56% or 60%? NFL watching doesn't get better than this

March 05, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

I've spent the past week reading up on the NFL labor situation and I've come to an important conclusion.

There's nothing more entertaining than a good old-fashioned collective bargaining dispute.

Why would anyone care whether Miguel Tejada drives in 150 runs this year when you can quibble about the 4 percent gap in the total revenue share that the NFL allots for player salaries? The players want 60 percent. The owners want to give them 56 percent. The suspense is almost too much.

If no progress is made in the next day or so, the upcoming season will be played under a $94.5 million salary cap and 2007 could end up completely uncapped, which would throw the league into such disarray that George Steinbrenner might have to step in and buy a team - just so everyone will know who to hate.

This is exciting stuff, particularly if you went to the Wharton School or you're playing in one of those highly popular sports labor Rotisserie leagues. (I took Gene Upshaw in the second round, so I don't have any chance of cashing this year.) The outcome of these negotiations could determine if we hear the term "capologist" ever again.

(I certainly hope so. Otherwise, we may be faced with the sad prospect of all those guys standing at busy intersections in their $700 suits holding signs that read: "Will Balance Your Family Budget For Food.")

Understandably, it's hard for fans to figure out which side to take in one of these things. The disastrous 1994 baseball dispute pitted the greedy millionaire ballplayers against the grumpy billionaire owners and eventually wiped out the World Series for the first time in nearly a century.

The hockey dispute last year pitted the clueless puck-pushers against the equally obtuse NHL owners, neither side realizing that by the time they got around to cutting up the pie, there might not be any pie left to cut up.

The NFL dispute pits the owners against the players in a potential battle royal for the revenues of the most successful of the four big-time American professional team sports, and there's only one thing that's certain. No matter how it turns out, you're still going to be paying 90 bucks a ticket.

Go team!

Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams, who has never been a very controversial guy, told reporters in Tampa, Fla., last week that the reason his team hasn't won a World Series in the past five years is that it became too full of itself after dominating baseball in the late 1990s.

"This team was sort of taking for granted we were going to be there every year," he said.

This may surprise you, but the Orioles can totally identify with that. They also were sort of taking for granted that the Yankees were going to be there every year.

It's no surprise that University of Texas quarterback Vince Young feels disrespected after rumors of a poor showing on the NFL Scouting Combine's Wonderlic intelligence test.

I have no idea how smart he is (or isn't), but he figured out a way to beat two-time national champion USC, something nobody else had done in about three years, and he did it largely on the strength of his individual wits and athletic ability.

Hey, if everybody buys into the notion that he's a knucklehead, maybe he'll still be around for the 13th pick.

No, of course I'm not serious. (The Ravens reportedly are thinking about drafting Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams instead of USC's LenDale White, which I think would be a huge mistake.

To be honest, I really don't know which running back would be the better fit for the Ravens, who - depending on who you talk to - are either rebuilding, reloading or regrouping. It's just that White is one of my favorite college players and I really think it's time that Ozzie Newsome started worrying a little more about how much I'm going to enjoy watching this year's team.

Just a heads up: The retirement of Deion Sanders, the expected departure of Jamal Lewis and the disgruntlement of Ray Lewis leaves plenty of room to wonder who will be "The Man" when Ravens training camp opens this summer. The early favorite is owner Steve Bisciotti, who has done a great job of making his presence felt in the organization without making a spectacle of himself.

This week's funniest headline from SportsPickle.com, the sports humor site on the Web: Daunte Culpepper asks to receive his entire $6 million bonus in singles.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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