Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's Another Billion?

What’s another billion dollars?

It's the reason every sports journalist in the good ole U.S. of A. is talking about the NFL right now.

And no, it's not the total sum that will inevitably be ridiculously paid out to a bunch of early-twenty something kids who have never played an NFL game after this weekends draft. A billion dollars is the reason for the lockout, lawsuits, mediation, injunctions, and appeals. And it's a horrific reason.

Let's be clear about something here; this is a lockout. So those of you who own your own business and are crying about the players greed, it's time for a reality check. The players want to work. This is not a strike. The only strike is that of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's gavel every time she and her judicial partners rule in favor of the players. And they should.

This is a paraphrased conversation that presumably happened between the NFL and NFLPA legal teams in the weeks leading up to the lockout.

NFL Lawyer: "We would like an extra billion dollars taken off the top every year."

NFLPA Lawyer: "Sure thing, just let us see each teams financial records, and if you are all as broke as you claim, we would be willing to discuss that."

NFL Lawyer: "Enjoy college football. It's the only professional football anyone will see in 2011."

And so began the lockout. The owners want more money. The players just want to know why. If you were risking your lives at your job (and if you don't think your livelihood is on the line in the NFL, talk to Korey Stringer, Mike Webster, Andre Waters, etc...) and your boss asked for another billion dollars in shared revenue up front, before a day of work had been completed, you would want to know why too. So why won't the NFL owners let the players look at their books? If Al Davis, Robert Kraft, and Dan Rooney are hurting for money that bad, they certainly would let the players see their financial records, wouldn't they? After all, the owners make more money when football is played, so it's to their advantage to make sure 2011 features two professional football organizations. The other being BCS conference football.

So if you find yourselves asking 'why?', look no further than the top story out of Major League Baseball last week. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig seized the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of baseballs three most popular and successful teams ever, from professional scam artist Frank McCourt and his soon to be ex-wife and fellow professional thief, Jamie. Why would you look at the Dodgers when considering why the lockout has not been resolved? It's simple. The McCourt's have been "borrowing" money from the team for personal expenses since day one. If they didn't, each of them would have had to live in the clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. The McCourt's also put their family, mainly their children, on payroll to do...wait for it...paint the foul lines...oh, wait; they didn't even do that...their children got paid millions to do nothing.

Hello, Mr. Selig. Hello, IRS. And Hello, FBI. Selig knocked the door down; the other two are going to clean house. Just sit back and watch Dodger fans.

And sit back and watch NFL fans. If you can sit at your computer and convince yourself that no NFL owner does this, maybe your next move should be calling Dr. Phil. NFL owners might as well have a money tree growing in their back yards. First, unlike baseball, the NFL has a salary cap. So even if Arthur Blank wanted to spend $300 million on his Atlanta Falcons, he can't. It's a hard cap, and one of the best rules in sports. But it also gives owners heavy pockets, oozing with pictures of dead presidents on little green paper, and each owner is eager to spend that money. It's a habit that rich people with huge egos have. And if you own an NFL team, you qualify.

So where to spend the money? Where do you think? I'd bet if someone really dug deep, they'd find those 12 week European vacations on the private jet and yacht, or the Harvard education for the kid with a 2.2 GPA in high school, are probably being funded by something other than Macaroni and Cheese, or Ketchup, or even Hammers.

And that is why the NFL won't let their players see the books. Do I blame them? No. Do I think they are completely idiotic for thinking they could outsmart the players? Yes. In this economy, Americans favor the working-man. And while making millions of dollars doesn't make me cry for NFL players at night, making billions causes me to feel far less sorry for the owners.

Roger Goodell has done an admirable job as commish to this point, but no matter what he does from here on, he will forever be a failure if the Oregon/LSU game is the first professional game of 2011.

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