Ravens fans can finally get their football fix

Lockout ends as rich get richer, order is restored in Baltimore

July 26, 2011|By Peter Schmuck

It's really kind of a stupid question. I mean, how could we not be ready for some football at this point?

The NFL labor negotiations dragged on so long that Roger Goodell doesn't even look boyish anymore. The lockout was on-again and off-again so many times it was harder to keep up with than the Kardashians.

How did they expect football fans to get through the spring and summer without any rookie minicamps and OTAs. I needed an NFL offseason fix so bad that I went to Towson University in late May just to watch Derrick Mason stretch his hamstrings.

Yes, really.

In a perfect Baltimore sports world, the Orioles would have kept us entertained with an exciting season — or even an exciting half-season — but they were only able to hold our attention for a couple of months before another inevitable collapse that left local fans with little to do but bone up on their anti-trust law and wait for the next Adam Schefter bargaining update.

If it weren't for Rory McElroy and the U.S. women's World Cup team, I'm pretty sure a lot of us would have been reduced to watching the crawler on CNN for scoring updates from the federal budget negotiations.

Don't get me started. This is supposed to be a nation of priorities and we were worrying about seniors getting their social security checks a few days late while the NFL season was hanging in the balance? Hey, grandpa, maybe if you'd put a little more in your 401K every month, you'd have more money to spend on licensed NFL merchandise and we might not have been in this mess.

Anyway, it's finally over and we can go back to wondering if Joe Flacco is good enough to lead the Ravens to the Super Bowl or whether the Ravens are going to find a way to re-sign Mason, Todd Heap and Kelly Gregg (who is probably getting speed-dialed by Rex Ryan as we speak).

The players started wandering into The Castle on Tuesday morning. John Harbaugh clearly couldn't wait to get started. Union activist Domonique Foxworth held court with the media and wondered aloud whether his role in the negotiations might put him next on the front-office hit list.

The next few weeks should be pretty interesting, since the Ravens and every other team will have to squeeze six months of front office business into a very small time frame. Ozzie Newsome and his staff will have to go into overdrive to get the new draft class under contract, re-sign some of those key veterans and shop the free agent market.

The good news is that the Ravens are pretty good at that stuff, so they should be at an advantage over a lot of teams, especially the ones with new coaching staffs and front office decision-makers.

There will be a bit of a lockout hangover, because training camp will not be held at McDaniel College this year and fans will only get a few opportunities at M&T Bank Stadium to watch preseason workouts and get autographs, but that's a small price to pay for the assurance that the government won't have to bail out the NFL next year.

Sorry for that little burst of cynicism at such a happy moment in football history, but we're still talking about an industry that generates $9 billion in annual revenue and probably will double that in the next decade or so. The players settled for a lower percentage of that revenue but everybody — except you, of course, and maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars — is going to end up making way more money than when this nasty little labor war began.

That's because we love the NFL more than any other sporting entity in this country and will apparently pay almost any price to watch our gladiators represent us on the gridiron. The owners and players know that they've got the whole supply-and-demand thing on their side, so there was never any real concern about alienating the fans.

Goodell and DeMaurice Smith can pay all the lip service they want to the paying customers, but when this is all said and done, the fans will be the only ones with lighter wallets.

But let's not worry about that now, because the Ravens are going to open the regular season on time against the evil Pittsburgh Steelers, whose fans — by the way — actually got to spend the lockout following a contending baseball team.

Clearly, there is no justice in the world.

Listen to Peter Schmuck when he hosts "The Week in Review" Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and wbal com.

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