Friday, November 12, 2010

Letter to the NFL from a Fan

I received a letter today that I thought I would share with everyone. It's thought provoking and an excellent response to the looming threat of a lockout in the NFL. Have a read...
Dear NFL,
As I'm sure you're all aware, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires this year and there is the looming possibility of there being no NFL 2011 Season. Please allow me to express how detrimental this would be to the league and more importantly to the fans of football. While I am an outsider and do not have every detail of the CBA, nor am I a player in the NFL and I do not fully understand the pressures and tolls the sport takes on its athletes, I have been a fan of the NFL (and football in general) for as long as I can remember. The lack of a 2011 NFL season would greatly devalue the name of the NFL and its reputation. It will lose fans in markets that are already on the brink of losing their interest and new markets (such as overseas) which the NFL has worked so hard to build up.
Every sport has a players’ association and every major sport has, at some time or another, had their players go on strike for at least part of a season (if not more). It is almost an inevitability that workers’ needs will change at some point and will feel that they need a new agreement with their employers. And while I can appreciate this and understand it, I do not have to like it in this case. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar per year business and is arguably America’s favorite sport. The attention span of the average American is fairly short and many fans would turn to other sports and other leagues in the absence of the NFL. Leagues such as the newly emerging United Football League and re-established Arena Football League would draw a significant number of fans away from the NFL and some of the might not come back once the NFL begins another season after a strike. Those other leagues already cater to some markets where the NFL has no teams or where there is an NFL team but the market isn’t popular. Also take into consideration how the NFL is attempting to expand its fan base overseas by holding a game in London each year (and also in Mexico a few years ago). By not having a 2011 season, the newly acquired fans in the area would turn away the fans which it took so long to acquire. People will forget about the NFL for a bit. They might be angry that players and owners that claim to love the fans so much could stand them up by not having a season. They might walk away from the sport altogether.
There is no disputing that players in the NFL put themselves at significant risk in a contact sport that poses serious injury and bodily harm to players, coaches, officials, and even any staff on the field at the time. However, players are compensated more than adequately, in my opinion. In 2010, the league minimum salary for a rookie (someone with zero NFL experience) is $325,000. That is more than enough to buy a house in nearly ANY market the NFL has a team in. If I played ONE season in the NFL, even if it were as the third string Offensive Tackle who never sees a single play in a game, I would still have enough money to fully pay off my college loans, buy a new car, AND buy a house. I have a slight inkling of what it is like to train for the NFL as I attended preseason camp for my college football team and had to drop out due to injuries sustained. And that was just Division I-AA college football. I would imagine the NFL’s training regimen is many times more difficult on the mind and body than what I went through. So I couldn’t begin to understand exactly what the players go through to get what they do, but I can tell you they earn their pay.
However, they are being paid to play a game; a game which I loved to play in elementary school, in high school, and in college until I couldn’t play anymore. I’m quite sure my talent doesn’t match up to somewhere around 98% of the players in the NFL, but if I still had the ability to play the game at the level the NFL players do, I would do so happily for HALF of what they get. Hell, I would do it for the salary I’d make as a firefighter or civil engineer. Kids dream of playing this game while they’re growing up. They wish they can grow up to be a football player one day, not because they can make large amounts of money playing in the NFL, but because the game is fun! When the game is played at the level where its players are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, per season, it’s understandable that the game ceases to be fun on some levels. But when it comes down to it, it is still a game. 
For the owners of teams, sometimes the business can be a proverbial roll of the dice. In some markets such as Dallas and Washington DC, the fans flock to the stadium in droves, buy team merchandise, and generally have little to no trouble making a profit. But for teams like the Carolina Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs who have a shrinking attendance rate already or teams like the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions who have poor records, owners depend on TV broadcasting deals. Without the exposure that televised games bring them, their teams suffer financial losses. Owners that don’t own or control the stadium their team plays in aren’t able to determine their own sponsorships and therefore make less money than teams that have the aforementioned benefits. However, even teams with low markets, old stadiums, and poor to moderately successful teams still make profits in the MILLIONS. If making a million dollar profit is a bad year, I’ll take ownership of the worst, most “unprofitable” NFL team any day over any job I’ve ever had or been offered. Take the Giants, for instance; the cheapest seats you can get tickets for cost $104 each. For me to go to a game with ONE friend, I can buy a Playstation 3, get a major tune-up for my car, or buy groceries for a month. Don't even think about season tickets unless you can afford the personal seat license (PSL) that ranges between $1000-$20,000 PER SEAT. So not only will it cost you the price of a new car to reserve each seat you want, it'll cost you nearly another $1000 for the tickets themselves (and those are just the REALLY CHEAP ones). The Giants just had a new stadium built (which they share with the Jets, including their expenses); according to the NY Daily News, the stadium had a cost of $1.2 billion. The Giants estimated that PSLs alone will generate around $371 million. So almost 1/3 of their stadium costs are covered right then and there from the Giants Personal Seat Licenses alone. No profit in the business of football, eh?
A strike and no 2011 season due to failure to arrange a new CBA would hurt lots of people. It’d hurt the players (who play a game for a living) that make hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars. They won’t be able to feed their families by doing their jobs and make a living doing what they’re good at. A strike would also hurt the owners, who make millions of dollars (even on a bad year). They’d lose their sponsors, their TV time, and possibly even their stadiums. They might even lose their fans to competing leagues with a team in the same market. But most of all, a strike would hurt the fans. Some people look forward each week to Sunday afternoons as their only time to relax and watch the NFL games (if their market isn’t blacked out, of course). Kids won’t be able to watch their heroes play their favorite game each week. 
Honestly, players can live with a little less money. Owners can live with a little less money. But neither can live without the football that pays their bills. No season, no salary, no profit…and maybe no fans.
A Concerned Fan
I'm with you Concerned Fan, and I'm certain you're not the only one out there who feels this way. Like you, I love the NFL and hope that the players, owners, and administration can come to their senses and realize what they have in front of them, and how much they ultimately have to lose.



  2. Well written concerned fan!

    I think its sorta like the NBA lock-out from over 10 years ago and I remember Dennis Rodman saying something like it was all about greed and money. You look at this situation and its no different.

    So many times the leagues are caught up in perserving their profits and how they run their operations to make more money. Then of course the players never take what is first put on the table as well.

    Despite the money tug of war, I think the deal will get done between the two sides. Too much money to lose, too much power to give up to other entertainment options and too much static coming from those in and out of the League. Roger Goodell was there in the League for at least one strike---the last one in 1987.

    I'm not looking for that kinda replay.

  3. The lockout has much more to do with the owners being selfish than the players. As much as the players get paid, the owners end up getting much much more. And with the TV deals in place no matter what, the owners will make money even if there are no games played next year. Honestly, they're probably pulling for that since they won't have to pay players' salaries. And since the salaries are the main expense for owners to pay...big $ for the owners. Do I think the players make too much money? Maybe. But the owners DEFINATELY make more than enough to afford the salaries of their players. The lockout is much more about the owners' greed than it is the players'.

    They want a longer season and less pay for players. Imagine if your boss told you that from now on, you had to work extra hours at your job but you'll also be taking a pay cut. Unfair, isn't it?

    I fully support the link above and agree with almost everything said on that site. Check it out. It'll help open your eyes a bit.


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