Neither side worthy of backing in NFL labor battle

March 02, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

Hey, NFL fans, are you ready for some … labor negotiations?

Ready for a lockout and weeks and weeks of eye-glazing "news" about unions de-certifying and anti-trust violations and court rulings, and who wants what and what it all means?

No, me either. But it sure looks as if it's coming.

The big question to me is this: How can Joe Sixpack pick a side in this ridiculous fight between the league owners and players.

Are you kidding? It's like rooting for Bank of America vs. Wells Fargo. Or Visa vs. Mastercard. Or Verizon vs. AT&T.

And when you listen to some of the nuttier pronouncements from both sides, it's like Charlie Sheen vs. Moammar Gadhafi

Wondering what the main issues are as the collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight Thursday?

Let me break it down for you. The owners want more money. And the players want more money. There, that wasn't too hard to follow, was it?

Specifically, both sides are trying to figure out how to divvy up $9 billion in annual revenues.

Don't you wish you had that problem?

And don't you feel sorry for these poor guys when you're struggling to make the mortgage payment or car payment or tuition payment?

Or when you're at the gas pumps and your heart nearly seizes because you're paying $3.50 a gallon for regular unleaded?

"People don't want to hear about our squabbling, and it's criminal if we don't get a deal done," New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said.

You got that right, Bob. It is criminal. And it's dumb, too.

Which is why — and I say this with all due respect — most fans want to strangle you.

Here's the most popular sports league in the nation, with record-breaking TV ratings and revenue growth.

Everyone associated with the game — from owners to players to league personnel — is making a ton of money.

But the owners are willing to shut the whole thing down just so they can make even more money, which in this case would be an additional $1 billion that now goes to the players.

And the players — I know this'll shock you — want to keep that $1 billion for themselves.

It's like a patient going to a doctor and the doctor saying: "Hey, you look great! You're healthy, thriving, etc. But we're going to wheel you into surgery and do some kind of weird, risky operation anyway. And who knows how it's going to turn out?"

Which is mainly what NFL fans want to know: If the lockout goes into effect, how's this all going to turn out?

The draft would still take place in April — that's part of the old CBA. But then what? No draft choices would be signed. Players couldn't work out at their team's facilities. There would be no minicamps.

If the work stoppage drags on until July, training camps could remain shut. And the 2011 season could be threatened.

A season without NFL football in this country? They'd be rioting in the streets. It would make the demonstrations Madison, Wis., look like a few protesters outside a school board meeting.

Me, I can't believe both sides would let this dispute play out that long — not with all the money that's at stake.

But I'm a sap. I believe that common sense usually prevails. I believe that reasonable people can always sit down and arrive at some sort of agreement no matter how entrenched their positions.

But I also believed "Dancing with the Stars" would be cancelled after three weeks. And that Justin Bieber would be working at a Red Lobster by now.

Besides, there's no evidence that common sense and reason are being applied here as the lockout looms. The main thing both sides are bringing to the bargaining table is greed.

As for what a prolonged labor stoppage would do to the NFL's popularity, please, let's not kid ourselves.

The owners and players would take a hit financially. But the minute they kiss and make up, the fans will be back. And as soon as the fans come back, the money will be rolling in again.

This won't be like baseball's strike in 1994, when the fans responded with stadium boycotts and TV ratings nose-dived. This is the NFL, the biggest entertainment outlet in the whole world.

So you go ahead and pick a side in this unseemly little stand-off if you want. But not me.

I'm sick to death of both of them.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

(Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.)

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