Tuesday, 01 February 2011 10:18
Will Super Bowl Be Last Game Before NFL Lockout
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Ed Staton--Louisiana SportsMy position has been that the NFL is too intelligent to fall into a long-term work stoppage.

But the Steelers-Packers game looks more and more like the last NFL game before the owners lock out their players, and there is a chance the lockout could last a while.

I was around in 1982, when half the season was lost to a players' strike, and again in 1987, when the workers again walked out and three regrettable games using replacements were staged. History lesson:  Saints coach Sean Payton was a quarterback for the Bears those three games.

Baseball has since lost a World Series and the NBA half a season and the NHL a whole season, and the NFL has sailed blissfully onward. But the bliss is about to end.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said there is a legitimate concern among the players that the lockout will occur.

"We as players are preparing ourselves for that possibility," said Brees. "In the last three years, we've experienced some of the greatest gains in terms of popularity and generating total revenue. Our salaries are predicated on how well the league does financially, so if the league is making money, that means we're making money.

"And yet we are being asked to take an 18 per cent pay cut. We are being asked to go to an 18-game schedule, which will increase our chance of injury and long-term health risks. Considering that revenues continue to go up and up, these are not very fair requests."

I'm not sure this NFL commissioner and these owners are as smart as those we'd come to know. The NFL got huge because commissioner Pete Rozelle convinced his owners they were partners first and competitors second and that any TV contracts must be league contracts.  (This as opposed to baseball, where each franchise works out its local TV deal for itself, which is why the Yankees mint money and the Pirates haven't had a winning season since i can't remember.

Rozelle was the smartest commissioner in the history of sports and was succeeded by Paul Tagliabue, who was a good commissioner and kept the Saints in New Orleans. But Roger Goodell is the new sheriff and he seems less clever.

In an excellent Lockout Primer, Mike Florio of ProFootbalTalk.com suggests the NFL suffers from a lack of gravitas, which is another way of saying: Too many owners want to be like Jerry Jones. The owner of yore, schooled and herded by Rozelle, knew that to miss games was bad for business. It was the players who went on strike in 1982 and again in 1987, and both times they came back to work without having gained what they wanted. The players were simply losing too much money not playing. It will take a while before these owners lose enough money to hurt.

These owners want to share less revenue. (Building your own stadium is hard, Jerry Jones wants us to know). And the owners have leverage because they are rich already and don't have to depend on weekly checks the way players do. Former player Chris Collingsworth who is now an NBC analyst, said many players will be broke after two weeks without getting  weekly paychecks.

When regular-season games start being lost, it's going to hurt the players more than the owners. And the side suffering more is the side apt to surrender.

To answer a question often raised: There will be a draft even if there's a lockout. But as Peter King of SI.com noted, there might not be any free agency if this lockout lasts into September. And right now, I'd guess it will last that long because Goodell doesn't control his owners. If the lockout lasts until September, it will cost the NFL $1 billion.

Goodell has announced he would cut his salary from $10 million to $1 if there's a work stoppage. It would be better for him to say, "If I can stave off a lockout, my salary gets doubled."

The players are positioning themselves as victims, not instigators. The NFL Players Association has even launched a web site -- NFLLockout.com -- to take its case to the people. If the players are convinced they've been wronged , they might stick  together this time.

If the season is canceled, the collateral damage will extend to Las Vegas, where the annual wagering of hundreds on millions of dollars on NFL games is at stake.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Vegas casinos are growing increasingly worried about the situation.

Both casinos and small sports books in Nevada would all struggle to make it through the second half of 2011 without the NFL.

This year's Super Bowl could generate up to $95 million for the Vegas casinos. It could be their last NFL-related payday for a long time.




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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


Website: www.louisianasportstalk.com
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