Now that the NFL CBA is on track to be ratified and the NFL season is approaching, I pose this question: What do the NFL owners and players owe the fans for the torment, anguish and suffering they have put them through during this four-month lockout?
Some would say nothing. They would argue that the season is going to start on time, and seriously, who pays attention to the offseason anyway?
On the other hand, people like myself would say the players and owners need to pay restitution for the roller coaster of emotions they put the fans through. I mean, they did hold America’s favorite pastime (sorry, baseball) in limbo for over four months; the least they could do is apologize to the one collective that truly makes football what it is today: the fans.
Maybe give back a little to those people who are vital to the sports success? Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how the aftermath of those mistakes is handled that is the tell-all. In the words of the great Mohandas Gandhi, “Confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away the dirt and leaves the surface brighter and clearer.” If Gandhi said it, it must be true...right?
In an attempt to help the NFL owners and players correct their dubious ways, I have taken it upon myself to compile a list of five ways they can say the golden words, “I’m sorry.” Please feel free to add to this list as it certainly is not exhaustive or exclusive.
5. For every $10 million a player's contract is worth and for every $100,000 a player makes in marketing income, that player must perform a minimum of two hours of community service. Community service is a great way to connect with fans. Fighting over millions is one thing, but changing the lives of people who have only dreamed of the opportunity to meet one of their athletic idols is a whole other ball game.
4. Have giveaways and mandate that players and coaches stay on the field after games to sign autographs for fans at every game. Baseball does it, why can’t football? It’s the little things that count, and just think how excited a young, or even adult, for that matter, fan would be to get a free bobblehead of his/her favorite player. I’m not saying this would make the fans forget about the lockout and the extended torment of wondering whether there would be a season at all, but it might ease the sting.
3. For every Touchdown a player scores, he has to donate $100 to a youth sports league, and that player's team owner must match the contribution. Getting back to community service, what’s better than being a positive influence on kids that look up to you? The donation isn’t outrageous, but it’s something. Something that says today’s youth matters, and something that will help the players of tomorrow have proper equipment to play the game they love. Not only that, but it could possibly help with the concussion epidemic that is sweeping all levels of football. Maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s just a thought.
2. The Super Bowl winning team must hold a contest that will leave one lucky fan with an authentic Super Bowl ring. The Super Bowl, right? Um, yes, please! What fan wouldn’t be ecstatic to receive an authentic Super Bowl ring that his/her favorite team just won? Why don’t we get past all the cliché t-shirts and hats and get right to the good stuff. One lucky bastard would get to have what professional football players work their entire careers to get, and what you, as a fan, covet just as much as them. An honest football fan’s dream come true.
And the granddaddy of them all...
1. Each team has to have a contest that allows the winner to call the team's first offensive play during Week 10. Let’s put the game in the hands of the fans. Those individuals that follow their team week in and week out and worship this age-old sport as a religion? What better way to give a few lucky fantasy football addicts the exhilarating feeling that is sure to come with the execution of every professional game? They would get to pick a play; really feel like they’re part of a team. This would be an intangible experience, one that most fans would give anything for. And, the fact that the play gets to be called during Week 10 means that a) all teams have had their bye week; and b) the play will be called when many teams are fighting for their playoff lives. That means a fan of each team, every year would get to say he or she called a play — a play — during his or her favorite team’s annual season...pretty cool, right?
These ideas may not make total amends but certainly would be a start in the right direction.