In the midst of heated labor negotiations, the NFL Players Union and NFL owners have come to an agreement on a 7-day extension of the current CBA. There is now more time for them to talk, debate, argue, and negotiate. More time for them to close the massive chasm between the two sides. Problem is…that chasm might be too massive to close anytime soon and the more issues that arise, the greater the likelihood of a lockout becomes. Furthermore, the NBA is also facing labor strife and may well end up locking out next year as well.
If indeed there is a lockout in both sports, we have a major problem. When I say “we”, I mean me and everybody who knows me and has to deal with me on a daily basis. A winter without football & basketball might well be the closest thing to an apocalypse that I will experience in my lifetime.
Before I get into that nightmare hypothetical, let me first outline the outstanding issues that threaten to bring a promising season of exciting football & basketball to a screeching halt.
1) How to divide the league’s revenues, including what cut team owners should get up front to help cover certain costs, such as stadium construction. Under the old deal, owners received about $1 billion off the top. They entered these negotiations seeking to add another $1 billion to that.
2) A rookie wage scale, and how much of the money saved by the owners under such a system would go to veteran players.
3) The owners’ push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 while reducing the preseason by two games. The players oppose that idea, citing health factors, especially the number of injuries already sustained during a 16-game regular season.
4) Benefits for retired players.
All of this reeks of un-checked greed coming from the owners side of the negotiating table. Essentially, the owners are trying to re-distribute the wealth so that they earn even more money than they are already pocketing, while simultaneously reducing the wealth of the players. As a bleeding heart liberal, this infuriates me. The NFL is earning an average of $9 Billion, annually, and that’s just from league revenues. That says nothing of the additional revenue generated by the owners’ various other business interests, which I assure you are substantial. No fewer than 13 current NFL owners landed on Forbes list of the worlds richest people in 2010.
Simply put, you won’t find any NFL owners on line at any soup kitchens anytime soon.
1) The owners are seeking a “hard” salary cap, similar to what exists in the NFL. Under the current CBA, teams can exceed the salary cap when re-signing or extending players currently under their control. Furthermore, there are several other loopholes (most notably: injury exceptions) that allow teams to exceed the salary cap when building out their roster.
2) The owners are seeking a reduction in player salaries, beginning with lowering the amount of “Maximum” deals and reducing guaranteed money (again, it would seem that they are looking to be more like the NFL).
3) The league wants a return on its investment that would require a swing of $750 million-$800 million in salaries and benefits going from the players to the NBA. Players would get closer to 40% of basketball-related income.
While this still smacks of greed, it’s not quite as bad as the NFL situation. The fact is, if the league is being honest about its projected losses this season ($350 million), then something does need to change. As much as I don’t want to see corporate greed run rampant, the league needs to be a viable business in order to function. NBA salaries have gotten far too high anyway, so a reduction doesn’t seem unfair.
Rather than actually breaking down the merits of each side’s arguments even further, I’m just going to try to take you through a week in my life next winter if there were no NBA or NFL seasons to follow:
Sunday: Wake up. Cry. Feel sad while cooking eggs. Stare longingly at autographed Jets football. Watch the “Inside The NFL” episode that I saved on my DVR that featured the highlights from the Jets victory over the Patriots in this past seasons AFC Playoffs. Attend Jai-Alai match in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Cry. Go home. Read “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game”. Sleep.
Monday: Wake up. Cry. Read high-school football box scores in the local papers. Read high-school basketball scores in the local papers. Cry. Go to work. Have water cooler conversations about the past weekend’s Jai-Alai match in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Go home. Watch Michael Jordan undress the Knicks in the infamous “Double-Nickel” game on ESPN Classic. Cry. Read The Book of Basketball. Sleep.
Tuesday: Wake up. Cry. Stare longingly at my 1989 Dennis Byrd jersey. Read the “Outdoors” section of the local papers and find out what fish people are catching off of Montauk Point. Cry. Go to work. Have water-cooler conversations about the famous Cricket player who shares my name. Go home. Watch Joe Namath & the Jets beat Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts on ESPN Classic. Cry. Sleep.
Wednesday: Wake up. Cry. Call in sick to work. Play Madden all day. Pretend that the video game is real. Get incredibly upset when I lose to the Steelers. Watch Larry Johnson crush the Pacers with a 4 point play on ESPN Classic. Read “Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi”. Cry. Sleep.
Thursday: Do you see a pattern here?
-by Max Joice