The Which Lockout Hurts More Debate Verdict

January 20, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Bleacher Fan.

Bleacher Fan stated it best with the opening statement of his argument. He indicated that 2011 has the potential to be a LOUSY year for sports. Can you really imagine a Fall and Winter without the NBA and NFL? I’d rather have an American Idol with Simon Cowell (wait, that’s happened!) It’s possible, folks. We could be miserable this Fall and forced to watch brand new episodes of Jersey Shore with our significant others and have to hear the word “Snookie” over and over. We might not recover!

But for this debate, I asked my colleagues to debate which league – the NBA or the NFL – would have a harder time coming back from a lockout.

First, let’s take a look at Bleacher Fan’s argument. He writes that the NBA would have a harder time to recover. As I stated in my intro, it’s been a pretty special year for the NBA, minus all the Carmelo Anthony trade speculation. Ratings are up. Interest is up (thanks, Lebron). Attendance is up. But Bleacher Fan took an interesting angle. Instead of focusing on the negatives on the NBA, he chose to focus on the strength of the NFL. Obviously, the numbers back up the fact that the stronger league is the NFL. It took years of momentum to establish that fact, too.

Meanwhile, Optimist Prime believes in the theory of “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” I felt like this was a unique and distinctive way to approach his side. There’s no sense of tackling the T-Rex that is the NFL when it comes to popularity. However, using an analogy that I had not thought of put everything in a different light. CART and NASCAR used to run neck in neck in the auto racing world in terms of recognition many years ago. The billion-dollar industry that NASCAR has become was no such thing. There was no SPEED channel. NASCAR went one way. CART went the other way, like Optimist Prime wrote. Remember the strike of 1994 in Major League Baseball? I know people that still hold a grudge towards baseball because, “That strike was nothing but greedy players wanting more money.”

Yet I’m not convinced though that the NBA can recover more quickly than the NFL. Nothing Optimist Prime wrote convinced me to dispute anything Bleacher Fan wrote, so I am siding with Bleacher Fan.

In my opinion, the NBA has been trying for years to recover from the retirement of Michael Jordan. A Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant three-peat tried to bring those casual fans back to the game, but even that leveled off. Maybe this is the year interest picks back up to those levels. Meanwhile, the NFL’s interest keeps growing to the point that we could break even more records this Sunday (we seemingly say this every playoff weekend now). The NFL has built itself such a cushion that no matter how far it does fall, I think it can recover.

If Lois Lane falls off a 100 foot building, and Superman catches her before she hits the ground, then she can recover. Sure, she’ll be a little panicked, but at least she’ll live to write about the story in the Daily Planet. That’s the same situation here. If there is a lockout, some fans will be bitter. But if the NFLPA and the owners reach an agreement before too much damage is done (and surely they will), then the damage can be repaired, and the fans will slowly come back. It’s football! What else are we going to do in the Fall?

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The Risky Draft Declaration Debate… Don’t Be a Fool, Stay in School

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Normally, I would be the guy screaming that a college football player should go pro the moment that he is deemed NFL worthy.

Unless you are a player who could use the extra year of college to help vault yourself into a much more worthwhile draft position (like moving from being a late first/early second-round selection one year to a top-ten overall projection the next), the extra year of college will probably not do you any good. In fact, you should take the money now and run, because the opportunity for a multi-million dollar contract won’t always be on the table, but while opportunity to finish your college education almost surely will be.

That is exactly the advice I would normally give to an underclassman NFL prospect. But the 2011 NFL Draft is not going to be a NORMAL draft.

What good is time spent in a gym, when it COULD be spent on the field actually keeping you fresh and in GAME-READY condition? More, what good is being drafted to an NFL franchise with the promise of a multi-million dollar contract that you can’t collect on because the league is on lockout and NOBODY is getting paid?

Well, those are exactly the prospects facing underclassmen who decided to take the early leap into the NFL.

The reason this year is different is because of the still unresolved issue with the still unresolved collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners. This is not your standard, run-of-the-mill contract negotiation, either.

Without getting into the minutiae of how each and every negotiation has processed, here is a simple breakdown of how we ended up where negotiations stand (a more thorough, but still understandable, explanation can be found here):

The current CBA was originally scheduled to expire in 2013, but owners chose to opt-out two years early. They feel that the players are taking too much of the league’s money, and have basically drawn a line in the sand, hoping to force the players into a renegotiation. With issues like an 18-game schedule, rookie salary scales, and player safety still unresolved, the likelihood of a new CBA being settled before the next season gets underway gets slimmer and slimmer.

In this situation, A plus B equals lockout.

With a lockout looming on the horizon there will still be an NFL Draft, but after that, all league operations cease. That means no trades, no rookie camps, no OTAs, and most importantly, no training camp and no regular season.

What that likely means to the group of underclassmen taking the early plunge into the NFL, is no security, and no playing time.

They will miss out on a most crucial period in their early NFL development – Rookie Camp. They will miss out on the opportunity to practice with and get to know their new teammates. They will miss out on the opportunity to test their mettle and learn from playing with NFL veterans.

Most importantly, they will do so WITHOUT guarantee of a paycheck, and without the luxury of a safety net that previous season salaries have afforded their new teammates.

What they SHOULD have done is follow the lead of Andrew Luck. Luck, who was almost certainly going to be the top overall draft pick, has decided to forego his opportunity to enter the NFL as an underclassman to return to Stanford for his final college season.

It is true that he will gain nothing financially. But while players like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Mark Ingram, and Ryan Mallett are sitting in a weight room somewhere just hoping that a deal gets done, Luck will be playing real, competitive football.

Now I know what you are thinking (and what Loyal Homer has probably written)… what if Luck gets hurt in his final college season? Won’t that cost him money?

Well, Sam Bradford suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder at Oklahoma, not once, but twice. When the draft came around, who went first overall? Bradford, to the tune of a six-year, $78M contract.

Adrian Peterson suffered MANY injuries over his college career, including a broken collarbone that ended his final season after only a few weeks. But that didn’t stop the Minnesota Vikings from drafting him seventh overall, and signing him to a six-year, $40.5M contract.

I think it’s safe to say that both Bradford and Peterson are doing great right now, and with sports medicine being what it is today, the likelihood of a REAL career-ending injury is very slim. Most, if not all of the underclassmen from this year, would have played out their final NCAA season without incident. Those who were injured would likely STILL not have seen it impact their NFL earning power.

It’s a simple choice – risk missing an entire year of playing time to enter a league with no structure, and most importantly, no guarantee of a paycheck, or stay in college and continue to improve your skill set ON THE FIELD in REAL competition, while adding to your future value in the NFL.

For those who took early eligibility, they have essentially put a blindfold on and dove head-first into a career without having any idea what to expect. By waiting one more season, this year’s underclassmen could have let all the NFL CBA dust settle. Then, when they finally DID take the plunge, they would know exactly what they were getting into.

They would have at least maintained, if not improved, their NFL value… and would have done so by staying in game-ready condition for a whole year while the rest of the NFL spent their time lifting weights and twiddling their thumbs for zero salary.

Any gambler worth his or her salt will tell you that in this case, the risk is just not worth the reward. So to quote Mr. T – “Don’t be a fool. Stay in school.”

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The Leaving College Early For The Pros Debate – An Education Provides Real Value

November 12, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s argument that capable college athletes should forgo their education for a career in the professional leagues.

I know the popular answer is going to be “Take the money and run.” The four writers here at TSD have never been in a situation like those that star college football players face after being in college for three years. We do not know what we would do. And believe me, my heart breaks for guys like Sam Bradford. He really seems to be one of the good guys and I hate that his season has been essentially ruined by injury. He bypassed millions of dollars to come back to try and win a championship in Norman. But LONG TERM, the best thing for the individual is to return to school.

According to the National Football Players Association’s website, the average career length of an NFL player lasts around three and a half years. Basically, that means for every Clay Matthews (19 years), there is a Mr. Irrelevant. If a player leaves school early and the NFL career does not work out, what does he have to fall back on? Even if the player does have a lengthy career, what is he going to do once he retires without a degree? Sure, he could go back to school to finish his degree. Many say they intend to do that. You may say, “Well, he’s wealthy and he doesn’t need to work.” But retired NFL players do not work for the money. They work to stay active. We have all heard our parents preach this and we will preach it to our kids when they get to that age – it is very important to get that degree!

Bleacher Fan mentioned Mike Doss in the intro. Another guy that comes to mind is Matt Leinart. Leinart came back to Southern Cal as a fifth year senior. He wanted the chance to make college football history by winning a third consecutive national championship. He gave up millions for, as he called it, “$950 a month” and a chance to win another championship. It did not quite turn out that way for Leinart, as his Trojans lost in the BCS championship game to Texas in one of the greatest games I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Financially, however, the money was still there when he was drafted the following year by the Arizona Cardinals with the tenth overall pick. Sure, he was not the first overall pick, but he still signed a six-year deal worth a maximum value of $50.8 million, including $14 million guaranteed. I will grant you that he has not exactly panned out yet in the NFL, but at least he is getting a fat check. And, he always has that degree. He will not have to go bagging groceries after his career is over!

What is wrong with being the big man on campus? A senior star college football player probably never has to buy a drink at the local bar. He probably is one of the most popular guys on campus. He probably has all the girls wanting to go out with him (which is a good thing only if he does not have a girlfriend). How many times does one get to experience that in a lifetime? Responsibility and life can wait! Why not enjoy the senior year of college? It only comes along once!

Yes, it is hard to turn down the millions! But it is impossible to put a price tag on what can be experienced as a senior in college. And, you cannot put a price tag on that diploma!

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The NFL Pre-Season Debate – Scrap the NFL Pre-Season and Get To The Games!!

August 21, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the NFL does not need a pre-season and Loyal Homer’s argument the NFL should maintain a pre-season.

What, exactly, does it mean to “pre-heat” the oven? For me, this is one of life’s great questions. How could the oven be pre-heated – “pre” meaning before – if it is already getting hot? That would make the oven, simply, heated, right?

I find the debate about pre-season just as head scratching, especially after reading these two well-reasoned, well-represented arguments. It seems to me that “pre-season” should consist of everything that happens before the season. And everything that happens before the season should not include live GAMES. Therefore I am awarding this debate victory to Bleacher Fan.

Oddly, it was the steak metaphor that really drove home the point to Bleacher Fan’s arguments. How gypped would we all feel if we paid for Morton’s Steakhouse and got Steak-umms? That is exactly what the NFL is asking fans to do every time they pay to attend a pre-season game. No stars, no game day experience, no discounts – NO STEAK. Frankly, it is insulting that the NFL simply expects fans to fork over their hard earned cash for such an inferior product (though they have been doing that in Cleveland for 10 years… and counting).

Changing the four pre-season games to regular season games is simple. The entire infrastructure is already in place for teams and owners (and cities). If there is going to be more regular season, then teams will likely need more players. So, expand NFL rosters, and offset the effect by increasing the salary cap. Heck, the NFL and NFLPA might even avoid a work stoppage in 2011 if that happens. Individual player contracts can even be increased as they will be absorbing more risk by playing more full speed games. All of the necessary adjustments of salaries and caps and extra roster spots is more than handled by the ticket, apparel, and concession sales from the extra two homes games (two per team in the NFL) .

Loyal Homer makes a valid point about players risking more wear and tear on their bodies, but the recommended adjustments would add to their already handsome compensation for their risk. If they choose against the risk, then no one is forcing them to play football.

The point is that it is possible to completely do away with pre-season games, have only regular season games all while reigning down even greater media scrutiny on the training camps. The NFL should get rid of the last remaining obviously unnecessary part of their product and give fans more meat. I sure we will even buy more merchandise (like a Michael Vick Eagles jersey for a dog).

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