Will Super Bowl XLV be the last NFL game we ever see?

OK, so the headline is a bit of hyperbole. (Me? Hyperbolic? Say it ain’t so!) But Steelers-Packers looks more and more like the last NFL game before the owners lock out their players, and there’s a chance a lockout could last a while.

My default position has been that the NFL is too smart to fall into a long-term work stoppage. (Yes, I was around in 1982, when half the season was lost to a players’ strike, and again in 1987, when the workers again walked out and three regrettable games using replacements were staged.) Baseball has since lost a World Series and the NBA half a season and the NHL a whole season, and pro football has sailed blissfully onward. But the bliss is about to end.

I’m not sure this NFL commissioner and these owners are as smart as those we’d come to know. History lesson: The NFL got huge because Pete Rozelle convinced his owners they were partners first and competitors second and that any TV contracts must be league contracts. (This as opposed to baseball, where each franchise works out its local TV deal for itself, which is why the Yankees mint money and the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since Sid Bream slid.)

Rozelle was the smartest commissioner in the history of sports — apologies to David Stern — and was succeeded by Paul Tagliabue, himself no dummy. But Roger Goodell is the new sheriff, and he seems markedly less clever.

In an excellent Lockout Primer, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk suggests the NFL suffers from a lack of  gravitas, which is another way of saying: Too many owners want to be like Jerry Jones. The owners of yore, schooled and herded by Rozelle, knew that to miss games was bad for business. It was the players who went on strike in 1982 and again in 1987, and both times they came back to work without having gained what they wanted. The players were simply losing too much money not playing. It will take a while before these owners lose enough money to hurt.

These owners want, shock of shocks, to share less revenue. (Building your own stadium is hard, Jerry Jones wants us to know.) And the owners do have leverage: They’re rich already; they don’t have to depend on weekly checks the way players do. When regular-season games start being lost, it’s going to hurt the players more than the owners. And the side suffering more is the side apt to surrender.

To answer a question often raised: There will be a draft even if there’s a lockout. But, as Peter King of SI.com has noted, there might not be any free agency if this lockout lasts into September. And right now, I’d guess it will last at least that long. Because I have no faith in Goodell to control his owners.

Goodell just announced he would cut his salary from $10 million to $1 if there’s a work stoppage. It’s another in a series of Grand Goodell Gestures, but this commissioner is better at gesturing than he is at commissioning. And really, wouldn’t the better course be to say, “If I can stave off a lockout, my salary gets doubled”?

For the first time, the players seem to be hitting the right notes. (Antonio Cromartie’s rant notwithstanding.) They’re positioning themselves as victims, not instigators. The NFL Players Association has even launched a Web site — NFLLockout.com — to take its case to the people. And that’s another key difference: If the players are convinced they’ve been wronged, they might actually stick together this time.

A guess: This Super Bowl won’t be the last pro football game we ever see, but it will be the last we see until October.

By Mark Bradley

158 comments Add your comment

Dontavius Supremo

January 27th, 2011
12:01 pm

A pox on them both. I’ll stick to college ball. Better games anyway.

Locked-up

January 27th, 2011
12:05 pm

Yes the S.B will be the last pro football game of 2011…..too much $ involved not to make it back in 2012!

DILLIGAF

January 27th, 2011
12:07 pm

DILLIGAF

January 27th, 2011
12:08 pm

I meant third!

GHS

January 27th, 2011
12:09 pm

sucks for the ones that want to get drafted! COllege is way better!

GOCOCKS

January 27th, 2011
12:09 pm

Let’s assume the ENTIRE season is lost.

What does Tony Gonzalez do? Does he come back another year older, and not having played in over a year?

Mark Bradley

January 27th, 2011
12:14 pm

I can’t imagine the whole season will be lost.

ATLjinx

January 27th, 2011
12:14 pm

NFL ball chess…college ball checkers…no contest nfl is a better game…at least that would end our championship curse…in a way

Preston

January 27th, 2011
12:14 pm

Mark, just when I was about to blast you for asking such a ridiculous question in the headline, the witty Sid bream line turned things around for me. Clever!

Mr. Obvious

January 27th, 2011
12:17 pm

If Super Bowl XVL is indeed the last NFL game ever played, we should probably expect nationwide crime rates such as those of carjackings, armed robberies, drug trafficking and smash-and-grab thefts to skyrocket, as many these crude, thuggish, inarticulate, steroid-laden, chest-thumping, wife-beating, STD-spreading neanderthals who mysteriously somehow “graduated” college are incapable of earning millions of dollars doing anything else for a living (legally).

SimpleDawg

January 27th, 2011
12:18 pm

I don’t plan to renew my Falcon season tickets until this thing gets settled.

I’m not paying for a product that may or may not be what is promised by the club, nor expected by the consumer.

The 18 game schedule is desired only by the owners…..the fans don’t want more games, they just don’t want to be required to pay for 4 preseason games, 2 of which are crap.

The players want to use the 18 game schedule to increase their health benefits….I don’t blame them.

I say scrap the 18 game idea. Find a way to share the revenue – maybe roll additional health care into the sharing equation, and let’s play ball.

ATLjinx

January 27th, 2011
12:22 pm

well you better hope they settle it by the 11th cause thats when they’re due!

Fish Bisch

January 27th, 2011
12:25 pm

I certainly hope this is the last super bowl involving the pittsburgh steelers.

SimpleDawg

January 27th, 2011
12:32 pm

I know. I’ll just have to get in line with anyone else who decides to apply for tickets….after the stoppage.

UGABugKiller

January 27th, 2011
12:32 pm

Wow, Mark, I usually don’t see this kind of take from you on an issue.

And by that I mean a seemingly uneducated and completely WRONG take.

The NFL is in this precarious position precisely BECAUSE the Commisioner you think smarter than Goodell, Paul Tagliabue, caused the current unrest because he was more worried about his legacy and getting into the HOF than creating a collective bargaining deal that all parties liked.

Oh yeah, that’s right, Mark, did you forget that Tags basically shoved this deal down the owner’s throats, so as to ensure a false sense of labor peace, thus ending his career on a high note.

I guess you never read Peter King or other pundits who say the very reason why Tags is being kept out of the HOF is precisely BECAUSE he and his last CBA is the root cause of this lockout, huh?

The fact of the matter is, the CBA Tags forced on the owners was a bad deal. In no other league do the players get that much revenue. And yes, in an era of economic instability in this country, where tax-payer built stadiums are becoming a thing of the past (thank God), this deal does stink. It’s way the owner’s opted out of it.

Because it doesn’t work for them. Of course the players loved the deal, it gave them unprecedented amounts of revenue in a sport where your next play could be your last.

And lets not even get into the fact that the NFLPA is a corrupt organization that does everything it can to ignore the severe medical issues surrounding the players who whose shoulders morons like De Smith stand on to proclaim that he is, “Going to War.”

You’d think with the windfall of money the NFLPA got from Tags’s CBA, they’d pay for the medical expenses caused by the serious amount of brain damage, knee injuries, etc, that former players are suffering from. Players in the 60’s and 70’s who never sniffed a million-dollar contract.

I guess a situation like that just slipped your mind as you were so quick to jump on De Smith’s War Wagon and pile on the owners.

Uneducated. Wrong. I’m disappointed, Mark.

Fish Bisch

January 27th, 2011
12:32 pm

For the record, I disagree with Dontavius Supremo. His idea of “better games” is flawed. I don’t think watching big universities beating up on the little sisters of the poor every single saturday is better than the parody the NFL gives the fans.

GSU Eagle 91

January 27th, 2011
12:36 pm

Until there is a way to cap the ridiculous salaries made by unproven rookies due to their draft status, there will be no football in 2012…
So what…I love the NFl, but I love the game of football at all levels..From young kids in a Pop Warner league, to my local high school in Villa Rica..and of course,,,,College football is my favorite sport of all…
If these guys rot on the sidelines, too bad..Hopefully they saved a few $$ ( see Derrick Coleman’s bio) and stay in shape when the call finally does come in to report…
Mark…Our Falcons need better # 2,3 and 4 receivers….and better back-ups at CB…

Seth

January 27th, 2011
12:38 pm

As a boy, I thought the NFL was the greatest sports league ever created and dreamed of one day playing in it.

As an adult, however, I’ve sadly watch the NFL become the one-game-a week version of the NBA
where a T-E-A-M sport has turned into a group of self-aggrandizing, selfish, me-first, attention-grubbing individuals who put themselves before the sport itself, their team, their teammates and the fans.

The 21st-Century NFL, as well as the OTHER “League of Extraordinary Hoodlums” known as the NBA, can both go out of business forever as soon as tomorrow for all I care.

Good Riddance to ALL of these criminals and the crooked, greedy owners, too!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gail Sideman, Mark Bradley. Mark Bradley said: So, with the #NFL lockout coming, will Super Bowl XLV be the last pro football game we ever see? http://bit.ly/ga2R9w [...]

KC

January 27th, 2011
12:39 pm

I haven’t renewed my season tickets yet either. I believe we have up until 2/11 as the deadline. I doubt the whole season will be lost. But what if games are lost?? Do they issue a partial refund? Anybody know?

GT

January 27th, 2011
12:41 pm

If that’s the case, not playing until october, i hope all the hard teams the falcons play are at the start of the season. lol

Who Dat got a Super Bowl ring??

January 27th, 2011
12:44 pm

How are the owners going to handle rookie contracts? I’m assuming that since there is still going to be a draft the rookies are going to want the usuall 10% increase over last years draft picks. However, isn’t one of the sticking points of the new CBA, a rookie pay scales that pays draft picks far less than what they have been making? Anybody got any insight?

Paul in RDU

January 27th, 2011
12:46 pm

I can’t see there being a lost season, although no games before October is a distinct possibility. Want to bet that the teams will only need 2 pre-season games to get ready for a shortened season?

I take the claims of poor profitability of NFL owners with a large grain of salt. How many owners have sons, daughters and other relatives on the payroll at highly inflated salaries? How many of them live high on the hog on the team nickel? Remember the previous Falcons owners?

Curious George

January 27th, 2011
12:47 pm

If the NFL goes out of business and all the players are no longer making MILLION$, will sleazy, gold-digging women (or On-The-Down-Low men) with no morality or self-respect still want to climb into bed with league felons such as Michael “Ick” Vick and his venereal diseases when the possibility of a huge pay day is no longer involved?

GT Alum

January 27th, 2011
12:48 pm

MB, the players union has been trying to position themselves as victims for a while. Their problem is apparently you’re the only person stupid enough to buy into it.

jtdawg

January 27th, 2011
12:51 pm

First, I think your hyperbole is over the top, even for you.

Second, I believe your assumption there will be a long lockout is hyperbole as well, Mr. Chicken Little.

Third, why the knock on Goodell? Aside from his silly insistence on internationalizing the game (good business/bad idea) and 18 games (moot point players are whining about that they already play anyway), what grand issues has Goodell screwed the pooch on to be poo-poohed away so tidily?

DirtyBirdsin11

January 27th, 2011
12:52 pm

I don’t know why everyone here in the south thinks that college football is a better product than pro football. The NFL is the best of the best, and produces dramatic games, and jaw-dropping performances week in and week out. It also doesn’t use the opinions of random coaches and writers who have watched fewer games than most zealous fans down here to crown a champion. The NFL actually has a champion who has earned the title on the field, against the best teams in the league for 4 straight weeks. College football is entertaining, and produces more passionate rivalries, but the NFL is far and away the better product. You don’t have to worry about your players being suspended for selling a jersey or getting a tattoo. Your coach doesn’t have to waste his time sucking up to kids and their parents or coaxing money out of rich boosters; he can focus on football and personnel. The NFL is the best and most entertaining sports viewing experience a fan could ever hope for.

Mark Bradley Jr.

January 27th, 2011
12:52 pm

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Mark Bradley Jr.

January 27th, 2011
12:53 pm

I heard a rumor that Goodell is in negotiations with Obama to lock out Congress! The states will collapse in months! Chaos rules! That darn Goodell!

LawDawg

January 27th, 2011
12:54 pm

Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue were both phenomenally good commissioners and the NFL got better and better with every decision. Since Goodell came in, every decision has made the league worse. Recently we have had the No Fun League rules which tone the game down (and not in a good way) and now we have these fits and starts toward making the game no contact while also proposing an 18 game season (ESPN is a bigger hypocrite in this arena, alternatively providing a megaphone for the concussion-fearing crowd, particularly after the Dunta/DeSean Jackson and Harrison hits that one weekend and then turning around and calling Jay Cutler a p****). I have no faith that Goodell will keep this lockout from losing us a half year of football.

Also, David Stern is a great commissioner? Are you serious? I guess he kept Jordan’s banishment for gambling underwraps (thereby preventing the destruction of his league), but he has allowed point shaving to become rampant and refereeing has not been down the middle in an LAL or BOS game in 20 years.

Mark Bradley Jr.

January 27th, 2011
12:55 pm

Dad’s next article for you sneak peekers:

Freddi Gonzolas May Never Win a Game as Braves Manager, And Here’s Why:

gabeaux

January 27th, 2011
12:55 pm

NFL teams will refund the price of your tickets for every game lost to a work stoppage. That said, they will be stupid if they let all this primate posturing lead to a lockout. They are on top of the sports world now and if they hold out, their fans will find alternative ways to spend their money.

Mark Bradley Jr.

January 27th, 2011
12:56 pm

that’s Gonzales. I spell as good as dad sometimes too…

jtdawg

January 27th, 2011
12:58 pm

I sure believe that Goodell isn’t the commisioner that Rozelle (innovator) and Tagliabue was, but he is not responsible for the Owners wanting a better deal.

They feel they got shorted whether we like it or not. Goodell can only preach to the good of the league. He is NOT to blame for this mess.

Fish Bisch

January 27th, 2011
1:00 pm

dirtybirdsin11 don’t forget college football’s gimmicky schedules that gauruntee at least 4 or 5 gimme wins for the big programs.

Navigator

January 27th, 2011
1:04 pm

Actually the idea or getting rid of over paid self centered athletes actually has a nice ring to it. Consider that college football outdraws pros at the stadium and on TV pretty much says the sport has lost it’s way.

extremus

January 27th, 2011
1:10 pm

It’s coming to this across the whole spectrum of pro sports. Baseball and the NBA are most likely going to be suffering from work stoppages come the next round of labor negotiations, because the player salaries, huge guaranteed contracts that pose ridiculous risks for a franchise, and revenue sharing issues have reached a point that small and medium markets can no longer realistically compete on a year-in, year-out basis. Rather than “The Last NFL game We Ever See”, perhaps this column should have been labeled “The Beginning of the End for Professional Sports as We Know It”, Mr. Bradley. One way or the other, things are about to come to a head.

DirtyBirdsin11

January 27th, 2011
1:12 pm

right, about 75% of college football games each year are nearly unwatchable.

CurlyHoward

January 27th, 2011
1:15 pm

Most fans this year were comparing Vick to Brady for the MVP award. Vicks name SHOULD NEVER BE MENTIONED IN THE SAME BREATH AS BRADYS. Some people are still comparing MIKE VICK to MATT RYAN. Now that Vick has regained his standing as one of the top players in the league AND has recently signed a new endorsement deal. Now that is looks like Vick is once again on track to get into the hall of fame as the greatest running quarterback the league has ever seen (PREVIOUSLY GAINING 1000 YARDS RUSHING AS THE ONLY QB TO DO SO), maybe the Falcons might consider trading to re-acquire Vick in exchange for Matty Ice. It would make sense due to Matt Ryans huge embarrasement and failure in the playoffs versus green bay where the Falcons got clobbered and embarrased on national television 48-21, getting thorougly stomped on.

I want to be a scab

January 27th, 2011
1:17 pm

What do I need to do..??

what??/

January 27th, 2011
1:25 pm

“they don’t have to depend on weekly checks the way players do.” are you kidding me???, if they do it is because they choose to live that way not because of how “little” they are paid. Yes they get paid less than the owners but by no means are they forced to live check to check. Even with the league minimum you can easily make that yearly salary last a good while, invest it and live off the interest and have a modest life.

JW

January 27th, 2011
1:25 pm

Bring back the USFL…and don’t invite that Monstrous Clown Trump!

Matt

January 27th, 2011
1:33 pm

If the players have been smart with their money they and their families will never have to work another day in the lives. Since we know that is FAR from true I imagine they will cave rather quickly. They shouldn’t have to and eventually the owners would cave because of they money they could be making. They are greedier than the players and they know nobody is going to go watch replacement players.

Matt

January 27th, 2011
1:36 pm

I’m a freaking school teacher and I don’t live check to check. There is no reason whatsoever (unless you have 8 kids by 8 different baby mommas and are therefore paying child support on all those kids which mean you were reckless and irresponsible in the first place. Other instances would include gambling debts, living beyond your means, and just beling plain foolish with your money) they should have to cave because of money problems.

winkasdad29

January 27th, 2011
1:36 pm

Dontavius Supremo

January 27th, 2011
12:01 pm
A pox on them both. I’ll stick to college ball. Better games anyway.
————————————————————————Yeah, but they don’t have any real purpose.

Matt

January 27th, 2011
1:39 pm

Curly Howard- you sir are an idiot.

Also, you think Vick is a HOF QB?!?!?!?!?!? If the next 10 years of his career are as good if not better than this one then yes he might get the nod.

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 27th, 2011
1:49 pm

Pro sports teams are ONE of the very few Industries where you can’t KILL your competator or you KILL yourself. THe NFL can try to KILL the NBA, MLB, and NHL but there will always be a season in need of a sport to watch. The NFL cannot stop work of the WINNER is COLLEGE FOOTBALL by default. I have not purchaced tickets to more than 10-20 MLB games since the last strike. I do go to a few Tech Baseball games every year, but now I have a nephew playing Lil League so I will go watch him play.
I don’t go to NFL games because I spend money on Tech Season tickets. IF the NFL Locksout I will stay a College Fan and if the NCAA keeps up with it’s crap I have a few High Schools near me I can see play.
OUTDOOR STADIUM. Atlanta doesn’t need one and can’t afford one. I would not sit outside to see a game in the cold. College is done before it gets really bad weather in the south.
The MONEY both sides make is crazy. The players need to see what kind of money their fans make and choose to spend on the GAME they play.
LeBron, Brady, and A Rod are not worth the money they make, and espically not to act the butt they do. They don’t need to charge for autographs or apperances either. All Pro players need to learn a few lessons from NASCAR Drivers on public relations.

stinky

January 27th, 2011
1:52 pm

What would happen if a sizeable chunk of the NFLPA brethren migrated to the CFL for a year?

CurlyHoward

January 27th, 2011
2:00 pm

Matt: Vick absolutely is a HOF quarterback. Vick has made the pro bowl four times in his six years of NFL service (OUTSTANDING). Secondarily, Vick was cheated out of the MVP Award this season because the media still looks at Vick as the top dog in terms of the fights he used to schedule with them. Third, Vicks jersey and football are in the HOF for him being the ONLY QB IN LEAGUE HISTORY TO RUSH FOR 1000 yards. Whether Vick ever gets into the pro football HOF in Canton or not, Vicks jersey and football will stay there forever until someone breaks Vicks 1000 yard record. But most importantly, Vick is the leagues MOST DOMINANT PLAYER, but most fans and media are looking at Vick through the prism and lens of their glasses as Vick being the “GREATEST DOGFIGHTER IN HISTORY”…. Most people remember and observe Vick, not as the leagues best and most dominant threat, but as the PETA Groups observe Vick as being the most heinous killer of dogs the world has ever seen. MOST PEOPLE ALREADY REALIZE THAT VICK WILL MAKE THE DOGFIGHTERS HALL OF FAME, but what they dont realize is that, as you said, if Vick continues to have great seasons as this one for the next 10 seasons, Vick will be enshrined into the Pro Football HOF as an amazing talent.

swhite

January 27th, 2011
2:02 pm

I don’t know if Fish Bisch meant to say “parity,” but I thinked he may have swerved into an undeniable truth. There are many Sundays that the NFL is a parody of its former self. I can’t stand to watch the sack dances, the diving into the end zone, the “dunks” over the cross bars…generally all of the hot dogging that goes on. Making a sack in the first quarter doesn’t deserve a celebration more than a high five. The problem is that all of this is slowly seeping down into the college ranks. Woe is football!