To: DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA executive director
From: Couch Slouch, NFL executive viewer
Re: NFL labor dispute
You look and talk the part; nice threads, nice sound bites. You have a well- heeled clientele. And you might have most of Sports Nation on your side – who roots for privileged team owners, anyway?
But you know what?
You have no chance to win this thing.
You’re drawing to an inside straight, and even if you hit it, the NFL already has a full house – and it’s very nicely appointed.
Any time it’s a labor-management dispute in U.S. history, management is about a 40-to-1 favorite. And any time management happens to be the NFL, make that 400-1.
If the lions and tigers at the San Diego Zoo unionized, they’d be in a better position vis-à-vis zoo management than the NFLPA vis-à-vis the NFL.
Union decertification? That’s shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.
Going after the NFL in court? Maybe you’ve got a shot there.
But nothing knocks the NFL off its sacred mount. Is the NFL a monopoly? Pretty much. Does it violate antitrust laws? Probably. Will either of those facts change the way the NFL conducts its daily business? Hasn’t ‘til now.
Nobody messes with the NFL. Heck, it’s practically the fourth branch of government.
Maybe you can get an injunction that bars TV payments to the league for games not played during a lockout. That’s a stiff $4 billion out of the owners’ pockets. Uh, have you seen how deep those pockets are?
Half the owners are billionaires. Seahawks owner Paul Allen has a 414-foot yacht – my goodness, that’s large enough to convert to a football stadium if he can get taxpayer financing.
(Column Intermission: Several readers noted the absence of Shirley the past two weeks from “Ask The Slouch.” Tragically – in tune with the times – this was part of our own labor-management dispute. In protest of poor wages and an inadequate health care plan, Shirley quit, prompting me to fire her. We agreed to federal mediation and, two PBRs later, cooler heads prevailed. She’s back, baby!)
You have NO leverage.
The cold, hard truth is this:
Tom Brady is replaceable. Ray Lewis is replaceable. Every single NFL player is replaceable.
How do I know this? They’ve been replaced before.
In 1987, the NFL players went on strike in-season for 24 days. What did the owners do? They kept playing.
Here was the NFL, stripped of its marquee talent, responding by gathering together non-NFL players, calling it the NFL and putting “replacement games” on network TV. They took gents off the street and suited them up. It was a sham. And what did we do? We kept watching.
Sure, ratings went down – by more than 20 percent – but viewership for three weeks of scab games still was larger than for any other non-NFL sports programming. At RFK Stadium, as the Redskins beat the Cardinals in the first non-union contest, fans chanted, “Stay on strike!”
As it turns out, players are replaceable parts holding time between beer and car commercials. The next Jets quarterback could be the guy standing next to you at Best Buy. The next 49ers linebacker could be the fella rotating your tires at Midas. The NFL has such a powerful hold on us, all that matters are the team logos on the helmets; besides, if everyone in the real NFL runs a 4.6 40 and everyone in the sham NFL runs a 5.6 40, do you think anyone can detect this?
It’s not the same as if you bought Broadway tickets for “Driving Miss Daisy” and instead of James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave, you get Emilio Estevez and Tori Spelling.
The NFL is impenetrable, DeMaurice. These folks just charged fans $200 to watch the Super Bowl outside of Cowboys Stadium on TV. And 4,000 people said, “Sure.” You think you’re holding a pair of aces, buddy, but you’re beat – they’re playing with house money and it’s a stacked deck.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Regarding Brandon Davies, should future RPI ratings factor in premarital sex probabilities? (Geoff Brewer; Cleveland)
A. I can’t speak to that, but now I know why Antonio Cromartie turned down a BYU scholarship offer.
Q. Both “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams” end with a father-son catch. Discuss. (Kurt Chappell; Hayward, Calif.)
A. Now that you mention it, I believe “Apocalypse Now” would’ve been a better movie if it ended with a father-son catch.
Q. Do you still take the wife bowling on your anniversary? (Bob Cayne; Scottsdale, Ariz.)
A. Just in case we don’t make it to our anniversary, we go bowling whenever we have coupons.
Q. Since it’s an established property of matter that no two objects can occupy the same place at the same time, how do you explain Geno Auriemma and his ego? (Jim Cataldi; Pittsburgh)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.