Fans suffered most in NFL's long, greedy battle

July 25, 2011|Kevin Cowherd

As usual, it's the fans that got played for suckers.

Go ahead and cheer the end of the NFL lockout if you want. And I'll cheer with you. Well, sort of.

Sure, I'm happy football's back, too. Think I wanted to spend the rest of the summer writing about the Orioles and their annual cliff-dive onto the rocks?

Or writing about all the whining that's emanating from the Baltimore Grand Prix over traffic congestion and noise?

But if I hear one more NFL owner or player say he's happy for the fans now that this whole labor mess is almost settled, I swear I'm going to hurl.

If the owners and players really cared about the fans, they would have never subjected them to this unseemly billionaires-versus-millionaires money grab in the middle of a nationwide recession.

Here we have over 14 million people out of work. Many of them can't pay their mortgages and car payments and college tuition bills, never mind little things like, oh, grocery and medical bills.

And now both sides act like they're doing us a big favor by finally agreeing on a new contract to divvy up $9 billion in annual revenue.

Another thing: If both sides really cared about the fans, they wouldn't have let the negotiations drag on so long that they wiped out training camps that were open to the public, an annual summer ritual fans love.

Yeah, NFL owners and players, you guys are absolute saints. I'm sure all the good folks in Westminster who rely on Ravens training camp for a good chunk of their income would agree.

The timing of the new agreement is kind of convenient, too, isn't it? Right before training camps were originally scheduled to open?

Right before the league would have seriously had to consider scrapping some preseason games, thereby costing both the owners and players some loot?

Hey, NFL, you want to really do something for the fans?

Let's start with this: cut ticket prices. They're ridiculously high. I don't care what supply-and-demand dictates. Too many average Joes can't afford even single-game tickets, never mind season tickets and exorbitant parking fees and $9 beers and $6 hot dogs. Especially in this economy.

And while we're at it, stop making fans pay full price for those ridiculous preseason games, which basically amount to a lot of scrubs pushing each other around for most of the game.

OK, this just in: Now we're hearing some owners might give fans a break on tickets and other expenses for this year's preseason games, mainly because they realize how ragged these games will be with the players having missed so much training time.

All I can say is: I hope that's true. Now they ought to slash ticket prices for these stupid games permanently. Please, don't get me started on preseason games. I can feel a blood vessel in my forehead throbbing already.

But get this: now NFL games will reportedly be longer, too! How's that for another big, wet kiss for the fans?

Yes, now we're hearing the league plans to automatically review each scoring play next season to make sure everything is on the up-and-up.

And if it looks like the score wasn't legitimate, the replay official in the booth will signal the referee on the field. Who will — ta-daa! — trot to the sidelines and stick his head under the hood and examine the play again.

And maybe again and again and again.

That's just what the fans want, isn't it?

Even more stoppages of play? Even more dead time while the players stand around guzzling water and adjusting their shoulder pads and making dinner plans for that evening?

Even more interminable Geico and Bud Light and Southwest Airlines commercials for the fan watching at home?

I'm sorry, do I sound cynical about this new agreement? OK, maybe a tad.

But the NFL owners and players don't care what people like me think. They know most fans will come flocking back to the game with big smiles and open wallets.

During the lockout, a few pundits wrote ominously about how fans might be turned off by all the bickering between the two sides, especially in this troubled economy.

Are you kidding? If there are some 311 million people in this country, I expect about 310 million of them to be popping champagne bottles and dancing in the streets now that the lockout's over.

Let's face it: The NFL is this country's crack cocaine. We're hooked on it. We can't live without it.

Why, without pro football on Sundays and Monday nights, the crime rate would soar. Things would get so desperate that marauding gangs would take to the streets to shake down school kids for their lunch money and grandmas for their Social Security checks.

At least that's what Ray Lewis said. At first, I laughed at that. Now I think he might be right.

But no need to worry about that anymore, thank God. The lockout is over. The republic has been saved. The NFL is back. The games will go on.

Like there was ever any doubt.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."

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