I write this to all NFL fans of all NFL teams, it’s time to put the petty differences that drive us to bicker and argue all season aside for a month and focus on something larger. As the NFL goes into its month of hibernation before the start of free agency, this is the perfect time to address the biggest threat facing the NFL. In all likelihood, after this upcoming uncapped season, the NFL owner’s will lockout the players for the 2011 season. Asked this week about the odds of that, NFLPA Head DeMaurice Smith responded gloomily that there was a high probability of a work stoppage. As Brian Miller so eloquently put it a few weeks ago in his post the NFL is facing a looming disaster. The point Brian made, that I agree with so profoundly, is that every single NFL season the fans take it on the chin.
It’s because of the fans that the NFL has risen to the level of prominence in this country that it now enjoys. It’s because of the fans that the NFL has negotiated billion dollar TV contracts. It’s because of the fans that owners are able to get public funding for stadiums that will in essence really only serve to profit them. It’s because of the fans that a Superbowl ad now costs 2.4 million dollars. But in keeping with the theme of the fans taking it on the chin, because of the fan-driven popularity of the Superbowl it’s now too expensive for most fans to even be able to get tickets to attend. It’s because the fans are actually willing to pay the prices, that the NFL continually increases the cost of apparel and tickets. The NFL even went so far as to try to sue people in New Orleans these last couple weeks for selling marginally associated Saints t-shirts (meaning, essentially, they tried to sue people for supporting the Saints without paying them properly, hey, it’s okay New Orleans, I don’t have 35 dollars for a baggy Reebok official team t-shirt either). What I’m getting to is the NFL treats its consumers like dirt because we’re all suckers for the game we love and they know they can take advantage.
Well I’m tired of it. And you should all be tired of it too. I love football, it’s my favorite sport and I go through extreme oftentimes ridiculous lengths to be able to watch it. In college (in Tallahassee, Jags and Falcons territory) I used to skip lunch all week so I could save the money to go watch the Dolphins at a sports bar when they wouldn’t be on TV. I don’t think twice about driving eight hours there and eight hours back to get down to Miami to see a game in person nowadays even with work the next day. I’m not trying to illustrate that I’m a big fan, we’re all fans like that. NFL fans are the American equivalent of the European soccer hooligan. We love our football. That’s why this is a call to arms to all NFL fans, to some of the most passionate fans in the world. Let’s not let this labor stoppage happen. Let’s not let the NFL go the way of the NHL and baseball. I have a plan. I have a plan that I think can work if it gets enough widespread grassroots support and football fans show the same passion in fighting for as they do in pulling for their teams every Sunday.
Stop what you’re doing, look up your state’s congressmen and senators and call or write them about the NFL work stoppage. That may sound silly, but it’s not. I’m not going to make any kind of critical assessment of how things are going in this country politically aside from saying that Congress is doing a truly lousy job. They’re not really making any headway on anything relevant, whatsoever, but they have had the time in the past few years to investigate steroids in baseball, attempt to put an end to the BCS and Arlen Specter even wasted congressional time on Bill Belichick’s spygate. If congress doesn’t want to discuss issues like healthcare or campaign finance reform, fine, but they are public servants and if they’re going to waste their time on sports at least they can pay attention to a sport we all care about, one that actually is in crisis. The NFL.
This isn’t a partisan issue. There should be no partisan bickering, Democrats, Republicans, hell even Joe Lieberman (probably) are all football fans. It doesn’t matter if you’re red or blue, love of football is one common bond that unites us all in this country. Hell, David Letterman was able to sit on the same couch as Jay Leno long enough to film a Superbowl commercial. If football can bring those two together, well you get the idea…
All it took to get the ball rolling on the other sports issues in congress were enough constituents writing and calling their congressmen and senators. With the BCS it was pissed off alumni from the University of Texas and Utah and other states where college programs had been the victims of a BCS snub. Arlen Specter, the senior Senator from Pennsylvania, responded to spygate because enough of his constituents (Steelers and Eagles fans) contacted him irate over Belichick’s perceived misuse of camera equipment (again, let’s not be divisive on this, these are only examples meant to galvanize NFL fans towards a greater cause).
So start writing your senators and congressmen. Write the President, he’s certainly gotten enough credit for being a sports fan in the last two years. Hell, contact anyone who even might represent you at a national level. Tell them you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it. Tell them the senate or the house, whichever respective body they work in, may not be accomplishing much but you’d be much more inclined to give them your vote if they would act to try and stop the looming NFL work stoppage. Politicians respond to votes, and if enough people contact them about this issue with the prospect of their reelection mentioned, you’d be surprised how quickly something will happen. That may be a sad statement in and of itself about the political process in this country, but that’s another debate for another time.
Now what could Congress actually do? Well aside from the considerable pressure that congress could put on both sides in the NFL labor dispute there are both financial and legal recourse that congress could take to try to push along a resolution. This sort of an issue isn’t even unprecedented. In the past 150 years Congress, as well as the president, have both stepped in to help resolve labor disputes in this country. The fact it’s an NFL labor dispute may make some roll their eyes, but at its core this is still a labor dispute and with the amount of public funding and federal help the league is given it’s not hard to argue that the US would have legitimate interests in this labor dispute. Believe it or not, this is an issue that our government actually could step in and fix. For once. Finally.
So this is the call to arms, not just to Dolphins fans but to all fans. This is the start of our grassroots movement. Look up your senators, look up your congressmen and call their offices, write them emails and letters. Bombard them. It’s time the fans had some recourse and its time that congress actually did something beneficial. Spread this around, Tweet it, Digg it, put it on Facebook, tell your friends, post this on your blog. Spread the word. Write the man. Let’s unite as fans and try to do something about this. I will be the first, as of the completion of this post I’m going to call and write Bill Nelson and George LeMieux’ offices (Florida’s senators), I’m going to look up my congressmen and write and call them too. Join me. It takes 20 minutes tops. 20 minutes! If enough people actually take the time to contact their congressmen and senators and demand action, you’d be surprised how much of an impact we, the fans, can have. More than anything else, football is supposed to be our game. The fan’s game. The NFL claims to have the greatest fans in the world (even if they don’t treat us like that). Let’s prove it. Let’s protect the game we all love so much. 20 minutes. Let’s do it.