With only three football games left in the 2010-2011 season (four if you include the ProBowl), the rhetoric surrounding the NFL owners and the National Football League Players Association regarding a possible player lockout is unfortunately starting to rise to a fever pitch as both camps work to get fans on their side of the argument. Email blasts sent directly to the fans from Commissioner Roger Goodell citing a bad economy for player wage rollbacks, NFLPA declaring today #LETUSPLAY day on various social media sites so fans can voice their support for the players union.
And rightfully so, the fans have been making their voice heard about what they think of a lockout, either why they think it’s harmful for the players or why they think a lockout would be good for the league. Smart — but different — takes on what a lockout means helps drive discussion and fan awareness of all of the issues involved. Discourse and information matters.
Which is why I found MJD’s column on Yahoo! about #LETUSPLAY so upsetting this morning.
Myself, I’m saying no. No, I’m sorry, you don’t get to have a #LETUSPLAY day. Instead, how about every day be declared #SHUTUPANDWORKITOUTDAY until you people can decide on the best way to divide up your billions?
How dare you ask people to “do [their] part as a fan,” as if it’s the fans who aren’t doing enough here. You know what a fan’s job is? It’s to watch and enjoy this game. To spend money on tickets, television packages and merchandise. To submit our eyeballs to commercials before and after every single kickoff in a game.
You know that gigantic pile of money you guys can’t decide how to divide? That came from us. That was us, doing our part. It is not our part to take a side in your petty battle over who gets to roll around in more of that money.
This is not me taking a side in the lockout. This is me resenting even being asked to take a side. My side is “shut up, work it out, and play football.” I don’t care what you do or how you do it. I don’t even want to know. Quit trying to win sympathy and just figure it out.
Let’s take a step back for a minute and forget being a fan part. You are an ordinary citizen and football has little consequence on your life. Or does it? Even if your local stadium wasn’t completely financed by a team owner — a relatively new concept after decades of publicly financed and built fields designed to help create construction and service jobs — between land and bond issues, concessions are generally granted by local and state governments to help ease the burden of new stadiums. (Ask any resident of Pittsburgh about what it feels like vote down a tax increase just to have the majority of Heinz Field and PNC Park financing still come from the public coffers through Plan B. Even some of the most ardent Steeler fans felt hoodwinked.) So fan or not, the local citizens have a financial stake in a lockout. Games not played means fewer people working jobs selling nachos, ushering people to seats and maintaining facilities. Those are just some of direct jobs lost. Indirectly, local hotels and restaurants will see a decline in visitors without football. The NFLPA estimates local economies will lose an average of $20 million dollars in revenue for each game lost to a lockout, a number the NFL disputes.
But even if the number is as low as $1 million dollars lost to locals for each weekend a stadium goes empty, shouldn’t the average person be educated on what the issues are surrounding the lockout in a time when municipal spending is being slashed to the bone? Shouldn’t they be informed about the safety nets both the owners and the players have, although very different in size, if there isn’t football and ask where the guarantees are for the communities that helped pay for their homes?
Now back to being a fan. If you believe in cheering on players just as much as you enjoy cheering the laundry, isn’t it important to be informed what possible game changes mean for the people on the field and what it means for their health? Or as a season ticket holder, if you’re going to get two more “valuable” regular season games with two “less valuable” preseason games?
I have never and will never believe that my job as a consumer is to just enjoy the show, to passively and blindly spend money either directly on a product or through my attention to advertising without questioning to where it all goes. How we spend our money speaks about our values and what we look for in corporate stewardship in the public forum, and there is not greater place to see those two worlds collide than in sports.
To encourage not forming an opinion on the lockout is jaded and sad. Save the shallow “I don’t care what you do or how you do it,” talk for grass versus turf debate where it belongs.