We’ve already waited too long.
- Mike Wise
Fans to NFL: Let the games begin
We’ve given you more than five months to figure out how to fairly divide the $9 billion we annually spend on your league.
That’s right, we — the people who have made you the most popular and lucrative sport in the country, who have been patient while you’ve fought over sums that dwarf our annual incomes.
All we ask is that you play your games, and now, hours after NFL owners approved a new collective bargaining agreement with players, it appears both of you have wised up just in time not to lose a single regular season game to labor stoppage.
Heraldic trumpets, please. Oh, also, in the time your lawyers on both sides held us captive and even in the time it took your leaders to sell your constituencies on the new pact, remember this:
We have always had just one clause in our collective bargaining agreement with you.
You play, we show up to your games or watch at home — in startling numbers.
Since 1987, the last time games were lost during an NFL season, it’s been a simple covenant: You commit, we commit. It’s why you’re the national pastime now and baseball is not.
We’ll bake in 110-degree heat indexes just to watch practice. We’ll queue up to pay your exorbitant prices. Yes, Chad Johnson, we’ll follow your Twitter feed. We’ll buy your pricey concessions and even bring our own Sharpies when we ask for your autographs.
Again, all we ask is that you play. Just play.
And with the ball now in the NFL Players Association’s court and what agent Leigh Steinberg described as the “Oklahoma land rush of free agency” about to begin, it’s time we got our due for letting you hold our favorite sport hostage for most of the summer.
“This deal will settle,” began Steinberg, the most prominent NFL agent of his day, “but it’s sort of like sausage; you might love to eat it, but don’t focus too strongly on watching it be made. There will be a few last-minute twists and turns.”
Fine. It can’t be any worse than what we were put through this offseason.
For at least the first couple of months of posturing, we were forced to swallow the Armageddon theory — that each of your sides were so far apart an entire NFL season could actually be in jeopardy for the first time in 24 years.
One of the most disturbing images in sports this year was watching a solemn Kevin Mawae and other players sitting in what amounted to a jury box a couple of months ago, being interviewed by ESPN’s George Smith, about the grave injustices facing them at the hands of greedy owners — as if there were any other kind.
If Mawae were a GM plant foreman from Hamtramck, Mich., he would have elicited our sympathy. He is not. He is a well-compensated NFL lineman, which made him just a little easier to root for than an exasperated Jerry Jones, milling outside a hotel conference room, usurping Roger Goodell’s clout.
This entire, five-month drama was essentially the cast of the “Unforgiven”; few redeeming characters live at the end of a movie where $9 billion is haggled over in this depressing economy.