There will be football this fall ! the two
really good stuff from steinberg- put him on the negotating Committee STAT!.. he really breaks it down and gives some of his own experience, well worth the read
There will be football this fall
The two quarreling sides will reach an agreement because there’s way too much to lose.
There was a time, pre-NFL lockout, when friends, acquaintances and fans would greet me with a hearty, "How are you doing?” But that seems a distant past.
Over the last three months as I’ve gone through the toll road, dined in restaurants, and encountered friends or a fans, the first thing out of their mouths is, "Will there be a football season? When will this end?"
Let me do a public service and reduce the generalized anxiety and trauma that occurs when the nation's number one sports obsession (NFL football leads the next sport in fan poll popularity by a two to one margin) has entered the Twilight Zone of off-the-field discord: THERE WILL BE A NORMAL NFL SEASON!
On Friday, the NFL and the NFLPA will square off in St. Louis before the pro-business Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to argue the legality of continuing the lockout. The real solution of this labor situation will come through the parties bargaining face-to-face.
The CBA will settle before any real damage is done to the sport. The rapture will bring the world to an end before this trillion-dollar industry self destructs.
The NFL owners and players have built the League into a dominating position by understanding that labor peace is critical, as evidenced by the fact that the NFL has had no interruption in play since the 1987 season. Unlike MLB, the NBA and the NHL—which have engaged in internecine strife and strikes, which pushed away fans and damaged their popularity—the League leadership and NFLPA have kept the focus on the field.
Fans know that the games will be played. This critical fact has enabled all of the energy of the League, teams and NFLPA to focus on building the NFL brand. Ingenious brains have developed numerous ancillary revenue streams. The smart minds around football understand that the real battle is not labor vs. management, it’s the battle with baseball, basketball, HBO, Disney World and every other competing form of discretionary entertainment spending.
The development of naming rights, merchandising & memorabilia, the NFL Network, overseas play, DIRECTV, super stadia with luxury boxes and sponsorship opportunities, fantasy football leagues and team owned television content have contributed to a cornucopia of branding and revenue. In 1976, Seattle and Tampa Bay came into the League priced at $16.5 million. In 1995, Carolina and Jacksonville cost $130 million. Today the average NFL franchise is worth over a billion dollars.
National television revenue per team in 1976 was around $2 million. Today it’s in the range of $130 million. Player salaries have risen exponentially. Who wants to be the short sighted party to kill this Golden Goose?
Football has a tradition of not completing business until the last minute. In 1978, I represented Stanford offensive tackle Gordon King, who the New York Giants selected tenth overall. I called General Manager George Young, and said, "George, it is the day after the draft. Why don't we get moving on Gordon's contract and be the first team signing? Think of all the advantages."
He replied, "Call me in July" and hung up.
The motivation to settle these discussions on March 4th or March 11th was not compelling. Training camps were still five months away. When real danger to a season is imminent, the parties will get to their bottom line positions. NFL players are not to be confused with the minions of the Bolshevik Revolution: they are not natural strikers. They have short playing lives, are often the children of coaches or have religious beliefs against defying authority. All of their salaries are paid over the 17 week season, so the impact of a missed game check is amplified.
In 1987, major stars like Joe Montana, Howie Long and Lawrence Taylor crossed the picket lines before there was an agreement. But the NFLPA and players have been devastatingly effective in major courtroom victories. Decertification set the stage by balancing the leverage. DeMaurice Smith is a great leader and has positioned the players perfectly. Roger Goodell and the owners are some of the most brilliant business minds and in our history. Both sides have been relatively restrained in public comment, considering the number of strong willed parties engaged in a major labor dispute.
They know that in an ailing economy with a median family income of $50,000, the public won't sympathize when this process pits millionaires against billionaires.
When the courtroom battles have played out and the opposing sides have peered into the apocalypse of missed games and game checks, it will settle.
In reality, many of the issues are already settled. The 18-game season won't work due to the increase in injuries that would occur. The cap dictates that backups consist of rookies and aging vets with much less talent than the starters. No one wants to see the critical games of a long and brutal season rest on the shoulders of backups.
Some form of a harder rookie salary cap is inevitable (a cap already exists for rookies, but clever agents found ways to blunt its impact). Veteran players and owners will be negotiating—neither of whom have sympathy for unproven, untested rookies taking huge guaranteed dollars out of the compensation system.
The rookie compensation system—absent a competing league—has never been especially rational. I had no choice but to maximize compensation for my 50 first-rounders and eight first overall picks in the draft. But proven, productive starters obviously should have first call on compensation. And this discussion can't end without improving the lot of the aging retirees who built the game.
So enjoy the baseball season, NBA and NHL playoffs and the wide variety of sports options that are currently at your finger tips because the brilliant and creative minds that have built America's favorite entertainment will bring you an NFL season.