With the clock running down on the off-season, NFL owners and the players they locked out came to terms on a new ten-year collective bargaining agreement.
The deal came at the relatively insignificant cost of the “fifth” preseason Hall of Fame game (sorry Canton, but your throwaway exhibition game will not be missed) though the long drawn out back and forth and legal maneuverings took a toll on the fans’ collective stomach linings and perhaps their enthusiasm for the multi-billion dollar sports enterprise.
Though the owners played hardball in their tactics, the agreement they adopted proved, at least upon the review of this non-lawyer/sports agent, to be a reasonably fair working arrangement.
The biggest losers being the sports agents who took delight in reaping the dividends of ludicrously loaded draftee contracts and the annoying gamesmanship that kept their rookie charges out of training camp.
While an argument can be made that the massive payouts are “almost” justified as collegiate stars view first round money as the reward for their largely uncompensated effort on the university gridiron, this Saints fan is still emotionally scarred from the 2003 Jonathan Sullivan fiasco.
The Saints invested millions of dollars and two first round draft picks for the sixth overall selection in the draft and received the pauper’s sum of 1.5 sacks out of the bargain.
The second overall pick in the 2006 draft hasn’t performed at the level of his considerable keep either but I imagine this story will be coming to a head sooner than later.
A major concession to the players was the once assured scrapping of two of the four preseason games. The NFL postured as looking out for the fans on this matter though nobody was ignorant of the increased financial windfall to the league by going to an 18-game season.
Attendance at preseason games lags greatly behind contests that count however expanding the season would increase the chances of players becoming hurt, wreck season statistical achievements and make it harder for undrafted rookies to crack into the 53 man roster.
Though the matter has not been definitively resolved, the switch from a 16 game season to a 18 game season has been shelved to at least 2013 and then can’t be implemented without the players’ consent. Hopefully the players will vote with their brains (and knees) and not their pocketbooks when the issue is revisited.
More than a few NFL owners are struggling with stadium debt and needed an uninterrupted 2011 season worse than their most notoriously spendthrift players. And maybe that’s why the deal was more equitable than I suspected it would be.
We’ve seen where owner-labor disputes can cause serious damage to professional sports entities.
The NBA is in the midst of its own lockout.
And this one-time confirmed baseball fanatic never fully recovered the love I had for Major League Baseball after the strike shortened season and the resulting obnoxious financial victory by the players.
During tough economic times, one thing America didn’t need is to be denied its favorite three hours of escapism because of a fight between billionaires and millionaires.
So a tip of my fleur-de-lis cap to both sides for getting a deal done with a relative minimal amount of disruption.