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Why Fans Shouldn't Care About The NFL/NFLPA Negotiations Following Super Bowl XLV

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Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.


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As the hours continue to count down to yet another entertaining final game of the NFL season, a dark cloud has continued to loom over the hype and excitement surrounding Super Bowl XLV.  A cloud that does not include what Ben Roethlisberger was doing on a Tuesday evening at a piano bar or even Aaron Rodgers texting every quarterback in the league and congratulating each of them on a great season.  That looming cloud is none other than the upcoming NFL/NFLPA discussions about the expiring collective bargaining agreement.


With each day passing and the end of the 2010 NFL season come Sunday, the story of the entire NFL offseason will be the ongoing discussions to find agreement on a new CBA between the owners and the players.  Even this week, both the NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith and Commissioner Roger Goodell both will hold news conferences to address the state of the expiring CBA and the talks between the two camps.  


While the NFL continues to gain more revenue than ever and Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers will surely set record television ratings, the possibility of no football in 2011 is a legit possibility.   Could a nation that salivates for football more than any other sport survive without it?


Then again should football fans even care.

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It is very hard for me as a football fan to really take a side on these talks which will start on Saturday between the NFLPA and the owners.  As a guy who makes less than 45K a year working numerous jobs I have a hard time saying I'm for the millionaires or for the billionaires.  With the March 3rd expiration date fast approaching on the current CBA both sides are taking advantage of the stage of the Super Bowl in Dallas to make their case for what is to come this spring.  Tough words from both union head DeMaurice Smith and Commissioner Goodell will surely be played and dissected by every NFL expert to see if the two sides are making headway on a new deal or falling further apart.


The two sides are set to meet this coming Saturday for the first time since November.  While the two sides both agree that football cannot have any sort of stoppage, the differences that separate them are not your typical employer/employee disagreements.


#1 - Division of annual revenue amongst the teams 

#2 - Owners wanting an 18 game season 

#3 - Rookie wage scale

#4 - benefits for retired players


Looking at the main issues between the NFL and the NFLPA, which of these should fans care about and draw lines in the sand?   When it comes to dividing the revenue gained by the NFL, why should fans or players be concerned with this in the first place?  The only ones who should be concerned about which teams get what cut of the overall pot of revenue the NFL gains annually should be the owners.  Then again ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio thinks differently.


"Frankly, it should be the players' business.  Five years ago, NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw insisted that the labor deal include an accord among owners for carving up currently unshared revenues.  Without such an arrangement moving forward, any player compensation model based on total football dollars won't work, since low-revenue teams will have their payroll artificially increased by the high revenues earned by other teams.


Some believe that the owners hope to solve the revenue-sharing problem by getting more money back from the players.  Until the players begin to make that an issue, the owners will keep pursuing the path of least resistance, especially since it allows the owners to continue to project unity."

Why would football fans care about how the billionaires and millionaires argue about how to divide up the billions the NFL makes in a single year?  They should not.

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The 18 game schedule is somewhat a confusing issue to me as a fan because while we already have 20 total games minimum in each team's NFL year, why is this such a big issue.  The owners want an 18 game season because it would practically kill two pre-season games off the schedule and the amount collected at the gate would increase because of that elimination and replacing the games with ones that count/matter.  The players complaint is that the increased workload (even if it is the same amount of games) is putting the safety of the athletes in jeopardy.  This is the deal-breaker according to Union head DeMaurice Smith.

"Anything that increases the risk of injuries, anything that increases the risk of long-term consequences from playing football (and) has the intention of shortening careers," he said. When asked if an 18-game season did just that, Mr. Smith sharply said, "Yes.

Every summer NFL fans and media complain about the amount of pre-season games and yet while on the surface this idea of an 18 game season may seem like the owners adjusting to what the fans want, consider this.  The main complaint of the four pre-season games is charging a high dollar amount on the tickets sold for seeing very little of the stars of each team.  While an 18 game season sounds nice, there is a good possibility that the better teams who wrap up playoff positioning early will rest starters (see 2009 Indianapolis Colts) early and the teams who are out of contention at the same rate will play backups and prepare for the next season to come.  That is a real possibility and hence why only 27% of those surveyed in a recent Associated Press strongly favor the 18 game season.  Of anything in the upcoming CBA discussions to come this spring, this will be the one thing that will be focused on the most with NFL fans, but even now it seems those surveyed do not care enough to truly want more football that "matters".

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It is no lie that top draft picks getting paid more than players that have played in the NFL for a number of seasons is simply wrong.  While some may say that teams that place themselves in the top half of the first round look to move down in the draft because of getting more value with more players than overpaying one single player, I see no problem with it.  The market is not created by the NFL, it is created by the fact that agents are able to get the most money possible because their client is such a "future prospect" for the league.  The NFL is like any other sport, not every investment is guaranteed to work out like you would have hoped no matter the cost.  If one owner is willing to pay absolutely anything for a #1 draft pick as opposed to someone who is not, work out something where those who are willing to spend and let them spend it.  If the NFL wants to set certain rules on rookie contracts to appease the owners and players, than simply make a limit on length of contracts rather than amount of contracts.  That way teams can still make the risky investment but not be handcuffed for years to come, and current players can put themselves up with current day players and work out longer term deals based on the amounts earned by the rookies.

Then again.....should fans care either way....probably not.

Some say what the NFL has done with the former players in the league is a crime.  I understand the cause of the Gridiron Greats (as an example), but while they laid the groundwork for what is the most successful sport in America should the NFL take care of their own?  The issue to me is while the NFL is extremely successful raking in billions of dollars, I cannot support former players demanding assistance simply because the league they helped build is far more successful than it was when they played.  While players today make many more times the amount of money players in the past made, it is still about responsibility.  To me when you sign a contract with an NFL team, you assume the risk of using your body at any cost to play a game.  Going into playing that game you know the risks and you will be rewarded for your efforts.  While the NFL has grown tremendously since the days of Halas and Lombardi, it should not be up to the players/league of today to support the players of the past on top of paying the players of today.  To me it is all about taking responsibility for yourself as an individual.  If you know you are putting your body in harms way and only make a certain amount of money doing it, you need to be responsible for doing what's right during your lifetime both for the progress of the game and your own personal well being rather than asking for handouts from a business you helped build and have no current association to.  

Should fans care about the Gridiron Greats and how the NFL helps them throughout their lifetimes?  You have not yet, why should you now?

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The heart of the expiring CBA negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA will be played out in every sense of the media until there is a deal done.  I assume like many others that a deal will be done at some point, but how much fans should be concentrated on the ongoings of the talks comes down to one thing and one thing only....

We just want football in 2011 and beyond.

-RoCk

John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score

You can follow The Mully And Hanley Morning Show at Twitter.com/MullyHanley

You can follow Rock at Twitter.com/RockMamola

Catch THE ROCK REPORT every Friday night at 10pm on 670 The Score and 670TheScore.com


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