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NFL Lockout: Why This Whole Thing Sucks For Us Fans

Happy Monday. Like many of you, I've had the weekend to study and digest all the particulars of last Friday's news surrounding the NFLPA dissolving and the NFL owners voting at Midnight on Saturday to lock out the players. We then had an antitrust suit filed in federal court, and one of the plaintiffs named on the case is Peyton Manning. We've also had a myriad of statements, both official and not, from owners and players intended to 'win' the hearts and minds of us fans.

But, let's face it, at the end of the day, neither side in this whole thing really gives two rat's farts about what you or I think and feel.

For the most part, we writers on Stampede Blue have tended to side with the players on the issues that we know of.

Like the players, it makes little sense to us for any established union to simply 'trust' a group of old, greedy men who are telling them that the players need to give up $1 billion dollars, and then not provide any financial material to back up why a billion dollars needs be given up. Considering that a federal judge has already ruled that the owners are not 'good faith' negotiators with the players, I personally wouldn't trust someone like Jerry Richardson to wash my car, let alone take his word that giving up $1 billion is 'good for the game.'

These same owners also think an 18 game season is also 'good for the game,' which is laughable. It is good for their wallets, which already are stuffed with a projected $9 billion dollars in TV revenue. Not the game, and not for the players who play it.

I'll quite Mike Florio of PFT here, because he accurately articulates just how removed the owners are from what people like you and I think and feel:

Again, [the owners] don’t care about growing the game for the good of the fans, with the exception of making the game more enticing so that more fans will devote more money and/or attention to the sport. We’re simply the vessels through which money flows from our don’t-cash-this-until-Tuesday checking accounts into their Scrooge McDuck coffers.

The owners don’t "care" about the fans; they "care" about separating the fans from their cash.

No where was the notion of 'we’re simply the vessels through which money flows' more evident to me than when I covered Super Bowl XLIV in Miami last year. When it comes to 'caring' about others, the NFL and its owners care very much about their corporate sponsors, their friends in the media business (especially TV), and anyone else in a suit and tie who can write a check with more than six zeroes. In Miami, I saw those kinds of people get treated like royalty.

However, if you were one of the hundreds of people camped outside the press pavilion, dressed in overpriced team gear and hoping for a glimpse of their favorite player as he exited the building in a hurry and got into a stretch limo, then no one gave two craps about you.

You're an open wallet to these people. A sponge to squeeze dry.

Prior to Friday, the undeniable truth that the owners view us fans as little more than 'vessels' to suck more and more money out of was less transparent than it is today. As this process moves on into litigation, and as judges are likely to rule that the NFL disclose their financial records, the transparency is going to make the game even uglier. In general, prior to Friday, fans were wiling to either ignore, deny, or grudgingly accept that they were nothing more than pawns in the power play of rich, morally bankrupt men. The reason was that, despite this, football would still be played, and the game itself was great.

Now, there is no football. And when football does return, we don't know what kind of game we are going to get. And that, my friends, just sucks.

I'll close this little rant with a short story. While at Miami for Super Bowl XLIV, the day before the game I got a call from someone in NFL Media that a rather important person wanted to meet me and chat for a bit. No, this person wasn't Roger Goodell or anyone like that. But, he was a pretty important guy who knew a lot about my field and was pretty important in the NFL's revenue generating machine.

I sat down with him in one of the offices in the Fort Lauderdale center, and we shot the breeze for a few minutes. After a while, I finally got around to asking him what everyone in Miami was whispering about: Will the owners lock out the players in 2011? The guy chuckled, threw his head back, and said:

Come on! No one wants to kill the golden goose. Not gonna happen.

One year and two months later, the goose is cooked.

As always, we at Stampede Blue will continue to cover the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts. But, we'd be lying to you if we didn't say that the luster this game once had for us has worn off a bit. I think there will be football in 2011. There are $9 billion reasons it will happen. Indianapolis will host a Super Bowl in 2012. That too I'm certain of.

But, the ugly transparency that has resulted from these failed negotiations, the utter contempt the owners seem to have for their players and the fans will definitely damage this game.

The sad thing is, the owners are a-okay with that. Read ESPN's Bill Simmons's latest article for a very good look inside the mind of one of these billionaires.

This isn’t about common sense, dignity, relationships, long-term plans, or even preserving the fragile relationship between a customer and a provider. It’s about generating more money in Years 5 through 8 than I made in Years 1 through 4. That’s it. Oh, and steamrolling anyone who gets in my way.

Think about that next time you're in the Lucas Oil gift shop.