I don’t know if you’ve heard (sarcasm), but the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the owners a full stay of Judge Nelson’s enjoinder of the lockout.
I started out completely neutral in this whole mess; as many have since said, I declared myself “on the side of the fans.” But as I dug deeper and deeper into the issues, I discovered that the league’s behavior has been, frankly, despicable. Unable to resolve their own differences on revenue sharing, the owners have spent the last four years trying to bring about this day: a judicially-enforced lockout that could last into the season, so they can exert maximum leverage on players. Their goals: to build more ridiculous billion-dollar stadiums, to play more games unnecessarily, to put franchises on other continents, and to bleed every single person on Earth for every cent they’ve got, everything else be damned. That’s what they mean when they say “grow the game,” people.
More interested, intelligent, initially neutral observers have been coming around to my way of thinking. Here's an excellent piece by Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post:
Should you find yourself drifting to the side of the players in the NFL labor dispute, it doesn’t mean you’ve gone all communist. Some fans may feel that to support the players is anti-capitalist, a little too May Day. But there is the spirit of free enterprise, and then there is the spirit with which NFL owners tend to do business. They aren’t at all the same thing.
What’s so American about gouging, price-fixing, and frankly, sucking the life out of fans?
It's an honest question to ask--and Jenkins' investigation into the answer is intelligent, well-informed, and balanced. At least half jokingly (though partly seriously) Tony Kornhieser called her piece "shrew-like" and "hysterical" during a radio show. But if Kornheiser couldn’t have made that crack with a straight face if he’d read Drew Magary of Deadspin fame setting “The Bizarre Cult of Pro-Owner Fanboys” of Pro Football Talk’s readership on blast:
It's like a group of people went directly to their computers after walking out of a screening of Atlas Shrugged. You can find retarded commenters at virtually any Internet forum (why, just scroll down!), but the idea that there are people out there who would like to see the owners succeed in PREVENTING THE PLAYING OF ACTUAL NFL GAMES to spite NFL players strikes me as … what's the word? Oh, right. F***ING INSANE.
[. . .] There's a distinctly political turn to much of these lockout arguments among fans. I guess if you think the players are right (and I do), that makes you a dirty liberal and there can't possibly be a decent case to be made. All unions are bad, which means the NFL players are ungrateful and lazy and deserve to be booted out on their ass because the owners are the beginning and end of why the NFL is successful.
It’s not just the ridiculous comments that are being made over there, or the sheer volume by which pro-owner comments outweigh pro-player ones. PFT has an upvote/downvote system, and they REALLY tell the tale. Check the comments (and votes) on these PFT posts. My favorite, though, is a post called “More Misplaced Rhetoric From De Smith,” which is Florio ripping DeMaurice Smith for his characterization of the state of affairs as the NFL “suing not to play.” The NFL commentariat almost unanimously hailed this post as Florio’s first fair and balanced article on the issue:
theangryrob says:May 18, 2011 9:08 AM
I’m having a hard time rationalizing it, but I kind of thought this was a great, even handed post. I’m strangely pleased and confused at the same time.
So, uh, nice work :D
232 upvotes, 5 downvotes [Ed.--as of the time of this post]
Look, in a vacuum, there’s no question whose side the fans’ interests align with. The players are the ones we pay to see. The players are the ones whose jerseys we buy. The players are the ones who we see on TV, endorsing products we buy ‘cuz we love them. The players are the ones who are putting their bodies on the line, sacrificing their joints, their backs, their necks, and maybe even their long-term mental health for our entertainment. The players are the ones who come from the same places we come from—neighborhoods, high schools, colleges—and who, within a few years, either come back to those places, or put down roots in whichever city they played.
What is it that makes so many fans root so hard for the owners, then? Men or women, who typically inherited either the team itself, a business empire, a personal fortune, or any combination of the above? Why is it that working fans with mortgage payments and credit card debt are gleefully cheering for the players to be crushed by those same bills as their bosses withhold paychecks? What kind of bizarre Stockholm Syndrome is at work, here?
That’s what’s really happening here: fans are sympathizing with their captors. We’re paying $20 to park, $70 or so a head to get in the door, $7 for hot dogs, $8 for beer, $4 for water we’re not given a cap to so our kids can spill it, and uncountable dollars in jerseys, shirts, pennants, stickers, garden gnomes and other ridiculous merch, and at the end of the day these fans sneer at the players on the field and say “YOU MAKE ENOUGH MONEY! CAVE INTO THE POOR OWNERS! THEIR PROFITS AREN’T GROWING AS FAST AS THEY’D LIKE ANYMORE!” No doubt, when the lockout ends, all these fans will be happily thanking the benevolent owners—and lantern-jawed protector of the game, Commissioner Goodell—for ending they started to begin with.
Let me post-script all this with a few caveats. I do see the last deal as being player-friendly, and I do believe there’s room for fair concessions on both sides. TLiW (and elsewhere) commenter LineBusy has an interesting take exploring just that; you should read it. I do think both sides have grossly disrespected the fans by not resolving this before the expiry of the old CBA; both sides have been planning for THIS day for so long they’ve failed to stop it. However, one side is working men speaking plainly and truthfully about protecting their current and future interests, and the other side is a bunch of fabulously wealthy people in control of one of the most monstrously profitable industries in the world, strangling the golden goose while smiling and saying “We want football, too!”