Tell us again: Why is there an NFL labor dispute?

By PAUL NEWBERRY
The Associated Press
Monday, March 7, 2011; 3:51 AM

-- If NFL owners aren't careful, they might just force us to sympathize with guys who make more in a year than most will take home in a lifetime. Chad Ochocinco could come off looking like some sort of modern-day Cesar Chavez.

The real world keeps getting lost during all this talk of a possible lost football season.

Enough already.

On Monday, as people went back to work for less money than they used to make - or simply out to look for a job - it was abundantly clear this is NOT the time for the billionaires (a.k.a. the owners) to draw a line in the sand against the millionaires (a.k.a. the players).

Not when checks are smaller and health insurance costs more for so many Americans. Not when "Bank Owned" signs are still a common sight in front of foreclosed homes. Not when Wisconsin, home of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, is paralyzed by a dispute between a state government that says it's broke and workers resisting a major whack to their benefits and union rights.

Haves vs. Have-mores. Give us a break.

The owners, especially, should remember the people who are hurting also happen to be their meal ticket. Without them paying hefty prices to attend in person or, more importantly, plopping down in front of the television on every given Sunday to produce exorbitant ratings for the networks, those checks adorned with a minimum of nine zeros would dry right up.

The men in suits sure aren't doing much to dissuade their image as fat cats intent on becoming fabulously obese when they stick with their demand for a bigger slice of an enormously profitable pie, right on the heels of an economic meltdown.

Settle this thing. Settle it now. And hope everyone forgets it even happened by draft day.

Sure, it's hard to work up much sympathy for either side when there's labor strife in the sports world, which by its very nature means the rich taking on the even-richer. No exception here.

The players are making good money. Real, real good money. But the salaries aren't guaranteed, and the average NFL career is shorter than any other sport. By comparison, Jerry Jones' ownership of the Cowboys is pretty much a lifetime appointment.

There are long-term ramifications in play as well. Every week, a sad story seems to emerge of some ex-jock who dies way too young or doesn't recognize his family anymore, likely because of the gruesome toll this sport takes on their bodies. We can expect to hear more of those stories if the owners get their way on another demand, increasing the regular season from 16 to 18 games.


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