Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Capped and Crunch (...or don't sound it out)

Think about this: since the fall of 1994, the NFL team who plays in the least populated city has had the same amount of playoff wins as both New York teams combined. As much as this runs completely opposite to the undeniable trend of big city money dominating modern sports, it’s true. The Green Bay Packers, (both with Farve and post-Farve) have accomplished just as much in the postseason as the Giants and Jets put together during that same stretch.

Tell me, in what other league does that happen? Certainly not in baseball, where there’s a goddamn investigation every time the Yankees miss the playoffs (which has only happened once in the last 15 years). The L.A. Lakers seem to have an inexhaustible supply of lopsided trades waiting for them whenever trouble looms, precluding them from the commoner’s life of an occasional playoff drought.

The point is obviously that the NFL had the original and best model for salary caps and revenue control in the major American sports leagues. Don’t ask me how, but football managed to conceive and (more impressively) agree to a format where the money is split up evenly to the point where the blue collar residents of Green Bay are able to enjoy the kind of success usually reserved for their cosmopolitan counterparts in places like New York and Los Angeles. The result of this? Nothing really impressive…only that the NFL has become the most successful cash cow league in the history of sports.

As intriguing as this is, it should then be clear just how insane the current disagreement between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association is. Who the hell cares if you get paid 10 million instead of 15 million? Especially in this current period of economic recession, normal people just have a complete disconnect with the athletes (and more specifically their agents/businessmen) of our favorite league who are greedily seizing at an opportunity to gobble up more pieces of the NFL’s revenue pie.

Of course I realize there are legitimate flaws in the current system. The lack of guaranteed money and systematic roster purges, coupled with no insurance for players who are either hurt or over the hill makes a for a harsh workplace environment. On the other hand though, the cap has inflated from a reasonable $34.6 million to an astronomical $128 million this past season (a 57.5% increase in not even 20 years).

So there are issues to be worked out. I get that…but like so many regular people who think even $1000 is a lot of money, I just can’t find a way to accept not having the NFL around for a whole season. And especially for a shitty reason like people who already make millions of dollars striking because they might not make a couple more million (but really they won’t go hungry because play in the most lucrative sports league in the world.)

This kills me that ESPN and every other mainstream sports medium doesn’t at least discuss this more often. All they talk about is the “un-capped year” that’s now upon us. I don’t totally get how they talk about this and aren’t more afraid. Isn’t it disturbing that a league whose backbone principal over the last 15 years (the salary cap) has become such a hotly contested issue that it’s been abandoned for an entire season? To me, that reads like two very powerful NFL camps who are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum. I just hope they some progress in the next year, or else. And, in the words of someone once stuck in a much worse predicament*, “what that would mean is not for me to explain to you.”

*It was the Cuban Missile Crisis. So yeah, a little bit worse than a potential NFL labor strike, but you get my point…hopefully.

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