Monday, February 14, 2011

Short As I Can Make It on the NFL Labor Situation

Boil down why the NFL owners re-opened the collective bargaining agreement and are willing to lock the players out and it comes out to this: The owners lost the huge government subsidies they were receiving from taxpayers to build stadiums. Therefore, the players must give back lots of money because you don't expect the OWNERS to entertain any financial risks due to capitalism do you?

It's the perfect parable of our 21st century economy. The wealthy individuals who portray themselves as dynamic, fearless titans of industry and finance are in reality more often timorous weaklings (fiscally speaking) whose only business plan is for others to give them money without receiving anything in return. In other words, rip-off artists. Pompous rip-off artists, to boot.

Bob Kraft has not been a rip-off artist. He built his stadium with his own money, mostly, and has done all right under every Basic Agreement. I am using him here merely as an example, so he shouldn't take it personally. What business is it of the NFL or the players if Bob Kraft's shopping mall goes tits up? Why is that a risk for which players should compensate him?

Kraft's among the best of the owners, as a matter of fact. Many are all right, and a few are truly hideous people, but they all suffer from the blinders of their increasingly blind class, the U.S. rich. As the rich get richer, they've become more, not less aggrieved. Weird, huh? Let me assure you, if I had the money to own an NFL team, I wouldn't do it. I don't know what I'd do, but I'd be real mellow about it whatever it was.

Rationally, the owners could cut their demands in half and still make like out the bandits they are without muss, fuss or a missed mini-camp. Sports labor disputes are hardly rational economic affairs. Owners suffer a constant frustration. Success in sports isn't like Congress. You can't buy it. Beyond mere greed, they seek some sort of psychic victory over those damn players whose well-paid labor doesn't necessarily bring them, the owner, acclaim and fame.

Many fans hate that players get paid at all. Players are young, strong, talented and well-off. Most fans are none of those things, and envy is the plutocrat's best weapon. But if anybody tells you they're for free markets as a matter of principle, they can't be for NFL owners, not if they have any principles.

Since nobody's at risk of losing anything until May at the earliest, expect the dispute to drag on a bit, enlivened by futile but expensive legal maneuvers by both sides. In the meantime, remember the first rule of negotiations about money in sports. Everything you hear before the deal is bullshit.


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