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November 24th, 2010

So, while busily multi-tasking (really important stuff: listening to All Things Considered, uploading Christmas CDs into iTunes, reading football stories, and drinking a Manhattan), I couldn't help but notice how EVERY football story had information about important players on the "Questionable," "Out," and "Injured Reserve" lists. And the league owners and the players union keep talking about a probable lockout in 2011 because they can't come to terms on what the owners really want: an 18 game regular season.

The owners argue that the players won't really be playing any more games than they do already, because they'll shorten the preseason from four games to two. Why? Because A) they can't charge as much for pre-season games and B) the fans don't like the pre-season games. Gee? Really?

The reason fans don't like the pre-season games, the reason owners can't charge as much for pre-season games is.....[drumroll]....they aren't real games. The starters rarely play the entire game, the time they are playing they don't play full out, and, really, the best you can hope for is that someone desperately trying to make the team will show you that he's got the stuff to make him the next Brett Favre, or Brian Urlacher, or Jerry Rice. Otherwise, it's fauxball. In what way, then, does trading two of those games for two regular season games not cause the top 23 players to NOT be asked to put themselves on the line MORE? How is it NOT going to result in a longer "Injured Reserve" list? How is it NOT going to mean more permanently broken men? Earlier. Shortening careers, and lives.

The owners are motivated by money. There's lots of money in pro football. And I'll confess that on Superbowl Monday I go into mourning. Hell, it starts as soon as someone hoists the trophy. But at the same time, when the Superbowl schedule had the game landing in February my initial reaction was "WTF???"

I'll admit I'm biased, but I really think that part of the reason why football (especially at the pro level) inspires the passion it does is because the season is, relatively, short. There are sixteen games. You get 3 months for the regular season (give or take a weekend), a month of playoffs, Done. There is not the interminable NBA schedule, or, God save me, the April to nearly November marathon that is the professional baseball season (sorry, Mom. But, I promise, I'm protecting your Yankees lamp until I find someone truly worthy.)

So, extending the season to 18 games (and don't even get me started on the London and Toronto and Mexico City games--I'll start frothing at the mouth) is...LUDICROUS!! Oh, wait. We're talking about the owners. My bad.

So, here's my thought. The players union should say that they'll agree to the 18 game season as long as A) the owners increase the rosters to 77 (with two starters for each of the 23 positions [I'm not including special teams in this since those are usually double duty--just 11 O and D and 1 kicker[) and B) raise the salary caps on every team by the total amount of the top paid, by position, with minimums in place per position, and C) set hard caps on rookie salaries. So, increase the cap by the amount to the top paid quarterback in the league, plus the amount paid to the top center, plus the amount paid to the .... well, you get the idea. And the owners have to up their contributions to all the player funds by the increased percentage of games played per season (okay, minus 20%--there is a chance of getting hurt in a preseason fauxball game).

And they start guaranteeing lifetime medical coverage for game related injuries or conditions to ALL players signed to a regular season NFL roster, regardless of time played. Right now, it only kicks in after 3 years.

Yeah, I sound like a bitch about this.

Well, the owners have said they will cut off all medical benefits to NFL members and families as of March if there is no agreement in place (regardless of contract terms). "Sorry, son. I know your kid needs a heart transplant, and you're the lowest paid grunt in the league, and you really don't make that much money--certainly not enough to cover the cash amount of $658,800 for a heart transplant, assuming there are no complications. Talk to Peyton--maybe he can loan you the cash: rumor is next year he'll be the highest paid guy in the League. Don't worry, the fact that you sacked him last week won't matter--he's a great guy." He is. But that's irrelevant. You're cancelling the medical coverage, on spec.

Sure, some NFL players are millionaires. By no means all. I'm sorry--they make their owners obscenely wealthy. The owners get NO LOVE from me. They want more games? Fine. Make it worth the players' while. Seriously--they need to look at their injuries lists. The season is only half over. THINK!!!!!!!

A week or so ago Howie Long said on the FOX pregame show that rather than increasing the season to 18 the owners should be talking about cutting it back to the 14 game season, which is what it was from 1961-1977. I'm not on the same drugs Howie is, so I don't think that's even remotely possible as an option right now.

But it doesn't mean Mr. Long wasn't right.