Admittedly, I don't know enough about the current NFL labor dispute to venture a guess as to who is right and who is wrong. I suspect each party shoulders some of the blame. If there is a lockout by the owners or a strike by the players, my life will go on without pro football next year. In fact, my doctor -- if I had one -- would probably be happy to have me Steelers free next season in the hope that my blood pressure would stay, at least in the vicinity of, normal for those historically volatile five months.
Without reading anything about the negotiations, I had ignorantly assumed that the two deadline extensions to date were positive signposts that the owners and players were close to an agreement. The emphasis here is on "ignorantly." Because apparently such is not the case.
The main sticking point seems to be that the players want a peek behind the curtain. They want access to the NFL's books to verify profit claims. The NFL, evidently, doesn't think its books are any of the players business. At the heart of the matter is the owners' demand for an additional $1 billion in revenue to be skimmed off the top as expenses before profits are divvied up between them and the players. According to reports I've read, the current contract already gives owners $1 billion off the top and they are seeking $1 billion more. It seems the owners and players are still roughly $750 million apart on this issue.
Both sides are in danger of earning the ire of fans. I think it's tough for a typical fan to screw up much empathy for billionaire owners or millionaire players. When taking a family of four to a stadium on NFL game day requires planning and budgeting as though it were a Bahamas vacation, fans surely find it difficult to comprehend why there's not enough money available to make all the greedy jerks involved happy. When four 15-minute quarters require roughly 3 hours to play because the game stops for TV-commercial breaks, it makes little sense to fans that revenue is an issue. Players making seven-figure salaries hardly seem oppressed. Owners charging $50 for game-day parking and $10 for a draft beer should be covering their expenses.
A lockout or strike may not destroy the NFL's fan base as did the year-long MLB strike in 1994/1995. I don't think major league baseball has ever fully recovered from that. I believe football fans are different; but if I was an NFL owner or player, I certainly wouldn't want to roll the dice on that assumption. Not to mention that companies that sponsor NFL games could very easily divert the marketing money earmarked for game sponsorship to other programming if next season is shutdown, even temporarily.
So to the owners I say, sharpen your pencils and try to make ends meet on the gazillions of dollars you rake in; and to the players I say, the average salary of an NFL player is about $750,000 a year to do something that, theoretically, you would probably do for free. Can't you figure out some way to get by on that?
And for the love of God, play ball!