This week, it comes from Roger Goodell. This should come as no surprise. I have despised his tenure with the NFL, and, unlike Bud Selig, whom I disagree with vehemently and dislike immensely, I don't see that Goodell has done anything positive for his sport. Selig's all-star game chicanery, wild cards and interleague play all offend me, but most people like them. Most people will probably like his attempt to further dilute the playoffs, but I'll probably discuss that later. Goodell has issued an inexplicable series of suspensions for off field conduct that brought MORE attention to the conduct under the pretense that the conduct was hurting the league, when the NFL is, in my experience, completely immune from righteous indignation.
To wit, how many people are buzzing about these off-field incidents:
-Leonard Little killed a person in a traffic accident when he was driving drunk. Then, six years later, he got another DUI.
-Rae Carruth attempted to murder someone while in the NFL -- he was a first round pick, not some practice squad scrub.
-Ray Lewis was arrested for murder, but ultimately acquitted.
-Lawrence Taylor was arrested for pretty much everything involving drugs and sex at some point.
These are all serious issues. But they weren't major stories that rivaled the games themselves. Goodell put the spotlight on guys like Pacman Jones and Chris Henry.
Anyway, as to the actual retardery, Here's Goodell's parade of horribles:
No draft. "Why should there even be a draft?" said player agent Brian Ayrault. -- That's great. You are quoting an agent. You're not quoting a player or anyone tied to the NFLPA, but you're identifying an agent. You can quote me on this "Why should there even be an NFL commissioner?" I think that if you consulted the NFLPA, there'd be nearly unanimous support for the draft, because the draft 1) means money (just broadcast revenue for the draft is substantial), 2) hasn't prevented teams from going nuts in paying players even with a salary cap, but 3) does ensure that the money doesn't all go to players upon entry into the league, so there is money spread around to the guys getting drafts in the third and fourth rounds. VERDICT: Not the players.
No minimum team payroll. This, Roger, is an OWNERSHIP problem. Some teams will have lousy owners. But you know how fans can solve that? Not go to Bengals games. They did it even during the salary cap era. The players may be doing a lot of things, but they aren't crusading to eliminate the minimum team payroll. And your point that there will be substantial salary disparity between teams? You know, baseball's gotten worse over the last decade with this disparity, but their revenues are better than ever. You know why? Because they're more years removed from a stupid work stoppage that killed interest in the sport and fans don't really care that much about parity, because most sports fans are fair-weather fans. VERDICT: Not the players and complete red herring.
No minimum player salary. Again, Roger, this isn't what the players are going for. This is what they're willing to accept given that you won't even continue the ludicrously unfair CBA that your owners opted out of to try and add a second deck to the sedan chairs in which they commute to and from games. VERDICT: Not the players.
No standard guarantee to compensate players who suffer season- or career-ending injuries. Who exactly are you trying to convince? The players? This is, again, something that 1) could be negotiated, and 2) is a concern primarily because you subject players to unsafe working conditions and you're trying to make them even more unsafe. Given that contracts aren't guaranteed, players have virtually no protection on this to begin with. If you're going to suffer a career ending injury, you'd be much happier in MLB. VERDICT: Not the players and not of concern to fans.
No league-wide agreements on benefits. Yes, I'm familiar with what it means to not operate under a CBA. Your benefits are pretty lousy to begin with. Just ask Dave Duerson or Mike Webster. VERDICT: Not the players and not of concern to fans. it only took six of these and you finally got to one.
No limits on free agency. It only took six of these and you finally got to one that was both relevant and of some interest to fans. Alas, it's not even sort of realistic. The players' association isn't likely to seek free agency after one year in the league. They have to recognize that it would create even more instability in the league. And your expressed concern that non-elite teams would serve as farm teams for superior teams...well, that's hilarious, because 1) that already happens, it's just that every team is a "farm team" for the Redskins, who will overpay broken down players that have big names and 2) it's the goddamned NFL, there's no farm teams because there's a ludicrously small percentage of players in the league who play long enough to reach free agency. Even those who do are usually priced well beyond their actual ability to contribute -- Albert Haynesworth is really the poster child of the Goodell-era NFL. I honestly can't think of a game-changing free agent that's changed teams since Deion Sanders in about 1995. Teams find contributors in free agency, they don't build teams that way. VERDICT: not a realistic interpretation of the players' demands or likely outcomes.
No league-wide rule limiting the length of training camp or required off-season workout obligations. Yep, that's what not having a CBA means. This doesn't mean anything to fans. And, under your jeremiad scenario, all the players are free to sign wherever they want, and I doubt that Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, Steve Smith, DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen are all going to sign with the New York Giants when they find out that they have an 8 month offseason training camp with 2-a-days all year. So owners would have to be reasonable or else they'd be shooting themselves in the foot anyway. That tends to lead to equilibrium and agreement. VERDICT: not of relevance to fans, not realistic.
No league-wide testing program for drugs of abuse or performance enhancing substances. This matters to baseball fans. This means absolutely nothing to NFL fans. Your league is roided to high heaven to begin with, your testing program has caught about two players in history (I can recall two that actually stayed suspended-- Todd Sauerbrun's steroid-laden punting foot and Shawne Merriman), both of whom have suffered the backlash of...fans not giving a damn. Pat and Kevin Williams got suspended, I don't think they've served their suspensions and it's been years.) VERDICT: not of relevance to fans.
So, do I want the NFL you predict? You know what? I'd be just fine with it. If your owners had any sense, they wouldn't pay what they do for free agents, so having a free-for-all whereby everyone bids $200 million for Albert Haynesworth and actually guarantees $2 million of it would be awesome. Operating outside a CBA (which is not going to happen) will potentially hurt marginal players, but they're basically unprotected under the current ludicrously owner-fellating regime, so it wouldn't make much difference. And, at the end of the day, all of the predictions you summon are entirely of your own creation. The players have never taken a hard bargain with you on anything except the 18 game schedule and occasionally the franchise tag. You could have easily gotten a salary cap that increased incrementally and not had to cough up more revenue. You chose to blow up the contract. I hope to heaven that it destroys your league's stranglehold on the United States, but at the very minimum, it ought to result in the players in your league ending its at-will employment policy. Employers who hire and fire at will don't usually add the insult of putting it in a contract that makes it look like you have a job.