2009 was a long season for us. It started in January of last year! We saw our legendary and beloved Coach Dungy depart. We saw Jim Caldwell ascend. We said buh-bye to Ron Meeks and Russ Purnell; hello to Larry Coyer and Ray Rychleski. Marvin Harrison, Dominic Rhodes, and Hunter Smith all went away; their replacements rookies drafted from places like BYU, UConn, and West Virginia. There was the training camp with Twitter updates, the regular season with 14 straight wins, Week Sixteen, a tremendous playoff run, and a Super Bowl.
Like many of you, when it all ended on 4th down near the Saints goalline, I was tired.
Now, football that involves games ends and we shift into off-season, pre-draft mode. We have wonderful draft gurus like Joe and the writers at Mocking the Draft giving us insight on how this team can improve. We will likely have enhanced draft day coverage from Radio City. I mean, if they trusted us to cover the friggin' Super Bowl, I assume they should be OK with us covering the draft.
We also move into the uncertainty of an uncapped year, and the possibility of a lockout in 2011. Management and players are not happy with each other. That was obvious to me in Miami. Players think the owners are stupid if they think they will take any kind of pay cut while the owners are, supposedly, still making gaggles of money. Owners see the players are merely pawns in their grand game of worldwide domination. Players come and go. Jerry Jones is forever!
I don't see much progress being made in these labor talks between now and next year for the sole reason that the players are right and the owners are wrong. However, it's the owners who, you know, OWN the teams, and far too many douchebag owners (Daniel Snyder, Jerry Jones, etc.) have way to much power now. The Wellington Maras and Lamar Hunts of the old NFL are dead. Dan Rooney is in Ireland as the ambassador there, and has no real control over the new crop of owners. Guys like Jimmy Irsay, Clark Hunt, and likely Steve Tisch are good owners, but they don't seem to want to use their power to strong arm owners into accepting the fact that no one is going to believe the NFL is losing money if the owners refuse to show the players and the public their books.
I mean, Roger Goodell made $11 million last year, and that was after taking a pay cut! It's really hard to cry poverty when the commissioner of the NFL made as much money in 2009 as Peyton Manning did.
An uncapped NFL is the death of modern football, and really the death of any reason to watch football at all. A lack of salary cap and revenue sharing has destroyed the MLB and the NBA. Both are unwatchable. Reruns of Friends got higher ratings than the World Series. In both leagues, most of the teams that make up their structure serve as glorified farm teams for the clubs in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. In the NBA, you will NEVER see a Hornets v. Pacers-style finals, and neither city has a baseball teams because professional baseball sucks and no one cares about outside of Boston or New York.
But, you all know this already. I'm just saying it because no one else is. We're all just pretending that the sport we know and love is at a serious crossroads. Competitive balance is EVERYTHING in professional sports. Without it, there is no reason to watch unless you have some pathological love for your home team that goes beyond the sport itself, which is just, you know, weird. Teams come and go. Ask Cleveland and Baltimore.
The sport is everything. I don't think the owners realize that yet.