The NFL Lockout: One Fan’s View


When it comes to the NFL lockout, I hadn’t given much thought to the issues or eventual resolution of them.  I try to not get too caught up on anything said or reported, knowing that both sides will do their best to use the media to advance their own agenda.  To be honest, I really don’t really care what the final outcome is as long as an agreement gets done in time to have a full regular season.  However, now that an agreement appears to be just around the corner, I decided to finally stop and think about the lockout and how it affects me as a fan. Unfortunately, I came to the conclusion that on most issues, I side with the players…but in the end, I’d rather have the owners be the ones that get what they want.

The NFL players get to play a game for a living and are very well compensated for it.  They get to do something they love live in front of thousands of cheering fans and millions more on TV.  Most are able to comfortably retire at a young age and live the life of a rock star.  Many get endorsement deals, appear in shows and movies or get jobs on TV after playing.  The life of a NFL player can be fun, exciting and lucrative.

But to get that life, players have to deal with all kind of issues and restrictions that the average person would never put up with at their job.  They risk life and limb on a weekly basis, frequently feeling the after effects of bone-jarring collisions for days, weeks, months – and sometimes for the rest of their lives.  Recent studies show irreparable brain damage in many former players, and a lot of former players can no longer walk normally or even bend down due to injuries sustained on the field.  As the average NFL career is only four years, many players put themselves at risk but never get to reap the major rewards, getting forced out of the game at an early age.

Sports leagues like the NFL are unique in that upon graduating from college, players are told (via the draft) where they have to go to work.  Players that grew up and went to school in Florida might suddenly find themselves playing in Buffalo or Seattle, with little or no choice in the matter. This isn’t a temporary assignment, either.  Rookie contracts can last up to four or five years.  And once that contract does expire, players sometimes have to deal with restricted free agency or franchise tags that can literally keep a player on one team for his whole career.  The flip side to this is, almost all NFL contracts are non-guaranteed, which means players can be cut anytime a better or cheaper alternative is available and the team does not have to pay the remaining amount of money owed to that player.

Can you imagine choosing a career where upon graduating, you were told where you had to go and work for the next 4, 5, 6 years?  Or where you knew that if you were lucky, you would work in that field for 10-12 years but most likely would have to find another job in 3 or 4?  Or how about knowing you can’t leave your position, but your employer can replace you whenever he wants?

There’s no doubt that being an NFL player has many perks, but at the end of the day they are employees, and what they do is work. And like any worker, they want to make the best parts of their job better while making the worse parts a little bit more tolerable. I can’t fault them for that.

Next, I’ll tell you why that in spite of sympathizing with the players, I think it’s better for fans if the owners get what they want.