Control, balance returning to NFL?
Hidden deep within a report predicting an end to the stalemate were some amazing nuggets of information about what this pact apparently says. There are actually some things in the agreement that come close to some of the things I’ve been wishing for years the NFL would do to make pro football more fan friendly, and (dare I say) good for the sport.
Read on, football fans, and enjoy the moment:
Untried rookies will get less up front (although signing bonuses are an unknown), players will get upgraded injury protection and the potential of guaranteed lifetime medical insurance. The players will not get guaranteed contracts (for which I applaud the owners). In other words, the NFL appears to be at least moving toward a concept of, “If you produce, you’ll be rewarded,” a system most American workers know a lot about.
Owners can lock up draft picks for at least four years, and rules against contract holdouts have been tightened. The contract is for 10 years (my goodness, a decade of labor peace?) And there is a hard salary cap based on revenue percentages. Free-spending owners will be reined in, and smaller market teams will be able to compete better. This last point has a flip side, however. Green Bay, from the smallest market, is the current Super Bowl champion. And Pittsburgh, maybe the next-smallest market, was the runner-up. Football doesn’t seem to have the “small market-big market” problems that baseball has.
There is even an agreement that puts money teams save in rookie signings into a pool for veterans’ incentives and benefits to current and retired players.
Is common sense and a realization that over-the-top money-grubbing needs to be reined in creeping into the NFL psyche? Maybe, maybe not. But I hear a distant rumble of reform here. Because football remains the most popular sport, new television deals will continue to form the basis for lucrative payoffs for everyone involved for the foreseeable future.
Make no mistake – the NFL is still all about millionaires desperately trying to make billions, and billionaire owners grabbing for trillions with equal fervor. It’s one of the biggest of big-time businesses. But the sport has managed to produce a competitive model and a playoff system that is the standard for pro sports.
Making the most sense is the cutback on the absurdity of offering unproven rookies millions before they even come into the league. Showing compassion was the provision for more benefits for retired players, especially medical assistance.
The $9 billion pie that the league is trying to divide up was put there by fans who fill the stadiums and watch their TV sets, and advertisers who line up in droves to buy air time and spend millions on their super-charged, graphically glitzy messages. It’s a pleasant surprise to read that some sense of control and balance is returning to my favorite sport.
Now about those concessions, and the price of the nachos at Soldier Field….