As a fan of sports, I offer up my hard earned dollars to sporting events and venues for purposes of entertainment. Sports are supposed to be pastimes. They are supposed to be my Calgon – take me away from the mundane life between 9 AM and 5 PM.
Yet as we are reminded often by players trying to explain away behavior for purposes of contract negotiating leverage, sports is very much a business. You only need to pick up any front sports page from any newspaper or dial up any home page from any sports related website and chances are you will find a picture of Paul Tagliabue, Gene Upshaw or both with commentary on the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.
(We opted for Angelina Jolie and we sort of like our choice better.)
That used to mean the Continental Basketball Association.
Today it is the voice of reason, the beacon of guiding light to reel in free spenders like Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones. It is the cookbook for economic sanity in the NFL. Without it, the NFL would mirror Major League Baseball and a continental divide would separate the haves and the have nots in a sport that currently provides a balance that is the envy of all other professional sports.
But that guiding light is burning out and new batteries to replenish its glow currently escape the reach of the NFL’s Management Council and the NFL Player’s Association.
Panic could soon set in.
Turn out the light the party’s over?
Some NFL players have to be scratching their heads over this one. Sure they might walk and talk like there’s solidarity but let’s face it, the lack of a new CBA has to frighten some of the NFLPA’s constituents to the core.
Imagine if you were a three year NFL veteran looking forward to that anticipated big pay day next season when you could become an unrestricted free agent. All those hours of dedication, film study, grueling workouts and bone chilling cold tubs – all endured to finally score the mother load. And then suddenly you are told that what you’ve worked for will be put on hold for two more years.
The string on your brass ring just got shorter!
What if you were Shaun Alexander or Edgerrin James? Finally you are free to seek new frontiers – to boldly go where your wallet has never gone before – but now your Starship Enterprise can only go for a trip around the block. Without a new CBA, owners won’t pony up the dough because they can only spread signing bonuses out over a four year stretch.
You want your LaDainian Tomlinson pay day right?
Sorry! Try again next year when there is no cap. Then you can take the next plane to Jerry Jonestown or Danny Snyderville.
Oh but you play a position that has a short shelf life and one more season of wear and tear could jeopardize everything, eh? So do you roll the dice and wait or take what you can get now which we all know will be below market value?
Unions are supposed to be organizations that band together to secure favorable wages, improved working conditions, and better work hours, and to resolve grievances against employers.
Seems to me that many of the card carrying members of the NFLPA, aren’t going to be very happy.
Nor will highly touted players coming out of the college ranks. Player agents estimate that the most a top draft choice can make if the CBA isn’t extended is $15 million. I bet Matt Leinart is real happy that he stayed in school to take those ballroom dancing classes. Last year’s top pick Alex Smith received $24 million in guaranteed money from the 49ers. Maybe you can make up that $9 million on Dancing With The Stars there Matt.
So, in a nutshell, without a new CBA, the players look like they will get the raw end of the deal despite the so-called promise of an un-capped 2007 season. Players coming out of college won’t get as much and to be an unrestricted free agent a player has to wait until they have six seasons under their belt. Guess what? The average playing career of an NFL player is less than four years.
Will teams pay top dollar to six year veterans who may have already played their best football?
I think Gene Upshaw will have some splainin’ to do to his constituents if a new CBA isn’t reached.
On the flip side, the owners and their clubs will have some very difficult decisions to make. Big name players may hit the market like never before if an extension isn’t agreed upon by Sunday at 6PM when rosters have to be trimmed for salary cap compliance.
One of the owners who has been a central figure in the rift between small and large market owners on the issue of locally generated revenues is Dan Snyder. Yet without a new CBA, the Redskins as you know them today could be shredded.
(Ok stop the snickering!)
One league source believes that without the extension, the Redskins cannot mathematically comply with a cap of $94.5 million. Non-compliance could trigger fines and forfeiture of draft picks.
It might be more business than sports, but no one said it wouldn’t be interesting now did they.
The clock is ticking and time is of the essence.
As Larry the Cable Guy would say to Paul and Gene, “Git ‘er done!”
After all I need my Calgon!