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NFL Lockout: Owners and Players Bicker; Fans Suffer

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Springtime usually features the dramatic finishes of March Madness, the renewed hope that fills the hearts of every baseball fan because of a brand new Major League Baseball season and the final playoff pushes by teams in the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.

However, a giant cloud of uncertainty – the National Football League Lockout – lingers over all of the springtime excitement.

The NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which spells out employment conditions, wages, employee and union rights and the like, expired on March 3. Since then, both owners and players have made attempts to come to terms on a new CBA, but both parties are still miles apart. If no new CBA is reached, then a sports fan’s worst nightmare may turn into reality – a football-less fall of 2011 will ensue.

There is no doubt that the NFL is the most popular American sport, and it is a shame that owners and players are putting the 2011 season in jeopardy, as each party makes steep demands.

As the saying goes, “money is the root of all evil,” and this is where the problem between owners and players lies. The major issue up for debate is how the players and owners split the billions of dollars of revenue generated by TV networks, advertising, merchandise, ticket sales and so on. Over the past couple of years, players have received the majority of the revenue, which makes sense because they are the ones who put their bodies on the line week after week. Many players run the risk of head and spinal injuries during their playing careers.

It’s sad to see billionaires argue for more money. One would think they would be satisfied with what they have, but this is not case. The NFL owners want to keep more of the revenue for themselves.

Owners and players have also struggled to see eye-to-eye when it comes to the schedule. Owners want to extend the regular season to 18 games by cutting two preseason games and adding it the regular season. The players have yet to agree to this because many claim that two more regular season games increase the risk of injury. NFL players will not agree to an extended regular season, considering the fact that owners want to cut the revenue share that goes to players.

There is a reason why the NFL regular season is only 16 games, as opposed to 162 in baseball. To add two regular season games, owners are asking players to run the risk of sustaining a concussion, season and career-ending injuries.

As fans, the owners may have a point. It would be nice to see two meaningless preseason games transformed into two competitive regular season contests, where the starters play for the entire 60 minutes.

The rookie salary cap is another can of worms. In the past decade, the top picks in the NFL Draft have been paid multimillions before playing a single down in the NFL. Owners do not want to pay millions of dollars to unproven rookies or potential busts while the NFL Players’ Union wants to keep the system as it is. There is no doubt that the system is flawed. In most jobs, including the NBA and MLB, salaries increase with experience and performance, but not in the NFL. It is ludicrous to think that at one point Matt Ryan, who signed a six-year deal worth $72 million dollars, and Sam Bradford, who inked a six-year deal worth $78 million, made more money than Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl Champion and two-time Super Bowl MVP.

Owners will blame players, and players will point the finger at owners for the inability to sign a new CBA, but the one thing that is certain is that the fans are the real losers during this lockout.

Like children in the middle of their parents’ messy divorce, the fans will be the ones who suffer. Sure, both parties will reconcile sooner or later, but how long will that take and at what cost? This is the uncertainty that fans must deal with. And then there is the one question that most fans do not want to think about – what if there is no football in the fall?

No NFL for a year would be like an eternity in hell, for diehards. There would be no reason to wake up at 10 a.m. on Sunday mornings, and Monday nights will have a giant void.

For the fans’ sake, owners and players agree to a new CBA. Sit in a room and don’t come out until a new agreement has been reached.