I woke Sunday morning and it was 57 degrees outside. It felt more like a crisp fall day than the late days of spring. A brisk Sunday morning always makes me think of one thing, football or more specifically NFL football. As my mind started to clear and became more focused I left my usual AM haze. I’m not a morning person. I came to a harsh realization that we were still entrenched in what is now a 92 day lock-out and the frightening possibility that there may be no NFL football in 2011.
This made me incredibly frustrated, annoyed and feeling like someone had just abandoned me. It felt like they walked out on a harmonious relationship that seemed to be working great for years. What I usually do when feeling this way, when no one will listen to me, or wonder how is it I am where I am or when I feel alone – I write.
I know though I am not alone this time with the NFL being the most popular spectator sport in the US. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there that feel the same as I do – jilted. The so called psychology experts all say that the key to healthy relations is that they must have trust, mutual respect and give and take. If that is the case I have to be in a dysfunctional alliance. None of these imperative components to a relationship exist with me as a fan and the NFL. The trust issue is broken.
How as fans can we trust the league when the players themselves can’t trust the league to be honest and forthright? What was all this secrecy regarding the revenues gained from TV contracts clandestinely arranged. The league not wanting to share a small amount to the tune of 4 billion USD with their partners, the NFLPA? This issue had to be resolved in the court system. I mean in marriages aren’t we supposed to be pooling all of our resources to make us stronger as a couple? I’m sure every husband/wife will agree when we find out our spouses have been pocketing money for themselves and not contributing, or tell us what they are doing with the money we feel somehow betrayed.
Ah now to Aretha Franklins favorite topic of R E S P E C T. Part of showing respect is not to insult someone’s intelligence. You should also at least take into consideration others feelings. Well NFL on this front I would have to put you in the category of an abusive spouse. I mean how stupid do you think your fans are or your athletes for that matter? For the billionaire owners, mind you in a depressed economy, to say that they need more money is absurd. This would make Gordon Gekko blush with embarrassment. They are willing to stand up in front of all of us: media partners, fans, NFLPA and make a mockery of the courts. They are trying to impose their justified greed in all of our faces.
I wondered if they for one instance thought about the consequences their brand would suffer in the courts and more importantly with their faithful spouses, the fans. Enter the arrogance. They think that we will never leave them. Just like that abusive spouse they feel no matter how they treat us we will somehow put up with it. They can continue on about their merry way ignoring our feelings or our wants. Worse still is that they ignore us and our opinions.
Give and take, every relationship cannot be exactly 50/50 but somehow this feels more like 80/20 with 80% going to the owners, 15% going to the players, and 5% going to the fans. As a fan all I know is that increased ticket prices to be a season ticket holder coupled with outrageous terms all benefit the league. Personal seat licensing and sitting through bad product in the preseason is that fair? I mean come on NFL how much do you want us to put up with?
What is up with these PSLs anyway? I need to purchase a license to give me the right to buy season tickets. There are sometimes maintenance fees even if I sit on this list which, in some NFL cities could be for decades. This gives new meaning to being “F’d in the drive through”. 1 Thanks Joe Pesci for one of my all time favorite sayings, but I digress. I know in a marriage we sometimes all have to do thing we don’t want to. Occasionally we must put up with the in-laws, but holy cripes we shouldn’t have to put up with them moving in permanently should we?
After all my rantings and ravings, other than making me feel better, what does all of this boil down to you ask? Well I’m venting for all the devoted NFL fans. No wonder we feel frustrated, mad and annoyed at being taken advantage of. We are certainly justified in our feelings as fans. Somehow this does not make it any easier knowing we are facing a 2011 season of potentially being separated from our yes, way less than perfect NFL partners.
So why do we miss this, insert expletive? Is it as Rex Harrison sang ” we’ve grown accustomed to their face”?2 Does it say we are masochists and enablers of bad behavior? In fact doesn’t the NFL act like misogynistic fellows? Do we simply have nothing better to do on Sundays and dread the thought of mall cruising, or does it say we are truly in love with our partner? I submit it might be a little bit of all of the aforementioned. Mostly I think it is we are not so much in love with the NFL as a league as we are with the game of football. We love the extraordinary instruments that make the game possible at the highest of levels namely the NFL players.
I ask you as one NFL football fan to another, what will you miss most about the season if there is no NFL football? I will miss Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage orchestrating his O line like a masterful symphony conductor with such skilled timing and precision it leaves defenses in awe. The feeling I get when Devin Hester is standing back at his goal line waiting for a kick-off return dancing to solider boy. This one is very hard to describe. It feels like you are holding your breath til it hurts so deliciously in anticipation, sort of like you are in the middle of a Hitchcock thriller waiting for the next shocking scene to hit you. Then when it does you are released of all your tensions and a calm comes over you til the next storm.
Larry Fitzgerald running close to the sidelines on a 9 route, going up over pro-bowler cover corner Darrell Revis in the end zone. The athletic body contortions and grace you thought only Baryshnikov possessed displayed on the play amazes you. Troy Polamalu waiting in the secondary like a sleek jungle cat ready to pounce on his prey and strike with such force it separates the prey from the ultimate prized pigskin. Seeing the genius play calling of Bill Belichick sometimes go off kilter so your team’s play results in a touchdown.
If all of that was not enough then I also submit the following feelings too. You miss feeling the cold wind slap you across your face like you just dove into the waters of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean in December; you miss the lost voice you have from screaming at your team in decibels that should never humanly be reached; you miss the discussion or debates of plays and play calling with your buddies either at the game or via whatever social media of choice. How can one measure the bonding that occurs with the explaining of the game, instructing what teamwork means to your child or the generational debate with your Dad or grandfather as to who really is the best NFL QB of all times?
I think all of this is why we put up with such bad behavior from our NFL partners and continue in a one sided relationship. If it is worth it, is a question each fan needs to answer for themselves. I challenge the NFL owners and commissioner to think of the consequences. If their partner does indeed get feed up and move on then what did the gain. I know it is difficult but consider the feelings for one moment of your fans.
Divorce is a sad thing but if this separation continues much longer it may be the only course of action we as fans are left with. It may hurt and be painful. We will miss our partners initially. If there is one thing we know, time heals all and we will live on. Maybe not better but differently. Just like when we have breakups in life, there is always another suitor waiting to woo us if we go looking. This is something the NFL has forgotten. The NFL is NOT an international brand so it will not be missed worldwide only in the US. That gives NFL fans more clout than the NFL may think.
If America has proved one thing, it is the ability to adapt and change and remake herself with a resiliency that is envied by most nations. In time when I wake up on cool crisp Sundays I will be awaiting my new suitor to come on. The new suitor could be the NHL, NBA, MLB or a lesser thought of potential partner like MLS, Rugby or NASCAR.
Let’s all hope though that the NFL wakes up from their greed lust haze. Lets hope they realize that they have been a bad partner and will do whatever they can to get back to the harmonious marriage of the NFL, NFLPA & the American football fans. As an NFL football fan I implore you, please resolve this matter before the game we all love is permanently damaged, or worse yet forgotten.
1 taken from Warner Brothers 1989 film – Lethal Weapon 2- Joe Pesci character Leo Getz
2. taken from Warner Brother 1964 film – My Fair Lady – Rex Harrison character Professor Henry Higgins