Saturday, March 19, 2011

NFL lockout

You all know that I'm a football fan... well, not exactly a football fan, I'm a Steelers fan. Growing up in Pittsburgh, football is as present as the air you breathe and the Steelers are religion. Watching football on television, it is easy to forget just how violent the sport really is, how big, strong, and fast those players are. Imagine a 300 pound player with reflexes like a cat, wearing pads and a helmet, running at you at the speed of a high school sprinter with one thing in mind... and you're not at the happy end of that event.

My son, John, is built like an NFL defensive lineman and is stronger than a bull. His arms are significantly bigger than my thighs and as hard as rock. He is very athletic although not terribly aggressive. He started to play football in 9th grade and dislocated his knee in a scrimmage before the season even began. He decided not to play again.

There was some pressure on him through high school to join the team again and then even more when he attended City College where one of the coaches told him that with his size and strength and a bit of coaching, he'd have a good shot at getting a scholarship to a division one school when he was finished at City College. And they had a slot at nose tackle just waiting for him. He was very, very tempted but decided against it. I have to say that I was relieved. Even as I experienced a bit of a thrill, picturing him in my mind running out onto the field, pushing his way through the middle of the line and sacking the opposing quarterback, stopping a run up the middle to deny a touchdown, my imagination went back to the dislocated knee and imagined so much worse.

Those thoughts take me to the possible lockout of NFL players. Yes, many of them (not all) get paid huge salaries and it might be easy to see them as overpaid, spoiled brats. While some, no doubt, are, there is a lot more to the story. The average NFL career is only 3.6 years long and a very large percentage of those players leave the game with permanent injuries. Some will have permanent brain damage. Some will have leg injuries that will make walking painful or difficult for the rest of their lives. Many will struggle with weight issues and its attendant heart problems and diabetes. Depending on their length of play, they may or may not have significant health care benefits as they struggle with what are often lifelong problems.

During the lockout, the players will not be paid and they will lose whatever portion of that 3.6 year average career the lockout takes. In the meantime, the owners will continue to receive revenue from television contracts which pay whether or not the games take place. So, because of reduced costs and continued income, the owners will make a profit even if there is no season. The players, all of those who work in the stadiums, and the franchise cities will suffer.

So what do the owners want? They want an increased percentage of the total revenue. They now get approximately 50%. They say they are losing money but refuse to allow the players union to see the proof. They also want to increase the season 2 more games to 18. This would increase the likelihood of injuries to players and shorten their careers at the same time that their salaries would be cut. There are other details as well that would seriously impact the players.

What do the players want? A fair cut of the revenue, health care, basic rights, and to play the game they love. They are not asking for more of anything and indeed, had a collective bargaining agreement that the owners are choosing to back out of.

From what I can see, the players have tried to negotiate in good faith and the owners have done anything but. You can go to NFL Lockout to learn more and to sign a petition urging the owners to negotiate in good faith and allow the season to go ahead.

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