It’s safe to assume every football fan with a beating heart has had this thought at least once during the NFL lockout. Players have tweeted as much. A co-worker the other night said “they seem to have been on the verge of a deal for three weeks.” And then another day went by when nothing of consequence happened.
At some point — presumably soon — the lockout will be declared over, the NFL will reopen for business and Roger Goodell and the owners will declare themselves heroes, as will DeMaurice Smith and the players. We might be so drunk with glee that we’ll go along with it. But there are no winners in this summer of nonexistent minicamps and photos of men in suits. It never had to be this way.
I’ll forgive the players and owners for turning the draft and free agency process backwards. The resulting free-for-all might turn out to be a blast. And, Rams and Bears fans aside, we can live without the Hall of Fame game. Save for the rare opportunity to see a favorite team’s late-round draft picks in action, I wouldn’t miss the preseason if it went away entirely. If we don’t miss a regular season game, all we fans have lost is our valuable time.
Though they’ll ultimately be judged by the terms of the deal, Goodell, Smith and anyone who’s been involved in this ongoing public performance has lost our respect. Not because they’ve had to haggle over the ways to split the NFL’s enormous revenue pile, and come to terms on issues like player safety, retirement benefits, rookie salaries and the proposed 18-game season. Not because they waited until the 11th (or 13th) hour to get serious — that’s standard negotiating procedure. But this didn’t have to play out in front of the cameras, as a five-month melodrama. They didn’t have to drag us along for the ride, with each side first casting the other as villain, then for the past month feeding us an IV drip of optimism.
But in March, had the owners and players association said “we are working on the important details of the next labor agreement, and we’ll have an announcement when it’s done,” we could have done something productive with all the summer man-hours we’ve spent following the lockout’s twists and turns. We wouldn’t have cried foul about the lack of transparency — fans don’t have a say in the matter anyway. Television deals, rules changes and trades are all negotiated in secret, then revealed when they are complete. We like it that way. Our entertainment escapism isn’t supposed to be so labor-intensive (pun most certainly not intended).
The lockout might have reached its low point for me on that same night mentioned above, when another co-worker read the latest story on the labor agreement and joked “I don’t know what anything means anymore.”
Right. All we need to hear is “The NFL is back.” No disrespect to the dilligent reporters working this story, but everything has apparently become gibberish.
Are you listening, NBA? Spare us the grimy details. Handle your labor fight behind closed doors. Just tell us when it’s over.