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NFL Lockout Blues, 1.0. Are Odds Stacked Against the Players?

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Is it me, or is Roger just not on the players' side?
via Is it me, or is Roger just not on the players' side?

In this, at the same time one of the most excruciatingly slow periods in the season and most exciting for teams in flux aiming to get better, I'd prefer to be writing about anything but the stalemate between billionaires and millionaires that finds business as usual at a complete standstill. The latest mudslinging campaign and political struggle via multimedia and not elsewhere goes from ugly to uglier. The letter from commisioner Roger Goodell to the players has sparked responses of all kinds and Smith's quotes on Goodell's absence during mediation only further isolate the commissioner from the players and entrenches Mr. Goodell in a warring faction opposite them. As details and particulars of what has been discussed, offered, and ultimately rejected surface, we, the fans, grow ever more uncertain about the status of our teams, their immediate future, and that of the game for this year as well.

In perusing the many football blogs and listening to NFL radio, callers everywhere have the tendency to interject their opinions on what's happening by also interjecting their perspectives as employees of businesses, business owners, and union members and former ones too, and how that tempers their outlook on the whole situation. While they all share the same similarities--the employer/employee relationship, the litigious end of business, medical insurance--they remain different in certain qualities that make it next to impossible to fairly compare just any business model.

Hit the jump to read on about why:

What makes the NFL unique to other businesses:

Agree with it or not, the NFL remains one of the biggest, most successful draw of fans among any existing sport; the super bowl, the NFL draft, and prime time games remain among the highest rated slots on television, and as fans, we see the tremendous amount of apparel, accessories, and tickets filling stadiums and parking lots and creating a massive cash flow wherein we, like cattle, are herded about and willingly separated from our hard-earned dollars with blinding efficiency in a time where businesses that have thrived for decades are dropping like flies. Perhaps more than any other sport today, the NFL's players are the best in the world, and like it or not, the celebrity status of our favorite player is upheld by the revenue stream he creates, and what the market bears.

You can agree or disagree that Justin Bieber is talented, but you can't dispute that the he fills venues with tween kids worldwide or if he is worth the millions and the buzz that wouldn't be if not for Justin Bieber. So goes with the players: successful owners will fill the building with guys that win games and sell tickets, and the money machine keeps rolling.

In the case of football, the players are themselves the product being sold; the owners dollars provide the collateral necessities and venues by footing the bill, and it's a turnkey business. Add staff and team and you have the game. Communities and schools across the country have become factories that produce the biggest, strongest, fastest athletes who become the guys who throw, catch, and carry balls in the game, and those communities within themselves have a thousand businesses that exist to make these factories possible.

In almost every other business model or industry out there today, the proprietors/employers dictate the terms of employment more and more, and employees of respective industries can take it or leave it, and in times of skyrocketing unemployment rates, the odds grow in favor of the employers who have the luxury of being able to easily replace personnel. The NFL would see such a significant dropoff, that the game would pale in comparison to what it has become.

What is similar in the NFL and other industries that could be the determining factor:

To stay in business, the prudent business owner must anticipate the market, future operating costs and other expenses, and plan accordingly. When we say that the owners assume the risk to pick up the bill and finance the game so teams can operate and we can watch, as in all other business models, the party assuming the risk earns the right to dictate to an extent how big a piece of the pie they will receive at the end of the day. So long as the business is able to find workers to agree to whatever these terms are, it does not relinquish this right.

It is my fear that the owners are willing to assume a large risk by sacrificing the revenue stream for an indefinite period sufficient to put themselves back in the cat-bird seat with the players. The dissolution of the union was already a victory in that aspect, and in retrospect appears something the owners planned all along, and to think that some hadn't anticipated losing even the rights to the television money would be naive.

As a former union member in the food and commercial workers union and employee of Vons/Safeway company, our union warned the workers to prepare for a strike, by saving what they could so as to be best prepared to unite and stand in solidarity for a new contract. It was similar to the NFL situation in that the company was entirely asking for workers to concede items they had fought decades to earn, that in the new business model, the status quo of companies was no longer to provide x benefits and y pay scale, and in order to maintain the healthy business models they projected and to keep providing employment to staffs workers would have to concede. While we would never find out if there was any truth to any of this, we ultimately had to concede, and I resigned, vowing to never return to the now watered down industry, supported the strike for some nine months, exhausted my own savings and later moved on to new frontiers. Workers united and voted to strike and felt prepared, but it could not in reality be prepared for nine months, and in fact was a precalculated time by the collective companies (Kroger foods, i.e. Ralphs, and Albertsons). to effectively put the union and it's reserves in a position to not be poised to strike when subsequent negotiations would come again.

It is my fear the owners are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to force their offer down the throats of the players, and the offers going forward will only get worse. With that theory comes a bigger question: How long would the owners be willing to sacrifice? What is the real risk/reward with allowing any significant work stoppage to continue? They'd ultimately be able to offer whatever they wanted, would they not?

We are seeing a lot of he said, she said going on between the league's commissioners and player representatives to various media, while no sign of any real progress is being made. Don't even get me started on Jeff Pash. The players stand to lose much more than the owners. In this Not For Long league, windows are fleeting for players and teams, and the prospect of any prolonged stoppage threatens that and puts time on the owners side as well.

I am assured by many respected journalists and media personalities that include former players, coaches, and GMs that a deal will be done, but actions speak louder than words, and most signs indicate that the decertification is the first of multiple actions that will only work against the players and any solidarity and leverage they had with the owners. I do not see the owners being nearly as motivated as players and especially certain teams and their staffs to get back to work asap. Instead, we get more posturing by both sides. If there is any truth to what DeMaurice Smith had to say about Goodell's letter being representative of more time than he spent negotiating during mediation, the latest move from Goodell is anything but a good sign.

I'm praying on behalf of the players; Roger G. does not appear sympathetic to their plight whatsoever. I can't wait to read what he has to say in the complete interview with Saint.