The last thing the internet needs is another screed about the NFL lockout, but here’s mine anyway.
I’m not really interested in taking sides in the toxic blame game that the NFL owners (via their squirrely mouthpiece, Roger Goodell) and the NFLPA have been engaged in for weeks. What I’m more interested in is the fans who choose to take sides, and why they do so. At this point most of the resentment seems to be aimed squarely at the league’s 32 owners. They’re greedy, they’re just trying to screw the poor, subjugated players, they’re killing the golden goose, blah blah blah.
I’m not defending the owners or how they’ve conducted themselves throughout this whole sordid affair. But neither can I get myself whipped up into a frenzy over what they’re doing. Because I recognize them for what they are — ruthless and (mostly) successful businessmen. Nothing more, nothing less. And I think that football junkies directing their anger at ownership are doing so because of a fundamental disconnect from reality. What do I mean by that? Lemme ‘splain.
Remember when you were a kid playing football with your friends in your back yard or at the park? How many times did you imagine yourself as one of your NFL heroes, making the big catch or making a key tackle in the waning minutes of the Super Bowl? Hell, I wasn’t even a John Riggins fan and I pictured myself as him in Super Bowl XVII, breaking free from the Miami Dolphins defense en route to a decisive touchdown.
Now how many of you used to imagine you were an NFL owner or team executive? Yeah, didn’t think so. The thing is, from time to time I do that very thing. I’m old enough that if I were a player I’d either be retired or damn close to it, so it seems kind of silly for me to picture myself as one of them anymore. I don’t even like to wear jerseys with a player’s name on it as I think that whole look is stupid. But that’s another topic for another time.
So yes, on more occasions than I can count I’ve imagined myself assuming ownership of the Oakland Raiders. I visualize myself holding press conferences, overseeing the rebuilding of my beloved team into a league powerhouse, and generally just having a grand old time. I’d use my team’s success as a springboard to greater things — using my football wealth to invest in the community, take good care of my players, and overall just creating the kind of team that players and executives would kill to work for. It’s a very sentimental outlook I admit, but who among us doesn’t imagine become a pseudo-philanthropist in a situation like that?
And I think that on some level, this is the way I’ve always hoped real NFL owners would conduct their affairs. But the sad fact is that most teams are now run not by football men, but by businessmen. They view their franchises as investments, like a rental property or a mutual fund. That’s it. Oh sure, some are fairly image conscious and seem like they care somewhat about their communities, but by and large are as emotionally attached to their teams as you are to your 401(k).
Angry fans would do well to remember that a large contingent of owners either took control of their team because they inherited it, or simply used the billions they earned in another business to buy it. So for many of this select group of men, their team is either their birth right or a vehicle to assuage their already titanic egos. They don’t care about the players and they sure as hell don’t care about you, the fan. You are a big money bag with a dollar sign on it. You are an ATM that never runs out.
To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Art Rooney is gone and he ain’t walking through that door, folks. Getting angry at the current group of owners for caring about the bottom line before anything else is like getting angry at the sun for shining. It’s just a waste of energy and ultimately the object of your scorn doesn’t care if you feel burned. The sooner we fans realize that, the sooner we can accept this lockout for what it is and just get on with our lives.
- Commissioner Goodell interview transcript (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- NFL’s foundation cracking under weight of record stoppage (cbssports.com)
- NFL Lockout 2011: Who’s to Blame for the Pro Football Work Stoppage? (bleacherreport.com)
- The Bizarre Cult Of Pro-Owner NFL Fanboys [Stupid People] (deadspin.com)