Could this year be the last season of the NFL that we have come to know and love for the last 15 years?
Hear me out on this, and then I would love for people to either a) tell me I'm overreacting and why or b) tell me it will somehow be an improvement. In my view, there are two major issues that can totally disrupt the NFL for the future. The first issue comes from 2006, when Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue came to an eleventh hour, 59th minute agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, that was ratified by the owners and player's association. Basically the players are saying they should get more of a % of the total revenue generated by the teams (I believe right now it's about 60%). The owners obviously want to keep more of the money, but agreed because it kept a salary cap in place, as well as features like the franchise tag. The problem with the agreement is that either side had the option of withdrawing from the agreement starting in 2010, in which there would be no salary cap, and there would be a lockout in 2011 if a new agreement wasn't reached.
Now we have Goodell saying that the slow pace of talks makes the uncapped 2010 season a distinct possibility, which could then lead to the lockout. That is one momentous change, and not just because a work stoppage is the last thing anybody wants to see. No football makes winter alot more harsh, and it has a devastating long term impact. If anybody thinks the MLB, NBA or NHL is not still feeling the effects of their lockouts/strikes, they are delusional. It's not coincidence that football's skyrocket to the top of the American sports scene happened after all three of those events. What goes up can definitely come crashing down. Another problem here, is that Gene Upshaw was quoted as saying that if the cap went away, it would never come back. Just because he's gone doesn't mean that position is not still in favor with the union. I am a huge fan of the salary cap, because it also includes a salary floor. Hockey fans out there know how much this adds to their sport. Does anybody really want to see a league where Dallas, NE, Wash, the Giants, the Jets, try to outbid each other on astronomical contracts while Buffalo, Jax, GB turn into the Pirates and Royals? It would drastically change the landscape of the league.
The second major issue that I see is the lack of stadium sellouts. There are currently a whopping dozen teams facing local blackouts because they haven't sold out for week one games. The NFL refuses to show games for free if the stadiums aren't at least sold out. But will TV corporations still pay the NFL billion- dollar contracts if games aren't getting shown? What about the concept, taken for granted I think, that people make their Sunday routines around watching football, hence the advertising revenue. Why won't that change if their games are taken away and they get stuck watching teams from other cities? Think about what a loss to the football season it would be to NOT have the wealth of TV coverage we enjoy (in other words, imagine trying to find a link on channelsurfing.net to watch Giants-Dallas. Get the shivers down your spine?)
Now obviously the reason the stadiums aren't selling out is because most people can't afford to pay (for the right to pay) for a seat whose price has exploded because it's now in a monstrously expensive stadium. Look at the crowds in your typical Yankees or Mets game. Look at the dificulty the Gmen and Jets are having selling out their new digs. Now look at what the Skins did, selling blocks of tickets to brokers. The good, more available seats are sold in a block so that someone will buy the ridiculous premium seats. And if someone who signed up for a season ticket package can't afford them because, oh yeah, the economy has been down for quite awhile? Then they get sued for breach of contract. Think that won't happen somewhere else? If you believe so, I have a nice 50 yardline seat I'll sell you for $100. I think the NFL in it's arrogance believes that the current popularity will never fade. So you see owners squabbling over revenue sharing and letting labor problems take over while they build extravagant Taj Mahal's that cater to the white-collar crowd and price out the blue-collar fanbase. You have players salivating over the mega contracts the stars will get, and not realizing that the people stuck on the smaller teams after those mega deals are handed, out will not be making as much money. And that leaves me hoping my beloved NFL won't change for the worst, but afraid it's too late.