Nobody really cared about the CBA when it was best known as a minor basketball league. Now that CBA (collective bargaining agreement) is the most important acronym in professional sports, few fans still give a hoot. As NFL owners and players association leaders conclude their weeklong mediation in Washington, D.C., in hopes of avoiding a league-imposed lockout when the collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3, the snores can be heard from coast to coast.
Season-ticket holders aren’t losing sleep over the owners’ push for an 18-game schedule and a rookie salary cap or the union proposed “50-50” revenue split and 58 man rosters. They just want football to be there when September rolls around.
Despite booming TV ratings and league-wide profits, there seems to be a new twist to fans’ cynicism. Even though playing careers are as short as ever with alarming health consequences in retirement for many, the NFL Players Association has failed miserably in winning popular support.
Sure, players still sweat through grueling two-a-day training camp workouts and endure more brutal game-day hits than ever, but the prevailing public sentiment remains: Many players are overpaid and underperform.
Parity is partly to blame. There weren’t as many bad throws and missed tackles by the game’s elite when half the teams in the league were flat out awful. Now that most clubs have a reasonable chance of winning each Sunday, so too is the likelihood that your favorite $20 million-a-year quarterback will lose more often. Toss in the seemingly never-ending barrage of off-field problems afflicting so many players and you see why the seeds of discontent are sprouting like weeds among fans who spend nearly a day’s wages to buy a ticket.
Here’s some advice for the union:
- Discourage team’s involvement in shows like HBO’s “Hard Knocks” which made the New York Jets look more like MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”
- Remind players to check the scoreboard before busting out their latest sack dance or touchdown celebration. Choreographed self-aggrandizement trumping team success is never a good image to project.
- Most importantly, educate players on the pitfalls of sexting (Brett Favre), insubordination (Albert Haynesworth), “Purple Drank” (JaMarcus Russell), dogfighting (Michael Vick), fathering children out of wedlock: Eight is not great (Antonio Cromartie), accidentally shooting oneself while carrying a gun into a nightclub (Plaxico Burress) and felony DUI manslaughter (Donte’ Stallworth).
To their credit, the NFLPA just announced a new plan to address issues of domestic violence called, “Training for Life.” Unfortunately, all too often those programs go unheeded. Meanwhile, the league’s high-powered public relations machine keeps pumping out the notion that trimming salaries and adding two regular-season games will make the NFL better than ever. The union will relent because players don’t have their house in order and they’ve lost fan sympathy.
KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.