By Craig Phelps
St. Louis, MO- Shut the gates, close the doors, and put those 2011-2012 NFL season tickets back in your pocket because you might not need them. The worst fears of professional football fans came true on Friday as the deadline to strike up a new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL owners and players passed.
In a game that where fan’s income averages about $40 thousand a year, owners and players who make millions have failed to slice up a $9.3 billion pie. While the average American may not be able to wrap their minds around such an absurd amount of money, life is all about perspective.
One of the biggest issues surrounding the new collective bargaining agreement revolves around a problem that many Americans can relate to: health insurance. While Brett Favre may have made it look easy to play in the NFL every day, that is far from the case. The average professional football player is only around the NFL for 3.6 years and they face the potential of life-altering injuries each time they take the field.
Think about the force that two three pound men generate each time they hit each other down after down. The human body is simply not meant to take that kind of punishment. For everything that these players go through to bring fans a few hours of enjoyment every Sunday, they see little in the way compensation. Players that manage to spend four or more years in the league are only covered for five years after their playing days are over; the players are on their own after that.
Another point of interest is moving from a 16 game to an 18 game season. Again, the average career for an NFL player is just 3.6 years. That adds on two more games a year and 7.2 more games over a players career. That’s an increase of 12.5 percent more games.
The St. Louis Ram’s took the field for 2,070 plays this past season, an average of 129.38 plays per game. Now, no player in the NFL plays both sides of the ball in today’s game so it’s not fair to break down that statistic too much. Instead, take a look at the offense and defense plays per game. The Ram’s offense snapped the ball an average of 65.81 times a game. That’s 65.81 chances for a player, like the young Sam Bradford, to be injured. If the Ram’s averaged 65.81 plays per game over the next 3.6 years, that would add a total of 473.832 plays over an average players career, assuming he starts every game. That adds on about 45 percent of a season worth of plays on to the players career. While that may seem like a staggering number, the Rams were far from one of the NFL’s best offensive teams. They scored only 18.1 points per game during the 2010-2011 season which was 26th in the NFL. Now imagine the toll that takes on a player’s body day in and day out.
The owners also want to set aside roughly eighteen percent of the leagues revenue before they split that golden $9 billion apple with the players. The $1 billion that they set aside is supposed to help counteract the continued increasing cost of running an NFL team. On one hand, the players are the people that sacrifice their body day in and day out for the enjoyment of others. On the other hand, the owners are responsible for providing jobs that are required to run stadiums and teams; minimum wage does continue to go up while the economy seems to only go down.
One thing that may shock the average fan is how well the NFL owners seemed to prepare for the lockout. The owners set aside a loan of sorts in case of a lockout. In the last deal that they inked with the TV Networks, the owners were sure to include a line or two saying that they would still get paid during a season where football did not take place. While the contract does say that this money must be paid back with interest, this has not settled well with the players.
While all of this may seem like a truck load of information to absorb, things are about to get more complicated. The NFL Players Union has decertified and stars like Tom Brady and Drew Brees are planning on suing their employers. The law suit is expected to focus on the NFL in regards to the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. This could turn the sports world on its head by declaring drafts illegal and removing salary caps. There is also a possibility of either the players involved in the law suit becoming free agents or maybe every NFL player hitting the open market.
Time will only tell whether this $9 billion golden goose lays a tasty scrambled egg next year or if next season goes down the chute. Either way, it’s time to buckle up and hold on tight; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.