Imagine you live in Phoenix. You just read a news release that a fan favorite from the Boston Red Sox was being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Are you concerned?
Or imagine that you live in Kansas City, and you just found out that the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has announced he is relocating the team to Los Angeles. Does that affect you at all?
The answer to those questions is No. While the people in Boston or Tampa Bay may perceive the above headlines as being bad or even scary news, folks everywhere else simply perceive them as news.
Now, imagine it’s a bright Sunday morning in September. You can be anywhere in this great nation of ours – Spokane, Oklahoma City, or Tallahassee. Maybe you are returning home from church. Maybe you are just waking up from a long night of partying. No matter what led you to this point in time, you only have one thing on your mind right now. You are looking forward to plopping down on the sofa, filling up a plate or bowl full of junk food, and turning on the TV to enjoy a relaxing afternoon, as NFL games should be getting set to kick off any minute.
But instead of being bombarded by the cackling madness of Howie, Terry, and the rest of the NFL pre-game show when you flip on Fox, you are greeted instead by a conversation between Hawkeye, Radar, Hot Lips, and Klinger in a military hospital tent from a M*A*S*H rerun.
“That’s okay,” you figure. “The NFC game must be blacked out locally, so I’ll just flip over to CBS and catch the AFC game of the week.” Once you flip to CBS you are met with Sam, Woody, Cliff, Norm, and the rest of the Cheers gang all sitting around the bar on another Boston afternoon circa 1987.
Where’s the football?!
And it is precisely at that point that you remember having heard the worst three words that could possibly uttered in sports, and your heart breaks all over again.
NFL. Player. Lockout.
Out of all the possible three-word combinations that could be used, from “You’ve been traded” to “Career ending injury,” only an NFL player lockout carries implications grand enough to affect the entire sports world in America.
For many years running, the NFL has been far and away the most popular sport in the United States. The thriving popularity and success of Fantasy Football serves as testament, as fantasy football alone has grown into a $1B industry. The simple fact is that people LOVE the NFL.
Ticket prices are rising, the economy is slumping, and attendance figures are still rising every season. The Dallas Cowboys just built a $1B stadium, where suite owners have to cough up as much as $90 just to by a pizza, and still people flock to the NFL.
The NFL has become the single most entertaining sport in America. It provides us with drama, excitement, with just a dash of danger for flavor. It evokes the most passion in us, and even though the season is played out over only 17 Sundays each year, it manages to consume nearly 12 months of conversation.
But with the impending expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the prospective lack of any hope for a new CBA on the immediate horizon, there is a painful, all-too-real possibility that we could not have an NFL season next year.
Just think about that for a moment.
Last night, I (and millions of my football loving brethren) enjoyed watching the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Dallas Cowboys in the inaugural pre-season game for the 2010 season. I am also getting ready for not one, but TWO, fantasy football drafts. Imagine if that wasn’t going to happen.
I can take Brett Favre’s retirement, and I will be just fine if another Major League baseball slugger is found to have used Performance Enhancing Drugs.
PLEASE don’t take away my football!