The NFL: Sometimes, Less is More

The sports world is rocked by the real possibility that the entire NFL season may be canceled. The two sides are at war and ramifications for future years might be worse. An incredibly successful business institution has come to the abyss over money and “whose ox is being gored.” And the public at large seems to yawn at the prospect of no football. The players are ready to protect their interests, and they must: The average life-span of an NFL player’s career is 3 and 1/2 years! Many players die before they reach age 60 and many others are bankrupt after their second year in retirement.

Injured players and those retired have not been given the rightful attention, which must be a central argument in any lockout settlement. I know of no other profession where the stars of the industry are forsaken once they aren’t playing. The ancient Romans cautioned their leaders and heroes that “glory is fleeting” — a philosophy that can also be true for NFL players.

The owners, i.e. “Captains of Industry,” act like their 1890s counterparts. They build lavish stadiums, real estate empires, and communications networks. And they are on the verge of milking a cow until there is no more. I just hope the Federal Judge in Minnesota considers the lives of the “mere mortals” who work in support of the games and the industry to put food on the table and pay their gas bills. Can an owner truly look at himself in the mirror knowing that his players’ careers now only span 3 and 1/2 years and they need to play four years to collect a pension? What’s worse, the owners now want to extend the season to 18 games and retain a higher revenue split.

Now may be the right time to limit the schedule to 16 games and no pre-season. Attending to the players’ needs for a more secure quality of life includes taking care of all medical issues during the off-season. They play the game while the owners sit lavishly yards away from any physical torment. Should the season[s] be canceled, the owners will take a beating. And they will look longingly at what might have been if the season was less demanding and they were less selfish.