Sunday, June 5, 2011

Killing Football To Save It

With the recent talks between the owners and players in the NFL contract kerfluffle, and the desperate-looking messages that I'm starting to get from league providers and draft companies that tell me I need to start preparing for the season that might not happen, a small moment...

Imagine, if you will, how this might look if we were drawing things up from scratch.

We currently have thousands of high school football teams that feed hundreds of college clubs, slucing down to dozens of professional teams in relatively concentrated cities across the United States. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area blessed with an NFL team, you have a clear interest and laundry to go for, but that relationship is tenuous. The team can subject you to decades of ill management and abuse (hello, Redskins) from people who decent people would not urinate on if they were on fire (OK, I'm still on the Redskins). If the team decides that their stately pleasure palace is not up to snuff, they can negotiate with the local governance and leave you twisting in the wind as they court new areas with more pliable public dollars. And all of that is, of course, your *best* possible rooting interest, assuming that you have a desire to take the purest stuff into your veins and not pollute it with the more amateur variants.

One of the guys in my weekly poker game has been after me to go see the local arena team in Trenton. They are staffed by the usual pro football flotsam and jetsam and sons of people who have names, and they made the playoffs. They've also drawing, it seems, and proving once again that there is a market for the game that knows no bounds. We are, as a whole, starting to get to the point where the market for football is resembling the market for boxing -- a fan base that is underserved by the rapacious actions of management, made to pay and pay and pay for the best stuff in a supply that's much less than the demand.

Now, let's look with clear eyes at the college game.

There is no -- as in none, zilch, zero, nada, squadouche, bupkas, zip -- relationship between the act of playing football and the act of earning a college degree. The skills do not overlap, the experiences do not collate. One is an all-encompassing sport that demands total attention to preparation and the physical willingness to endure pain to compete; the other is a broad adult life preparation exercise in which you prove your intellectual merit and work ethic. You can play football even if you are borderline illiterate; you can graduate college with crippling physical ailments. There is no reason to link the two, beyond whitewashing away the considerable injury risk in playing football, especially when it takes up so much of the American underclass.

It also means that a poor percentage of people who qualify as pro football players will wind up with that profession. From sea to shining sea, we have people willing to pay money and attention to football; we also have teams willing to take their money. We just don't have an actual meritocracy in determining which teams or cities matter. Instead, we have a fixed monopoly that benefits the top league, a league that abuses the public trust while enriching the very small number of ownership groups to an unconscionable level.

If you wanted to make the life of football fans in this country better in a heartbeat, you'd do this: Make it illegal for colleges to have football programs, and declare the NFL to be an unlawful monopoly, and break up the league.

There would, of course, be something close to blood in the streets over this. Fans would react with absolute murder in their eyes at the disruption of their rivalries. I'm sure we'd have something approaching suicides among some of the more unhinged fans. This blog might cease to exist, along with fantasy football as an industry, broadcast networks as a group, networks dependent on the big NFL number, etc., etc., etc.

And here's what might arise from the ashes: a nationwide confederacy of club level teams, playing in off-time high school and the abandoned college and pro arenas. Close cities forming leagues that were regional enough to make for easy trips and rivalries. The biggest cities and money centers signing up the most famous players, but no slave minor league system being in place, since that would run afoul of the anti-monopoly laws. Teams moving up or moving down as they dominated or failed. Fans in areas with the best management watching as their hometown heroes not only won games, but increased the stature of their towns.

Tens of thousands of people getting paid to play pro ball. Every city with the opportunity to become its own Green Bay, every area with the ability to tell a scumbag owner to go do something anatomically impossible if he threatens to not play without a public handout, and more league opportunities, in the long run, for a fantasy player to even contemplate.

In other words, a dramatically better market, much higher uptime of game, 24/7/365 output on your television set of games that matter, and the ending of the sad lie that is poisoning the American educational system. More jobs in more places. Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder homeless. (OK, probably not.)

But a man can dream of something good -- really good -- coming out of the end of the status quo, can't he?

1 comment:

Fantasy Football said...

The description is so clear that i was lost in your words.

Ads In This Size Rule