I feel like I’m getting mugged here. The NFL and the NFLPA are going to go to war over how to split up OUR money. But none of it really has anything to do with US, the fans. Even as the owners argue for player salary rollbacks, not a word is uttered about slashing the insane ticket prices most NFL teams charge.
We’re at another fundamental economic principle here. Growth. Profitability. Sustainability. These are the NFL’s “buzzwords”. What they really want is to continue to increase their profits each year, with no end in sight. The problem is, that’s simply not possible. This is still football, not oxygen, water or the cure for the common cold. Not everybody in the world is a football fan and it’s not possible to convert a lot of these people. So once the NFL has maxed out it’s TV deals, Internet outlets, the NFL Network, NFL Merchandise and whatever else they can think of, where will these future increases in profits come from? Here’s lookin at you kid.
Last time this happened the NFL had some answers. They started their own TV network. They got a jump on the competition in the move to digital media, a major Internet presence and in the social media arena. They built new stadiums to increase both seating capacity and the ever important number of luxury boxes. Get used to that word, luxury. Because that’s the way the NFL is trending. In 10 years, the costs of attending a game will skyrocket even higher than their current ridiculous levels. And Joe Sixpack is gonna wave the white flag and watch from home. On his insane 60 inch, 3D, HD, Super-TV. While wearing a knock off NFL jersey he got for $40 bucks on the Internet. Can’t hardly tell it from the real McCoy. And he’ll enjoy some cold adult beverages and some snacks. All for less than $20. Why pay $200 for a ticket, $25 for parking, $10 per beer and $5 for a hot dog?
This is me, the fan, Joe Sixpack calling my shot. Everybody makes too much money in the NFL (Except the refs, seriously). The players, the coaches, the owners and even the owner’s kids on the payroll for a couple hundred k each year. We, the fans, fund this debacle. And we do it with smiles on our faces. Is it any wonder the NFL doesn’t want to open their books? It’s really a two-fold reason. Part of it is the fact that exactly ZERO NFL teams are failing to turn a profit. The other part is how much money these franchises piss away. How much dead money do some of these teams have on their books? Not only for “no-show” jobs, but for players long since departed and coaches long since fired? How overpaid are the executives? The NFL doesn’t want the fans to know these things anymore than they want the players to know.
Here’s the thing with the NFL and the NFLPA. They had to go to court to make a deal. It’s not a unique occurrence in the world of high-level negotiations. In this case, not only to both sides believe that they are actually correct, but also morally correct. They both feel that they have the high ground and the other side is trying to screw them as hard as possible. Unfortunately they’re both either completely right or completely wrong depending how you look at it. With both sides so entrenched in their respective positions, a good long-term deal wasn’t going to happen organically. One side would have to give too much (which is what happened last time) and we’ll be right back here in 24-36 months. Neither side can afford to make a deal where they feel that they got the worst of it. Putting the legal gun to everybody’s heads is only way to go.
If that was the anger, here’s the sadness. Whatever deal the NFL and the NFLPA arrive at, it’s basically going to be the same deal it would’ve been today. Here’s what will happen, be it next week or next year.
- The NFL and the NFLPA will find a common ground in dividing the revenue. Let’s go with the NFL gets half of what they wanted. $500 million instead of $1 billion in additional revenue “off of the top”.
- There will be a rookie salary scale that controls the salaries of players drafted in the 1st round. The money the owners save will be diverted to players health and long-term care.
- The salary cap will return, with the salary floor ensuring teams spend at least X dollars on players each year.
- Players will again be unrestricted free agents after 4 years, as opposed to 6.
- The franchise tag stays, all other tags go.
- An independent party is selected to arbitrate all player conduct disputes, suspensions and penalties.
- Players will be given larger injury protections (monetarily and physically) along with shorter off-season programs and less overall hitting.
That’s not perfect, but I can guarantee these are all in the new CBA. The main difference could be how they choose to whack up the revenue pie, but it will wind up with the owners getting more money, but quite a bit less then they had hoped.
Ultimately, we the fans are kind of screwed. Say we got the dream deal for the fans. A 50% rollback. On everything. Player’s salaries, owners profits and most importantly, ticket prices and merchandise. $40 tickets to games! $5 parking! $50 jerseys! Can’t happen. The owners determination to build these new stadiums and the current economic climate would make it almost impossible for the NFL NOT to try to rape their fans for the maximum dollar amount possible. Unless…..
The fans used their nuclear option. I know this won’t happen. I’m not sure I would have to fortitude to do it. But we the fans do have our own nuke. Most of us carry it in our back pocket or our purse. Mostly ladies with the purses, we hope. Our wallets. That’s what makes the NFL go. Say a new CBA is reached. The season starts as normal. To stadiums only filled to 25% capacity and TV viewship plummets 50%. Nobody is buying new jerseys. Nobody is going to NFL.com. The NFL Network is struggling to beat the CW. We hold strong through September. And October. And then? In mid-November all NFL teams announce that they are slashing ticket prices, merchandise prices and scaling back the insane number of commercials on during every NFL game. And then maybe we have a deal. Because the players can strike against the owners. Because the owners can lockout the players. Because the fans buy the stadiums for the owners, then fill those stadiums to pay the players.
Why do we need rich guy NFL owners again? I forget.