Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Daily Super Bowl Hype Meme: National Labor Relations, Bored

Every year a couple of days before the Super Bowl, the commissioner gives his State of the League address. Roger Goodell loves this because he loves a television camera almost as much as Chuck Schumer, and he has about 9000 media members at his beck and call from a podium for an hour or so. It also gives him the opportunity to begin a propaganda campaign to advance whatever cause celebre he's in the mood for that given year, be it personal conduct, drug testing, labor negotiations, stadium construction or franchise relocation. And the media generally buys his spiel hook line and sinker, and starts an offseason meme with what issues it likes the most.

This year, the media has jumped the gun and already brought to the forefront the issue that Goodell is going to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing this week, next week, and until Proskauer Rose blesses a 500 page document: the upcoming labor war with the Players' Association. We've heard for a while now about issues like next year being uncapped, the odd free agency restrictions that are going to pop up, and that there may be no football played in September 2011.

Let's note that last point again: the media is fervently discussing that there may be no football played. In September 2011. Twenty months from now.

The media's insane fixation on the labor negotiations, a subject that was dry and esoteric in law school when we used to bring 40's to class, is best shown in this piece by the World Wide Leader's Tim Graham, who opines:

You've ignored the NFL labor situation, hoping it would fix itself before you invested one minute of your life, one ounce of worry.

"I'll just watch football," you thought. "I'll concentrate on the season, the stars, the X's and O's. I'll carry on as though the NFL is simply in the greatest league in the world, a game, a diversion from real-world issues -- not an industry."

Time to start paying attention to the big business, folks.

Big trouble is near.

Graham (like many of his cronies) goes on to list in exhaustive detail the issues that are going to be raised in a month or so during negotiations and what the ramifications are for the next season, and for the potentially hypothetical mythical 2011 season. But that section, like the rest of the media's coverage of the impending labor doom, is beyond misguided and unfortunate. Where to start?

1. "Big trouble is near." Mr. Graham is right--our President just proposed a budget with a $1.6 trillion hole, all indications are the nation will have deficits until Shawn Kemp is a great-grandfather, we're mired in 2 wars, Congress can't pass anything...oh wait, he means football in 20 months? My mistake.

2. This has zero bearing on the game. Not a single person on Indy or New Orleans will play any differently because of the labor negotiations.

3. There is no news. The closest we have for news is that the sides haven't really begun negotiating in earnest because there's no impending deadline where either side stands to lose anything substantial. We've known this. And we shouldn't be surprised by this--when was the last time substantial labor agreements were reached without a gun being pointed at someone's head?

4. Most of us don't care. Look, fans will care in about a month or so to know if Dan Snyder can sign every free agent on earth, if the Chargers are really going to be unable to keep Vincent Jackson, and if the Jaguars can afford to sign any players. (Strike that last one--nobody cares about the Jags.) But the details of how a contract between a behemoth organization and a union that protects 4000 players and retirees is negotiated and composed? Ugh. We'll take the final details, but really only care about knowing whether it impacts who our teams can sign and when training camp starts.

What we've got, therefore, is the media turning into Goodell--using the Super Bowl as an excuse to opine on what's going on in the league in general, the direction it's taking, and what issues are on the horizon. While this may have made sense 25 years ago when ESPN wasn't omnipotent and there weren't year-round programs and columns devoted to the NFL, it makes zero sense now, because we'll get the information we need when we need it. Therefore, we'll give this a 7 out of 10 because while it's football related, it's not game related, boring, and fairly meaningless.

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