Not much has changed in 8,000 years.
Long before collective bargaining Armageddon, back when the tribes of Mesopotamia were looking for a good deal in about 6000 B.C., humans didn’t have shekels to spend. So they bartered. Among the things available for trade: cattle, services, sometimes even skulls. In 2011, as NFL owners and players fight over how to divide $9.3 billion a year – a problem we certainly all can relate to – it’s pretty much the same things that are on the table: cattle, services, sometimes even skulls.
This really is just a glorified swap of goods and services. Players offer their talents. Owners offer salaries, uniforms and a stage for players to try to impress sponsors and woo beauty queens into marrying them. (Unfortunately, this is where things fell apart for Dallas wide receiver Roy Williams. He mailed former Miss Texas a $76,000 engagement ring, expecting to wow her, but didn’t realize that she had once drafted him for her Fantasy League team and soon came to realize he was a waste of space.)
Back to the NFL lockout: There are indications it is going to end soon. This conclusion isn’t based merely on the sudden marathon bargaining sessions or the lack of public bombast so much as it is pure logic: Money trumps stupidity seven days a week — and twice on Sunday.
Owners and players are getting to a dangerous point, the relative forbidden zone for CEOs: blather and rhetoric are going to start costing them real dollars.
As the long-time respected agent Pat Dye Jr. said Friday, “It serves as a real impetus in negotiations when there’s a chance you’re going to start losing money. There’s a golden goose out there. They have to figure a way out of this.”
They will. As soon as in five minutes. As late as in a week to 10 days. Football economics mandate it.
If NFL officials speak the truth, preseason games, for all of our disdain of them, generate $200 million per week. Even $9 billion empires don’t take hits like that lightly. Jerry Jones might have to switch to cheaper olives in one of his stadium’s three martini bars. Should the lockout extend beyond next weekend, preserving four weeks of exhibitions becomes problematic.
There needs to be time for front offices to learn the parameters of the new CBA, which likely will include a rookie wage scale and an adjusted salary cap. There needs to be a scrambled period for free agency. There may need to be a tweaking of training camp schedules and cutdown dates, given that owners and players have spent the entire offseason throwing their Mont Blancs at each other.
In the end, what we’re likely going to be left with are rushed signings, several pulled hamstrings early in training camp and a slightly dinged NFL brand.
Eventually, games will start. This will fade into the background, like the Redskins. As Dye said, “There will be some fallout, but it’s going to be a little like labor, no pun intended. It’s horrible when you’re going through it but when the baby comes out you forget all about it.”
Except that the birth of a child is a blessed event. This has been a pie fight that never should’ve happened. It was a buzz-kill that wrecked the atmosphere of the draft and smothered the usual storylines of free agency.
NFL owners have whined throughout about lost revenue when the fact is that they’re just upset local governments won’t pay for their stadiums any more. Roger Goodell, the commissioner, pushed the ridiculous idea of an 18-game regular season when he already has rosters of players who struggle to walk and think clearly after 16. DeMaurice Smith, the NFLPA’s executive director, never has seemed to be in a great hurry to get a deal done. Fans never should have been put through this.
The NFL was coming off a great season with the most viewed Super Bowl in history (an average of 111 million viewers in the U.S., eclipsing the previous record by 4.5 million). This was a dumb way to follow it up.
But expect the lockout to end soon. If another week passes, owners and players realize the value of their stock drops. And nobody is that stupid.
By Jeff Schultz