FRAN THE FAN: Unlocks the door to the NFL’s Twilight Zone

Street Talk FRAN THE FAN: Unlocks the door to the NFL’s Twilight Zone

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"There is nothing wrong with your NFL this off-season.  Do not attempt to adjust your plans for draft day, OTAs, or training camp.  We are controlling the transmission.  If we wish to make the season longer, we will add games.  If we wish to make the preseason shorter, we will cut games (but still charge you regular season ticket prices).  We will control the horizontal running game.  We will control the vertical passing game.  We can soften our focus to make it be the fan’s welfare, or sharpen it to blame each other.  So, for the next few months, sit quietly, and we will control all that you see and hear. 

For we will carry you to another dimension, a dimension not only of noise and bluster, but of stupidity and avarice; a journey which reaches from the inner minds of the Jerra’s (Jones) and De Smiths, to a barren desert where, like grains of sand, mindless greed knows no bounds.  Next stop, not Willoughby, but…” **

The NFL Twilight Zone

They did it.  The fools did it.  Against the hopes of millions of football fans, the NFLPA has decertified and the owners have locked out the players. Professional football is shut down until further notice. 

Billionaires and millionaires can’t figure out how to equitably divide revenues from a 9 BILLION dollar business.  Give me a break.  Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti recently said in an interview that he’s embarrassed about the whole thing.  He should be.

Like Howard Beale, the crazed anchorman in “Network,” I’m mad as hell, fed up, and I’m not going to take this anymore.

I saw this coming a mile away – well, months away.  I was writing and ranting about this during the 2010 regular season.  95% chance of work stoppage, I wrote.  Boy, was I was wrong.  It should have been 100% because this is what the owners and the players wanted from the git-go.  Originally, this was going to be an anti-NFL owner’s rant, but it’s obvious that, all along, both the owners and players have been spoiling for a fight.  The blame can be distributed among both parties.

Short of abject capitulation on the part of the players union, the owners have been hell-bent on, not only releasing from a player-friendly contract, but busting the NFLPA to smithereens.  Opting out of the contract two years ago was just the first shot across the bow.  But they miscalculated. DeMaurice Smith is no Gene Upshaw, who may just have been in Paul Tagliabue’s hip pocket after all.

The players union or, as Pro Football Talk.com so cleverly puts it, the “NFLPA*,” is no better.  Short of getting the contract they had for the last 4 years, they planned all along to decertify, file an anti-trust lawsuit, and drive this mess into the friendly confines of a federal court room.  Why do they need to see 10 years of auditable financial records?  Why not just finances since the 2006 contract?  Why won’t the owners provide the information? 

Because they don’t want each other to know how much money they’re making. 

Dan Snyder doesn’t want the other owners to know how much he’s been financially raping and pillaging the Redskins fan base over the past 11 years.  Remember, this is the guy who’s suing a Washington, D.C. alternative newspaper with a circulation of 70,000, for 2 million dollars for not firing a reporter who wrote a factual article about the history of his ownership. 

Think Jerry Jones wants the rest of the owners to know how much he’s raking in from his Taj Mahal? 

Think the New York Maras and Woody Johnsons want to reveal just how much they’re gouging their decades old fan bases for obscenely priced PSLs?

Greed overcomes common sense.  Vindictiveness overcomes the common good.

Know when the jig was up? When the union and owners met back in January and the NFLPA put an initial proposal on the table for a 50-50 split of revenues and the owners immediately walked out.  Anybody with even a smidgeon of labor-management relations experience knows this was an opening gambit, a starting point to engage further discussion.  That said, some believe it was the union’s intent all along, short of owner capitulation, to decertify. 

I’m starting to believe them. 

Several sources have said that the owners made substantial concessions in the days leading up to Armageddon Day but the die was already cast.  But who really knows what went on in those meetings? 

Do fans understand that, during the intense, last week of negotiations with federal arbitration expert George Cohen, that the two sides rarely met face-to-face?   How the hell do you negotiate when you have highly-paid handlers running back and forth between meeting rooms because the two sides can’t stand to be in the same room with each other?  Both sides are so lawyered-up you can’t understand the language they use.

So….Where do things, 3 weeks into a football shutdown stand now? 

The parties are no closer, as both sides are using the court system to sort things out.  I said above that you can’t understand the language being used.  But you can understand this.   Closely read the words they’re using:

From the NFL:  “The NFL remains committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached – an agreement that is good for the long term health of the league.”

From the decertified union:  “Any agreement reached from this point forward with the NFL will be as a result of the court system, not a collective bargaining agreement.”

That’s right football fans!  They’re not even talking the same language! 

Until the owners and players feel the financial pinch, this thing will go on for a while.  Nobody is feeling the big hurt – yet.  Rookies who are drafted at the end of April will feel it first, since there will be no workouts, or play books to learn.  The stadium concession workers, restaurants, and bars won’t feel it until August when preseason usually cranks up.  The only people who are fretting at this point are the coaching staffs, who can’t check on the players to make sure they’re participating in their off-season conditioning programs.  

(Unless of course it’s Tom Zbikowski!)

OK – when will it end?

When certain powerful, influential owners can’t meet the debt service on their fancy new stadiums!

When the players can’t make their Escalade and child support payments!

When unrestricted free agents start collecting unemployment benefits!

When 20,000 square foot homes go into foreclosure!

When the court system twists one side or the other into an agreement… 

In the meantime, fans are merely pawns in this game of high stakes chess and we should all be tired of it.  For me, interest in the Orioles may, for the first time in years, extend past the end of July when training camp usually opens. 

So I refuse to follow this little comedy any further.  No more recording the 4 PM “NFL Live” show on the 4 Letter Network. No Mort, No Adam.  No NFL Network reruns, no Rich Eisen, no draft day updates.  No Sun articles about draft hopefuls. 

Unless it’s on this web site, I don’t want to hear or see anything about contract negotiations. 

We can’t do anything about it anyway. 

After all, “They Are Controlling the Transmission.”

** In tribute to Vic (the Control Voice) Perrin and Rod Serling …
 
 

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Fran "The Fan" Vojik

About Fran "The Fan" Vojik

Fran Vojik has been a contributor to the Ravens24X7 site since 2005, first as a regular on the "Letters to T.L." page, then as the author of the Fran the Fan column. A huge Orioles and Ravens fan, he defines the term “homer.” A former season ticket holder of the Baltimore Colts, he now roots on the Ravens from his corner end zone seat in M&T Bank Stadium. His work makes him a regular traveler to various MLB and NFL cities and he’s watched both the Birds and Purple and Black in a variety of away stadiums. He brings a passionate and humorous perspective to the world of professional sports. Born in Highlandtown, and a graduate of Calvert Hall College and the University of Maryland, he lives on Furnace Creek in northern Anne Arundel County. He and his girlfriend, Sandy, have recently renovated his Man Cave, known as the “The Sports Palace," which contains many mementos from the Colts, Ravens, and Orioles. On days the Ravens play at home, Fran can usually be found tailgating at the Baltimore Fire Fighters Union Hall Local 734 , supporting the organization’s Widow’s and Orphan’s fund. More from Fran "The Fan" Vojik

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