The latest: the owners are giving their all to lock out players. Now, the players union has filed an anti-trust suit right back at the owners to block this move.
There are dozens of issues on the line and none make for easy compromises. Among them, owners want more games added to the schedule and a bigger slice of revenues. Players are pushing for better free agency rights, more guaranteed money and a host of other benefits.
In the end though, the fan doesn't care. He is lost in a sea of legal mumbo jumbo and a lot of "He said, he said." And, when we simplify all the issues, the average Joe just sees the players as rich and owners as even richer. Place these issues next to the reality of our current world back drop which includes scores of jobless Americans, revolutions in the Middle East and complete devastation of life in Japan, and these two opposing football groups look pretty darn superficial and silly. Average Joe is calmly saying, "Shut up and just play the game."
Collectively, players and owners all exist in a lifestyle that is typically envied, looked up to or even romanticized by fans everywhere— that is, when the season is in full stride, players are making exciting plays and owners are providing great entertainment value. Allow for a strike, work stoppage or anything else which takes the fans' focus off of the actual week to week game and instead shines the spotlight on just how much ‘easy’ wealth these participants have, and the NFL has created recipe for a brand disaster. At that point, I can guarantee you that Average Joe won't be calm anymore.
This is nothing new. We watched Major League Baseball nearly kill itself numerous times in the 80s and 90s with various strikes. In the worst of these, it lost many disheartened fans for years (some have never returned). Looking back, one can see how these strikes take their toll. Baseball ultimately lost its prominence as America's favorite sport. Now ironically, football has taken over that envious number one position.
And in my estimation, football has a lot more to lose. These quirky fans live and die knowing that from October until early February, they can count on Sundays for one thing. Through good or bad weather, work, play or rest, it doesn't matter. On Sunday, football always reigns.
Fans will lose patience ever so quickly after one or two missed games. Take away half a season or more, and an entire group of outraged fans will take their viewing loyalties elsewhere. The NFL brand will take a hit that won't easily be recovered from.
Legal maneuvering is fine right now. But, if this battle becomes an outright war, with no end in sight, in September, beware NFL. You'll be sorely testing your fans patience and loyalty.