I'm disgusted with the pro football players. If their just-ended strike had been over matters of principle, they could have counted me among their supporters.
I'm not saying that money is a bad thing to strike for, or that the play-for-pay footballers are overpaid. The player who said "We are the game" had it right. Their efforts generate the game's income, and they deserve a big chunk of the profits. But not by grabbing control of the owners' books.
If they are as good as they (and I) think they are, they should have gone after the right to sell their skills to the highest bidder: free agency. That's what professional baseball players did. And while it has made some of them very rich, it has not, as many predicted, ruined the game.
For proof that football has no free agency, a fan need look no farther than Chicago's wondrous Walter Payton, who played out his option, became (ostensibly) a free agent, and got not a single bid for his services.
But the National Football League players didn't strike for freedom. They struck, as The Post's Dave Kindred put it, to become "higher paid slaves."
I find that disgusting.
I am disgusted, too, with Ed Garvey, the head of the players' union, who seemed more interested in grandstanding than in reaching a settlement--until it was too late and the only settlement he could achieve was to have the players come crawling back. Fifty-five percent of the gross indeed!
But it isn't the first time a union has made demands that were in its interest as a union rather than in the interest of the individual members. The members -- the players -- want money. The union wants control. The players let themselves get confused into thinking they were after the same thing, and they came near to being led off a cliff.
Indeed, some of the rookies may have been led off that figurative cliff. The freshmen who barely escaped the last cut, perhaps because a regular was hurt, or because of some other peculiar situation, will, after a mere half-season of development, be forced to compete with a new set of rookies. Some who might have made it given a full year's experience will be looking for factory jobs when the 1983 season starts.
Nobody paid much attention to these poor rookies. I find that disgusting.
I am also disgusted by the NFL owners, who instead of bargaining from the first, diddled while the season burned. They had the money to give the players the significant raises they admit were deserved. But instead of offering up a nice chunk of money in order to get the strike settled and the season under way, they played games with numbers. Even the "concession" that finally ended the strike turns out to be little more than putting a new spin on old numbers.
It's hard to escape the notion that the owners may have had it in mind to take advantage of a foolish strike to break the union. I find that disgusting.
I'm disgusted with the whole disgusting enterprise -- including the fact that they expect the fans to pick up their loyalty and lay down their dollars just as though nothing had happened.
And they're probably right, as far as the season ticket-holders are concerned. After all, season tickets cost too much to toss away, and they're too hard to get to let them lapse.
But what about the rest of us -- the TV football fans? Now that we have found that there are other ways to spend Sunday afternoons and Monday nights than watching well-paid slaves enriching greedy owners, will we tell them to take their game and shove it?
I'm afraid not. When the whistle blows on Sunday, and the Redskins take on the Giants, I'll be glued to the tube dreaming dreams of Super Bowls, telling myself that if only the 'Skins can get by New York and Philly, and then get "up" for Dallas. . . .
I find that disgusting. So does my wife.