Forgiving, Forgetting the Lockout

Posted: July 22, 2011 in NFL, NFL teams
Tags: , , ,

With the NFL about to get back to business there are a few thoughts I’ve just got to get off my chest.

I never have been a guy to hold grudges. In fact, what I’m about to say may not even qualify as a grudge. But I want to go on the record as saying the NFL’s offseason of discontent is not something I’m going to forget or forgive. I’m not talking about boycotting. That’d be as stupid as getting mad at a bartender and boycotting beer. I’m not even going to keep reminding everyone I meet of what the greedy NFL owners and airhead players did.

But now that I’ve seen the other side of the one-eyed jack’s face I’m not going to fret for one minute if owners find themselves staring at empty seats and bemoaning TV blackouts; I’m not going to feel an ounce of sympathy for veteran players who get cut because of hotshot younger players or financial considerations.

What the NFL owners and players have made perfectly clear during the last four months is they don’t care about you, the fan. They don’t care if you can’t have that family vacation because you spent all of your “extra” money on season tickets. They don’t care you have to pay $5 for a bottle of water, $7 for a beer, $8 for a hot dog, $20 to park a mile from the stadium and, of course, anywhere from $40 to a king’s ransom for tickets. I love it when a team points out they have tickets for “only $40.” For most people $40 isn’t pocket change, particularly in these difficult economic times.

What irritates me the most about the lockout is how incredibly successful the NFL is. Major corporations have gone broke in this recession. Entire nations have been bankrupted. Small businesses have shrunk. Meanwhile, the NFL has continued to grow – to boom, in fact. Revenue has skyrocketed in every area. Times have never been so good.

I understand the owners and players have differences. I don’t expect them to live in a world of nothing but hugs and kisses. But, damn it, the rest of us don’t need to hear you whining about whether you get an $18 million bonus instead of $20 mill; about one owner generating more revenue than you do when the value of every franchise grows and grows. Want an NFL franchise? Millionaires need not apply. This game is for billionaires. I certainly don’t want to hear players whining about having to work so many days during the offseason when millions of Americans, more than 9 percent of us, are unemployed would do almost anything for a job.

I’m thrilled beyond words the NFL season is coming. I can’t imagine a world without Sunday and Monday NFL games. No Super Bowl? I’d rather have a root canal go bad. I’m still hooked on the game, but I’ll never love the players or respect the owners like I use to.

There are a couple of other points I’d like to make.

Jets linebacker Bart Scott isn’t happy the player reps want to eliminate two-a-day practices. He says this is another move to make the players softer, less macho. Based on what I’ve already said it may surprise you I have no problem with eliminating two-a-days. In fact, I think the NFL – all football, in fact – has traditionally had too much practice contact. With players at every level bigger, faster and more physically fit, too much contact is responsible for so many injuries. Even the fittest body needs down time. Bigger muscles put more stress on joints. More contact magnifies the problem. The offseason and much of preseason camp should be devoted to running, studying, bonding and perfecting skills and techniques.

Scott also should learn more about the history of the game. There was a time players were considered “soft” for taking a water break. There was a time when real men wouldn’t wear face masks on their helmets. There was a time when concussions were called “getting your bell rung” and real men went back in the games after a whiff of smelling salt. There was a time when cheapshots were not only allowed but praised.

Fortunately for Scott and all football players there were people who made rules changes to protect the athletes. It isn’t a matter of players becoming softer, but of the people running the game getting smarter.

Finally, you’ve heard and will continue to hear how the lockout will hurt the game this fall. The analysts and coaches will blame most mistakes on the fact the players didn’t have enough time to prepare physically and mentally. Many injuries will be blamed on the lockout.

Hogwash.

Certainly some players will report to camp out of shape, but that’s no different than in a normal year. While most players are smarter enough to work out and eat properly during the offseason, there are always some who lack the discipline to do so, lockout or no lockout.

As for the mental preparation, my advice is if the players have too much to learn then make the playbook smaller. Sure, most rookies will be behind, especially quarterbacks, but remember, its football not rocket science.

Now let’s get ready for the season. I’m eager for the first kickoff.

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