It is fascinating to see and hear what people, specifically New York Giants’ fans and football fans in general, think about Tiki Barber. Generally speaking, fans only care about players’ performance on the field. The off-the-field shenanigans only gets brought into the equation when someone does something horrific, commits a crime, goes to prison, or is so completely outrageous that his personal life overshadows his athletic career. But deep down, there is a respect and appreciation for what a player did for your team during his career – usually. I am not so sure this is the case for former Giants’ running back Tiki Barber.
It is hard to believe that a player who holds almost every Giants rushing record in history could be booed on a night at Giants Stadium honoring him along with other all-time great franchise players. It is hard to believe that some people argue Barber’s departure was what catapulted the Giants to becoming Super Bowl champions in the 2007 season. It is hard to believe that people are so willing to castigate and judge a person who has not done anything illegal or so grossly outrageous like some other professional football players that are still revered despite their “mishaps.”
Now four years after his retirement from the NFL and a failed broadcasting career, Tiki Barber is looking to make a comeback at an age where very few running backs have ever had success. During an interview with HBO that aired on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Barber acknowledged that he now needs football more than it needs him. This is partially due to his failures off the field after he initially retired which led to an extremely long bout with depression.
“I remember there were days where I would literally wake up, have coffee, get something to eat and sit on the couch and do nothing for 10 hours,” said Barber to HBO.
Barber has spent the past four months working out in an attempt to make a comeback, although his chances rest on the league and its players reaching a new collective bargaining agreement. He said football represents a necessary anchor in a life turned upside down by the depressive aftermath of scandalous divorce and disintegration of his television career. Upon his retirement in 2006, Barber was on his way to an illustrious career in television beginning as a NBC football analyst for Football Night in America. Earning $2,000,000 per year, Barber progressed to having a featured role on the Today Show. But things did not turn out how Barber had envisioned, and he was eventually demoted and fired. This led to his bouts with depression.
“I crafted this career, right? And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It’s hard to deal with.”
In addition to his career struggles, he was also dealing with major strife in his personal life as his marriage had started to fall apart just months after he ended his ten-year playing career. Then his image as a “good guy” took a serious blow when he ended up moving in with Tracy Lynn Johnson while his wife was pregnant with twins. Even though Barber proclaimed that he had separated from his wife before he moved in with Johnson, the tabloids and media painted him as an adulterer. Barber did all he could to defend himself and his honor. He tried explaining that his wife getting pregnant was right in the middle of his marital problems, and things did not change for the better.
After retiring from the game he loved to play, then having his NBC career crash and burn, and then having his reputation and integrity shattered by the public’s perception of his failed marriage and new girlfriend, Barber sorely needed something to grab onto to change the cycle. That is when he was encouraged by friends and other players to attempt a comeback.
Assuming he is in game condition shape and works off a lot of the rust that may have accumulated over the past four years, Barber should get a shot on an NFL team to contribute. One option that is not going to be available to him is a return to the Giants. This is what is so disheartening about the whole situation, and Barber has no one to blame but himself. In an ideal world, this would be an amazing story of an all-time great player making a comeback to the only team he ever played for and being embraced as a returning hero. Unfortunately, there will be no storybook ending for Barber and the Giants. And there are many reasons why.
First, it should be noted that Barber truly is one of the greatest players to ever play for the Giants. Some of his career highlights include: one of twenty-one players to ever rush for over 10,000 yards; third player to ever rush for more than 10,000 and receive more than 5,000 yards; three-time Pro Bowl selection; first player in NFL history with 1,800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in one season; one of three players to ever have at least three 200-yard rushing games in one season; one of four players to have four 2,000 total yard seasons; third player in NFL history to be the career leader in both rushing yards and receptions with their team; and holds an NFL record of leading his team in rushing every game for 80 consecutive games from 2002 through 2006. He also holds practically every Giants team rushing record in history, despite not winning a Super Bowl.
So with a resume like that, how can this man not be revered by Giants fans? There are several examples of how Barber crossed the line and raised the ire of Giants players and fans. In 2002, Barber publicly criticized All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan’s negotiating stance on a new contract. Barber commented that Strahan was being selfish and greedy, a tact that fellow teammate Keith Hamilton took exception to as being a violation of a cardinal rule never to speak about other players’ contracts.
Additionally, Barber did not hide the fact that he disliked Tom Coughlin’s coaching style and demeanor. This, despite the fact that Barber saw his statistics and performance improve exponentially under Coughlin’s tenure. Nevertheless, after the Giants were handily shut out at home during the first round of the 2005 playoffs by the Carolina Panthers, Barber made post-game comments that he felt that the Giants were outcoached by Panthers’ head coach John Fox (the former defensive coach of the Giants). After receiving a lot of media attention about this comment, Barber apologized and insisted he only meant to convey that the Giants’ performance was unacceptable. Additionally, after a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2006 season, Barber criticized the team’s play-calling for abandoning the running game too soon. On the eve of what would be his last game with the Giants, Barber told ESPN that he is “demeaned and talked down to” by Coughlin. Taking it another step further, Barber attributed his decision to retire to Coughlin’s unrelenting style in practice.
“Coughlin pushed me in the direction of television. I don’t know if you realize this, but we were in full pads for 17 weeks, and with the amount of injuries that we had, it just takes a toll on you. You physically don’t want to be out there, when your body feels the way you do, in full pads.”
After he retired, Barber was interviewed just prior to the start of the 2007 season where he questioned Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s leadership abilities. Barber was quoted as saying that Manning’s motivational pre-game speeches sounded “almost comical.” Manning fought back in the media by bringing up Barber calling out the coaches and all of the articles written about his decision to retire in the middle of the season. After retiring without a Super Bowl victory, Barber seemed at peace with leaving the game without a championship ring. However, the very next season after he retired, the Giants went on a miraculous run to win Super Bowl XLII by defeating the then-undefeated New England Patriots for their third Super Bowl victory. Eli Manning led the game-winning drive down the field and was named MVP. At this point, Barber looked foolish for his caddy questioning of Manning’s leadership skills.
Since then, Barber has been the subject of Giants fans anger and dislike. When several Giants were honored during the last season at the old Giants Stadium, Barber received a chorus of boos when he was announced. He has even further tarnished his reputation with his mouth when he was quoted in the May 30, 2011 Sports Illustrated comparing hiding in his agent’s attic with his girlfriend so they wouldn’t get caught to Anne Frank hiding from the Nazis. I don’t think that Barber intended anything offensive by this comment, but it was another instance of him being unable to think before speaking and sticking his own foot in his mouth.
All of these things have added up to the point where Giants fans have ostracized Barber from their team. His accomplishments on the field have taken a back seat to what we think of him personally. No, he never committed a crime or spent time in prison. No, he never did anything so truly offensive to warrant extrication. But he had bitten the hands that fed him one too many times and attacked other beloved figures in the franchise. All of it seemed like sour grapes because deep down, it had to have killed him that the Giants won a Super Bowl the very next year after he retired.
Personally, I will always respect and admire Tiki Barber for what he accomplished on the field. He progressed from being a fumble-happy third down back to one of the premiere rushers of his and other generations. He was a warrior who played hurt and did whatever he could to help the team win. What he chose to do and say after his retirement is unfortunate because it has effectively ruined his reputation. But his legacy should always be that he was the greatest running back to ever wear Big Blue. His lack of championship rings and chronic case of verbal diarrhea does not negate the fact that #21 was one of the best ever. I thank Tiki Barber for his contributions to the Giants during his career and I only hope he finds success and happiness in returning to the NFL. Unfortunately, he has a lot of fences to mend before he is welcomed back by the Big Blue faithful.
Here are some of the questions and responses in the article:
Do you think the NFL lockout will affect your fantasy football league(s) this year? If so, how?
“Yes. It’s reducing interest in football, which naturally reduces the normally rabid league interest in fantasy football. Aside from any missed games and diminished interest, the lockout will ostensibly kill the preseason evaluation period. Most people in my league watch the preseason games to scout for draft steals, and I think the lack of a preseason will lower the overall quality of teams in our league.” – a 5-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Washington, DC
“…Already has affected it…we usually get together to watch the draft…also, our league is a keeper league, which means roster management with trades can be a 12 month deal…no one is of the mind to talk trade…it’s a downer…” – an 18-year fantasy veteran and Steelers fan in Parkland, FL
“Every year I go to Waco, Tx for my fantasy football draft. Leading up to draft weekend, most of the participants have studied training camps, made offseason grades, and compiled their draft strategies (a couple even make notebooks). I travel the furthest for this annual ritual. This year we haven’t made our reservations (we typically rent a cabin, lake house, or stay out at someone’s ranch for the weekend), we don’t know what dates to begin blocking off the calendar, and we are forced to discuss basketball to fill the time.” – a 10-year fantasy veteran and Cowboys fan in Washington, DC
“We already decided to cancel the fantasy league and start a pool league on Monday nights. Both sides are greedy, bloodsucking, overpaid, egomaniacs that are destroying minimum wage jobs while they (complain) that they can’t live on only 20 million a year. What a bunch of sniveling little babies that don’t deserve any attention or respect.” – a 25-year fantasy veteran and Bears fan in Waikoloa, HI
“Most definitely it will. This is one of the aspects of NFL football that brings even casual fans closer to the game. I know some women, who can’t even tell you the rules of football, but play fantasy because they enjoy it. It’s kind of like filling out NCAA brackets, everyone does it. The NFL even markets fantasy, and I’m assuming spends millions on it. For instance everyone knows the classic T.J. “Who’s Your Mama” commercial. This is just one more aspect of the “golden goose” that this lockout will kill.” – a 5-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Durham, NC
Has your league made contingency plans if the lockout stretches into August?
“Yes, we have a keeper league with non-standard rules that have necessitated that we already start planning for possible adjustments to our rules depending on whether or not there is a season and how long it is. We have already pretty much decided we must have a draft this August even if the labor dispute is unresolved at that time.” – an 11-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Alexandria, VA
“We are going to try to find a fantasy UFL or college football league and if we do that there will be an asterisk on the trophy.” – an 8-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan from Fisherville, VA
“Since our league is a fairly turnkey operation, we are flexible as to when we start. The only thing that will change will be the entry fee; Likely lowered based on number of weeks missed. So ultimately, the end-of-season prize pool may not be as large. That would be a disappointment.” – a 12-year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Silver Spring, MD
“Nope. We’re counting on the NFL getting it done. To quote Harold Camping, “There is no Plan B.”” – a 10+ year fantasy veteran and Redskins fan in Baltimore
This is just a small sample of the fantasy sports population. In the United States, there are approximately 27 million people who play fantasy sports, and a majority of those play fantasy football. By far, fantasy football is the most prosperous sport within the industry. If there is no NFL season, the ramifications could be disastrous to the fantasy sports industry, including the companies that provide services and the people who spend money to play. Obviously the fans want there to be football, but amongst those fans is a very important demographic of people who play fantasy football. The delay or cancellation of the season will have a far-reaching impact on many industries, and it is important to remember that the fantasy sports industry is one of them.
To my knowledge, this Washington Post column is one of the only articles written about the NFL lockout where the impact on fantasy football was addressed. I realize that fantasy football pales in comparison to the popularity of the NFL, but in many respects they are part and parcel to each other. The popularity of the NFL helped launch the massive growth and popularity of fantasy football. Additionally, the mainstream acceptance of fantasy football has given the NFL newer and more casual fans. The business and companies that write the fantasy magazines, create the draft boards, run the websites providing stats and advice, the websites that host leagues, make the trophies, host parties, and so on, will be in dire straits if the season is affected. While NFL fans will eventually go back to their teams and either watch games on TV or go to the stadium, the same cannot be as definitely said for the fantasy football companies. They may not have the flexibility or financial ability to close shop and reopen. Just something to think about.
The rollercoaster ride that is the NFL labor situation took yet another turn today as the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the NFL’s request to stay Judge Nelson’s order enjoining the league’s lockout. The three-person judicial panel comprised of Judges Steven Colloton, Duane Benton and Kermit Bye has tarnished the brief sense of optimism surrounding the league as it conducted its annual draft in New York. The 8th Circuit’s ruling once again potentially puts the 2011 season in jeopardy. While the courts and the parties have all indicated they would be working to resolve this expeditiously, the reality is that nothing happens quickly in litigation except racking up legal fees and growing more frustrated.
The court’s rationale for staying the order was “to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for a stay pending appeal.” Judges Colloton and Benton voted to lift U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson’s temporary injunction against the NFL’s lockout of its players. Judge Bye dissented, writing that the NFL did not face a “true emergency.”
Colloton and Benton lifted the temporary injunction in a one-paragraph statement:
“The motion of appellants National Football League, et al., for a temporary stay of the district court’s order dated April 25, 2011, pending a decision by this court on the appellants’ motion for a stay pending appeal, has been considered by the court and is granted. The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for a stay pending appeal. See, e.g., In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 841 F.2d 230, 232 (8th Cir. 1988) (describing grant of temporary stay to consider motion for stay pending appeal); see also Cobell v. Norton, No. 03-5262, 2004 WL 603456, at *1 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (describing administrative stay procedure); Arnold v. Garlock, Inc., 278 F.3d 426, 433 (5th Cir. 2001) (describing implementation of temporary stay to provide sufficient time to consider fairly whether a formal stay pending appeal should issue); Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 841 F.2d 1133, 1137 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (describing entry of a temporary administrative stay to permit time for full consideration of motions). The district court’s order of April 25, 2011, is temporarily stayed.”
Bye dissented in a slightly longer statement, which included:
“In my tenure as an appellate judge, the only circumstances I can recall in which the power to grant a temporary stay has been invoked by a party, and exercised by our court, have been circumstances which truly qualify as emergencies. For example, I have granted such a request on behalf of an immigrant who has filed a petition with our court to review a removal order entered by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA), when the immigrant’s removal date was imminent and the government had not yet responded to the immigrant’s request for a stay of removal pending our review of the petition. Another situation in which a temporary stay, pending review of a motion for a stay itself, may be appropriate is in a death penalty case where an execution date has been set and is imminent.
“Such circumstances qualify as true emergencies because of the impossible or nearly impossible task of reversing the consequences of allowing a district court’s order to take effect. We cannot reverse the consequences of an execution if it takes place before we have had a chance to hear from both parties. Similarly, an immigrant who has already been removed faces a very difficult task of returning to this country should we actually grant a motion for a stay of the removal pending our review of the immigrant’s petition.
“The NFL has not persuaded me this is the type of emergency situation which justifies the grant of a temporary stay of the district court’s order pending our decision on a motion for a stay itself. If we ultimately grant the motion for a stay, the NFL can easily re-establish its lockout. The NFL is certainly not in the same emergency position as an immigrant about to be removed, or an individual about to be executed, who cannot so easily reverse the consequences of initially allowing a district court’s order to take effect. Because I believe we should limit our reliance on Eighth Circuit Rule 27A(b)(4) to true emergency situations, I disagree with the panel’s decision to enter a temporary stay based on the circumstances involved in this case.”
Judge Bye’s dissenting opinion should resonate with NFL fans who are extremely critical of the league and its executives. The NFL has become the pinnacle of American sports in terms of prosperity and popularity. The league generated over $9 billion and they are quarreling over how to split that up and share with the players who are the ones that put their lives and well-being on the line to entertain the public. Now they are seeking relief from the court under a federal rule that is typically reserved for true emergencies. The appeals court is expected to rule next week on the NFL’s request for a more permanent stay that would last through its appeal of the injunction, a process expected to take up to two months.
The announcement that the lockout had resumed came right after the third round of the NFL draft had ended. NFL spokeman Greg Aiello said that “teams have been told that the prior lockout rules are reinstated effective immediately.” Ironically and unfortunately, this all came on the same day that players returned to their teams’ facilities for the first time since March. The players went from breathing sighs of relief and exchanging high-fives with teammates in the morning to feeling despondent and frustrated as midnight approached and the league went back into lockout mode.
Joe Linta, an agent who represents Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco, wants the NFL to go forward with free agency despite the decision. “The owners will create a huge injustice to their own GMs and personnel departments if they don’t allow the signing of undrafted free agents,” he said. “They may not care about the players, but they should at least help their own scouts, coaches and personnel people who have worked so hard in the scouting process. This is by far the biggest issue of the next 48 hours.” I would argue it is ONE of the biggest issues. The newest members of the National Football League, the players that were just selected in the draft earlier this week, are left in limbo as they begin their professional careers. They were just drafted, and now they can’t even talk to their new teams.
This entire fiasco has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately for the fans and the players, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. It is likely that the lockout will remain in effect for the foreseeable future as the courts decide what to do with the motions and injunctions. This means we have no clear answers on what will happen with free agents or how the new rookies will fit into their new teams. The more these issues get tied up in the legal system and reliant on the courts to untangle, the more likely it is that the summer mini camps will not start on time. After that, all bets are off.
One other area where the labor dispute will have a tremendous effect is the fantasy sports industry. Fantasy football is by far the most popular and prosperous sport for fantasy leagues and participants. Without free agency and with a potential delay or cancellation of the 2011 season, several fantasy football companies will suffer catastrophic financial losses. From printing magazines with projections to hosting websites where leagues play to providing advice and content, there are lots of people whose well-being is dependent on whether there is a season. Fantasy sports is considered by some to be an impregnable citadel of financial security due to its constant growth and popularity amongst financially stable Americans. However, this labor dispute is the one potential piece of kryptonite that could give fantasy football a harsh reality check. Let’s hope for everybody’s sake that cooler heads prevail, the courts do what they are supposed to do, and we can all get ready for some football.
The NFL plans on seeking a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. If there is no stay of Nelson’s decision, free agency and other offseason business could begin in theory, but it is unknown how it would operate.
“This is a good ruling, for sure, but I never want to celebrate until it’s actually over,” said NFLPA Players Association executive George Atallah. On the contrary, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Nelson’s ruling in favor of the players may “endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history.” Goodell believes that the players’ approach would force the NFL to operate in a vastly different manner, and that only some star players and their agents would benefit while a majority of players (and fans) will suffer.
But as fans, we already have suffered. The fact that the owners likely orchestrated this whole fiasco several years ago and are now creating a labor dispute because $9 billion in revenue is not enough to share is a tough pill to swallow for NFL fans living in a cash-strapped economy. The players are not free from blame, but the onus needs to be on the owners and the Commissioner’s office for creating this mess and making it exponentially worse. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said on ESPN: ”If we’re in a world where players are actually suing so they can play football … that tells me we’ve lost our way.” Well said.
The two sides have unsuccessfully participated in federal mediation multiple times over the last several weeks. The main issues still separating NFL owners and players are how to divide the $9 billion in revenue the league generates, the NFL’s push to expand the regular season to 18 games and benefits for retired players.
The most recent collective bargaining agreement expired 11:59 p.m. on March 11, 2011. The players determined that it was not in their interest to remain unionized if the existence of such a union would serve to allow the NFL to impose anticompetitive restrictions with impunity. A substantial majority of the players voted to end the collective bargaining status of their Union, and the player representatives of the Union then voted to restructure the organization as a professional association rather than as a union. Accordingly, at approximately 4:00 p.m. on that day, the NFLPA informed the NFL that it disclaimed any interest in representing the Players in further negotiations. The NFLPA also filed notice with the Department of Labor to terminate its status as a labor organization. See Brady, et al. v. NFL, et al., CASE 0:11-cv-00639-SRN-JJG (D. Minn.) at 13 (April 25, 2011).
The NFL argued that the decertification of the NFLPA was a sham and that the National Labor Relations Board should first rule on a league complaint filed about the decertification before the federal courts decide on the players’ lawsuit.
Once the union was decertified and players were allowed to file grievances on their own behalf, they filed a complaint alleging several antitrust claims under Section 1 of the Sherman Act as well as breach of contract and related tort claims. They allege that the NFL and its thirty-two separately owned and independently operated teams have jointly agreed and conspired – “through a patently unlawful group boycott and price-fixing arrangement” or “a unilaterally-imposed set of anticompetitive restrictions on player movement, free agency, and competitive market freedom” – to coerce the players “to agree to a new anticompetitive system of player restraints” that will economically harm the Plaintiffs. Of importance regarding the classification of the NFL and its 32 separately owned teams, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that the NFL is comprised of 32 individual corporations and cannot form a single corporate entity to evade Section 1 of the Sherman Act to develop, license and market their intellectual Property. See American Needle, Inc. v. National Football League, 130 S. Ct. 2201 (2010).
One of the alleged anticompetitive agreements is the NFL’s lockout aimed at shutting down the entire free agent marketplace, as well as a boycott of rookies and players currently under contract. The players moved for a preliminary injunction the same day seeking “to enjoin the NFL from perpetuating the lockout.” In response, the NFL claims Judge Nelson and the District Court of Minnesota may not enjoin their “exercise of their labor law right to lock out their player-employees” as the lockout “is unquestionably lawful and permitted by federal labor law.”
To Nelson’s credit, she took into consideration everything and everyone who is potentially affected by a lockout imposed by the NFL and the ramifications for possibly not playing football in 2011. Plaintiffs argued that because of the constant pressure to prove their physical and economic worth, the loss of an entire year in a short professional athletic career cannot be recaptured and, therefore, cannot be adequately compensated by damages. The players further argue that time spent off the playing and practice fields diminish their skills. As a result of sitting out an entire season, this diminishment in skills could shorten or end the careers of some players.
Judge Nelson also considered the public interest in her analysis. In fact, Supreme Court has reiterated that courts “should pay particular regard for the public consequences in employing the extraordinary remedy of injunction.” The public has an interest in the enforcement of the Sherman Act, which, by seeking to ensure healthy competition in the market, has a broad impact beyond the immediate parties to this dispute. Moreover, the public ramifications of this dispute exceed the abstract principles of the antitrust laws, as professional football involves many layers of tangible economic impact, ranging from broadcast revenues down to concessions sales. And, of course, the public interest represented by the fans of professional football – who have a strong investment in the 2011 season – is an intangible interest that weighs against the lockout. In short, this particular employment dispute is far from a purely private argument over compensation.
While this decision is a victory for the players and for the fans, it is by no means an indication that a quick resolution is in order. The decision has no impact on the NFL Draft which is scheduled to begin this week. Because there is no operative collective bargaining agreement and the NFLPA has been decertified, players may not be traded once they are selected by an NFL team. The only trading that can take place is the exchange of draft picks – not people. Additionally, the 2011 season is still potentially in jeopardy. We can only hope that the Court’s ruling will help promote continued mediation and settlement discussions between the players and owners. I shudder to think, but can you imagine what the winter would be like without the NFL and fantasy football? Inconceivable (yes, a Princess Bride reference).
At midnight on March 4, 2011, the current NFL collective bargaining agreement was set to expire. This deadline was temporarily extended by 24 hours to give federal mediator George Cohen additional times to speak to both the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. Earlier this week, a federal judge in Minneapolis gave a key ruling in favor of the players that could strip what the union has been calling unfair leverage for the owners in labor negotiations. U.S. District Judge David Doty backed the NFL Players Association in a dispute with the league over $4 billion in TV revenue. The players allege that this money was collected to potentially fund a lockout.
The union had requested that the TV money be placed in escrow until the end of any lockout. However, Doty declared that the NFL violated its agreement with the union by structuring 2009 and 2010 TV contracts so owners would be guaranteed money even if there were a work stoppage. The union argued this violated an agreement between the sides that says the NFL must make good-faith efforts to maximize revenue for players. Doty also ruled that the players may be entitled to money damages on top of this.
This ruling has turned the tables on the owners in terms of their leverage. Now, it appears as though the sides are contemplating a longer extension of 7-10 days to continue negotiating in an attempt to work out a deal before there is officially a work stoppage. It seems apparent that the owners did not anticipate this result regarding the TV money. George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director for external affairs, said that Doty’s ruling means “there is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lockout players and fans for more than two years. The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on.”
In his ruling, Doty revealed previously confidential details of league TV contracts and said that the NFL “consistently characterized gaining control over labor as a short-term objective and maximizing revenue as a long-term objective, all the while advancing its negotiating position at the expense of using best efforts to maximize total revenues for the joint benefit of the NFL and the Players.” NFL lawyers have argued the league used sound business judgment to maximize revenues for both sides to share, but Doty wrote in his ruling that the NFL enhanced “long-term interests at the expense of its present obligations.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the ruling has no effect on its teams’ efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement and they were “prepared for any contingency.” The same cannot be said for the owners as they clearly did not anticipate such a ruling from the court. Now the owners are in a position where they have to continue negotiating and work out a deal to prevent any further damages assessed against them. It appears that some NFL teams have considerable debt stemming from their stadiums and various services associated with the operations of the franchise. Those owners were banking on having the $4 billion in TV money to carry them through a work stoppage. Now without that safety net, some owners may not have the same flavor for a lockout. This scenario bodes well for a potential resolution and has given NFL fans their first glimmer of hope that a work stoppage can be avoided. So fear not people…it looks like there could be football in 2011 sooner than we had thought.
Over the past 30 years, the fantasy sports industry has transformed from a taboo hobby into an American institution. Going from pen and paper to the web has facilitated remarkable growth and prosperity for just about every aspect of the fantasy sports business. It has transformed from being a small blurb in the Sunday newspaper to having hours of dedicated programming on television, radio, and the Internet. In fact, the fantasy sports industry was one of nine industries selected by Entrepreneur magazine as being insulated from the current economic recession. With over 28 million Americans playing fantasy sports and the industry generating over $3 billion in revenue, it seems like the fantasy sports industry is impervious to anything. However, the key to the industry’s success is still keeping its current participants playing and appealing to new potential customers.
Yahoo is one of the biggest fantasy sports entities in the world providing several services and products that have been the standard of the industry since its presence was made on the Internet almost 20 years ago. Yahoo has historically been very creative and innovative in its fantasy sports commissioner services as they offer highly customizable features in their leagues, as well as a variety of bonus services as well. However, it is one of their newest features that caught my attention and prompted me writing this article. It was something that I felt was so disturbing that I immediately thought it could be the beginning of the end for fantasy sports as we know it. No, I am not saying the business and industry will crumble tomorrow or that millions of people will stop playing. What I mean is that the industry has been infallible and continually prosperous, so at some point the law of averages will catch up and a downward trend will likely set in. It just has to at some point, right? This Yahoo product could very well be that impetus.
I would also like to point out that it is not my intention for this article to be a “gloom and doom” scenario for all of fantasy sports. The current NFL labor strife and uncertainty is without a doubt the biggest threat to most of the fantasy sports industry as we speak today. My point is that Yahoo’s newest service is something that could potentially change the way individual people perceive fantasy sports, as well as the way they play it. Generally speaking, people participate in fantasy sports for a myriad of reasons: enjoyment of sports, common activity and socializing with friends and family, desire to win money and prizes, hobby, distraction from work and home, etc. While it is competitive in nature, it is still all in good fun because there is nothing at stake other than bragging rights and some money (which hopefully people can afford to lose).
Personally, I am a staunch advocate for innovation and creativity within the fantasy sports industry. This should come as a surprise to no one since I run Fantasy Judgment (www.fantasyjudgment.com) and seek to convince the world that having a dispute resolution service as part and parcel to a fantasy league is an absolute necessity. When new products, services or features are added to fantasy league host sites, I usually embrace them as a symbol of progress and accommodation to the customers. But even I have my limits.
So after that lengthy introduction, you are probably wondering what in the wide world of sports I am talking about. Recently, I was sent an email about this from a friend who is a student at New York Law School and also runs a great blog called The Sports Tomato (www.thesportstomato.com). The email directed me to a page within Yahoo’s fantasy baseball products called “What’s New” (located at http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/sports/fantasysports/baseball/whatsnew/basewhatsnew-07.html). As of January 2011, Yahoo has added a feature called “Manager Rating” to their various fantasy products, specifically baseball. According to Yahoo:
“Manager Ratings will enable you to rate other managers in your league (Positive, Neutral, or Negative) and provide a short comment about your experience playing with them.”
Ok so that might not sound so bad on its face. The next few paragraphs are taken directly from Yahoo further explaining Manager Ratings in the form of a very short FAQ:
Why should I rate other managers in my league?
These ratings will provide future potential league-mates a good idea of what to expect when playing with other managers. Rating your fellow managers positively is a way to express your gratitude for an enjoyable experience and to help spread the word about fun people to play with.
Should I leave neutral or negative feedback?
Ratings and comments become a permanent part of a manager’s profile. If you have an issue with a fellow league manager, we encourage you to first contact them directly to try to resolve the issue. Other potential remedies include contacting your league’s commissioner or utilizing the league’s message board. If all else fails, you can choose to give a neutral or negative rating to that manager. However, please make sure that your comments are fair and are based in fact.
Can I edit a rating or comment after I’ve submitted it?
No, all ratings and comments are final and cannot be changed once submitted, so please be thoughtful in your ratings.
You may be thinking that I am completely overreacting to this and wondering how I can possibly conclude this will contribute to the possible downfall or demise of the fantasy sports industry. You may think I am jumping to conclusions and refusing to give this new feature a chance. You may even think this is the greatest new idea since OPS became an acceptable statistic. Well, you may be right on any of those accounts. But what if you’re not?
To preface my arguments, I will make the best analogy I can with regard to Yahoo’s new feature and fantasy sports players: Yahoo is Skynet. In case you don’t get the reference, Skynet is the network of computers in the Terminator movie series that gains control over all machines and electronics to destroy the human race. Once Skynet gained control of the government’s military and defense programs, it launched nuclear bombs at all targets, thus prompting retaliatory strikes and causing the deaths of billions of people. Essentially, Skynet was the puppet master as it sat back and watched humans destroy themselves.
Here, Yahoo is pulling the strings of fantasy sports players by giving them the means and methods of attacking each other with the ratings system. Granted, there will not be an exchange of nuclear weapons or mass genocide as a result of Yahoo’s new feature, but the point is that the wheels have been set in motion for people to take the competition to whole new level.
Every person who plays fantasy sports has their own style. Some people spend six hours a day reading material on websites and magazines when preparing for a draft. Some people like to make trades every week and send out proposals to other league managers on a daily basis. Some people like to play in keeper leagues where they trade off current talent in exchange for future potential talent. Some people simply stay quiet and have no interaction whatsoever with other league members. As long as a person pays their entry fees, they are entitled to run their own team in any manner they so desire as long as they stay within the rules of that league. There may be styles and personalities that clash, but generally speaking people accept that not everyone operates under the same set of guidelines and priorities.
Giving people the means, method and opportunity to write commentary about other league members that becomes a permanent mark on their Yahoo profile is destructive. That is not to say that a negative comment on someone’s manager profile is going to inhibit their ability to buy a car or apply for a job. But what this scenario can do is completely change the dynamic between league members, including both people who know each other and those who do not. This is what frightens me into thinking there could be a slippery slope. Once people have motivation, incentive or justification for attacking each other in this forum, the very fabric of fun competition becomes unraveled. Playing fantasy sports is a hobby, not a career. As much as people enjoy doing it, no one is relying on playing fantasy sports as their sole source of income (unless they are financially secure for other reasons). But generally, if people stopped playing fantasy sports, they would still be able to put food on the table and likely find other activities to occupy their time. So the ability to retain people in fantasy sports leagues is somewhat delicate because there is no desperation or reliance on it for survival or well-being. The point is that any reason to avoid such aggravation like dealing with negative ratings or comments could potentially cause people to just stop playing fantasy sports in the first place. There is enough stress in life with family, work, and health. There is no place in someone’s life for added stress, pressure and degradation within a hobby.
Without having actual demographic statistics on this particular point, I will make a generic statement that there is a certain percentage of fantasy sports players who join public leagues comprised of people they do not know. There are typically no restrictions in doing this. However, if a person has negative feedback or comments on their profile, they are likely to be blacklisted or prevented from joining public leagues. At the very least, it is conceivable that league owners in a public league would not welcome a person with such negative ratings.
Why would someone give a negative rating in the first place? This is an interesting question because I am assuming that some people will actually care enough to spend the time going to the Manager Ratings page and leaving the feedback and/or comments in the first place. There will always be that one person in a fantasy league who has something to say about everyone and everything. That person would easily fit the profile of someone who leaves feedback and comments, either way. If a league member felt that another owner made bad trades, it could lead to a negative rating. Failure to respond to a trade proposal could do the trick as well. How about missing a deadline to either activate a player or take an injured player out? The appearance of indifference or incompetence is another motivation to ding someone. What about just doing it to be spiteful? There are multiple reasons why someone would actually go and leave negative feedback and/or comments.
So what is the big deal? It sounds quite childish, but the natural reaction would be to return the favor and leave negative feedback or comments about the other person. And then where does it end? This permanent scarring of one member profile is not going to ruin anyone’s life – I acknowledge that. But what it can do is taint someone’s reputation if they tried to join pubic leagues with people they don’t know. It could potentially influence others within the league to adversely treat someone if they have such a negative rating. It could potentially lead to the league commissioner not welcoming that person back to the league the next year. It could lead to the disintegration of various relationships, as well as the league itself. It could lead to a mutiny if the league commissioner does not rule on issues or trades appropriately and then his fellow league members leave negative comments, thus in effect giving the commissioner a vote of no confidence. Overall, it can lead to personal, internal battles amongst league owners that cause major rifts within a league and shift the focus from fantasy sports to middle school pettiness.
Instead of trying to win games and defeat your opponents by drafting better teams, making affective trades, and making intelligent decisions with your roster, people would devolve into teenagers trying to sabotage each other. This is not like eBay where feedback and ratings are truly important and necessary because there you are dealing directly with buyers and sellers whose reputations are necessary in order to instill confidence when choosing to do business with them. There are also protective measures in place with eBay to ensure that proper payment is made and that delivery of products is completed. In fantasy sports, there are no guarantees or assurances that leagues will be run smoothly and fairly, or that everyone involved will always do the right thing. Granted, companies like LeagueSafe.com and FantasySportsMarket.com provide financial protection for league fees. However, most people and most leagues do not take advantage of such services. That is why the Supreme Court of Fantasy Judgment strongly advocates that people play fantasy sports and join leagues with people they know. There needs to be some trust factor involved, especially when dealing with money. If people typically played in leagues with people they know to some extent, there is no need for any type of permanent feedback or commentary.
In summation, I do give Yahoo credit for continuing to develop new ideas and concepts to add to their products. They have always been one of the better websites for innovative fantasy sports features, so I cannot fault them for trying new things. But I don’t think they realize the slippery slope that this new feature could create. Once you change or alter the focus of fantasy sports’ competitive nature, you give people the detonator to their own fantasy bomb. Yahoo at least does encourage alternative forms of dealing with issues between league members before permanently writing negative feedback. One method they neglected to suggest was third party dispute resolution such as Fantasy Judgment. But irrespective of that, my hope is that people are circumspect about choosing to leave such comments about another league manager. Instead of focusing on that middle school-type response which has no discernible value anyway, the Court’s verdict is that Yahoo users should resist the temptation to comment on their fellow fantasy players in any manner. Just go win and let that speak for itself.
The Court would like to know whether you concur or dissent with its verdict by emailing email@example.com, finding us on Facebook at www.goo.gl/xF0pt, or tweeting us at www.twitter.com/FantasyJudgment.
As I attempt to navigate Fantasy Judgment towards its manifest destiny within the fantasy sports industry, I have entered into another valuable partnership. I am pleased to announce that Fantasy Judgment (www.fantasyjudgment.com) has officially entered into a partnership with Fantasy Phenoms (www.fantasyphenoms.com) to provide dispute resolution services for its readers and members. Fantasy Phenoms is a great resource for fantasy baseball and football information, and they also host creative and exciting daily fantasy games.
Led by owners and fantasy sports veterans Brett Greenfield and Jason Sarney, Fantasy Phenoms has a staff of six writers, plus Brett and Jason, and provides unique and detailed analyses of players for the benefit of their readers in the quest for fantasy sports glory. One of the best features is the use of Sabermetrics to evaluate pitchers by providing an index number using several different statistics to measure a pitcher’s worth. The individual position rankings in both baseball and football employ intricate statistical and mathematical analyses which break through the surface of a player’s true value and give their readers the best possible evaluation one can find.
I am looking forward to watching this partnership grow as the dedicated readers and members of Fantasy Phenoms utilize Fantasy Judgment’s services as a means to maintain the integrity of their leagues when issues do come up. This is why the relatiosnhip between Fantasy Judgment and Fantasy Phenoms works so well – people go to Fantasy Phenoms for advice, content and rankings to decide whether to draft, trade or keep a certain player. Then, they can go to Fantasy Judgment to ensure that any transactions they may enter into are fair and within the rules of the league.
So please welcome Fantasy Phenoms to the Fantasy Judgment universe.
I am pleased to announce that Fantasy Judgment has entered into a partnership with Fantasy Sports Dish (www.fantasysportsdish.com) to provide dispute resolution services for their loyal readers and audience. As Fantasy Judgment looks to expand its brand, what better way to start than by associating with a one-stop shop for all of your fantasy sports information and news?
Fantasy Sports Dish gathers and aggregates fantasy sports news from around the internet and put it all in one place for its readers. Run by Lightfoot Simmons (an alias so he doesn’t tip off his opponents in his various fantasy leagues), who has over 15 years of fantasy sports experience in all major sports, Fantasy Sports Dish was created to provide information for all fantasy sports enthusiasts who are constantly looking in all directions for fantasy news and opinions. They hope to also provide avid and experienced fantasy sports players with reliable and quality information. Another great aspect of Fantasy Sports Dish is the wealth of information provided on their Twitter feed (@fantasysprtsdsh). They are constantly tweeting updates, links, and news that is easily accessible and beneficial to its readers and followers.
This is one of the first steps in expanding the scope of Fantasy Judgment to audiences who may not have been familiar with our services. We look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship with Fantasy Sports Dish and the opportunity to provide dispute resolution services to their passionate fantasy sports fan base.
There is no dispute that the worlds of professional football and fantasy football are now intertwined in many respects. We know that NFL players themselves participate in fantasy leagues. The NFL’s own website has its own fantasy products and content (www.fantasy.nfl.com). There are several television, radio and internet programs and shows dedicated to fantasy content, statistics, and advice. And when a person wins a fantasy football league, one of the awards they may receive is a trophy symbolizing their victory – much like the prestigious Vince Lombardi Trophy awarded to the Super Bowl champion. However, there is a fine line that cannot be crossed before the conglomerate known as the National Football League turns fantasy football fun into a legal reality.
Titlecraft, Inc., a company that manufactures fantasy football league trophies, sought a declaration from the NFL that its trophies do not infringe the NFL’s rights in the Lombardi Trophy. The NFL subsequently filed a counterclaim against Titlecraft asserting claims of copyright and trademark infringement. The Lombardi Trophy, designed and manufactured for the NFL by Tiffany & Co., is made of sterling silver and consists of a replica football sitting at a downward angle atop a three-sided base with concave sides, which get smaller as they rise. See Titlecraft, Inc. v. National Football League (U.S.D.C. – Dist. of Minnesota, Civ. No. 10-758). There is no dispute that the NFL holds a valid copyright registration for this trophy.
Titlecraft’s trophies are similar to the Lombardi Trophy in that they consist of a football sitting at a downward angle atop a based with three tapered sides. Despite the fact that the sides of Titlecraft’s trophies are not concave and are made of wood rather than silver, the NFL issued a cease-and-desist letter to Titlecraft in August 2009 informing them that they were infriging the NFL’s rights in the Lombardi Trophy. The NFL demanded that Titlecraft “stop selling its trophies and account for all profits it had derived from its allegedly infringing products.” In response, Titlecraft denied any infringement and continued to sell its trophies.
On March 11, 2010, Titlecraft brought an action against the NFL seeking a declaration that its trophies do not violate any intellectual property rights of the NFL with regard to the Lombardi Trophy. The NFL then sought summary judgment regarding Titlecraft’s liability for copyright infringement. In order to establish a claim for copyright infringement without direct evidence of copying, the NFL must demonstrate that (1) it owns a valid copyright to the Lombardi Trophy; (2) Titlecraft had access to the trophy; and (3) Titlecraft’s trophies are the Lombardi Trophy are substantially similar. Because there was no dispute that the NFL owned a valid copyright or that Titlecraft had access to the trophy, the only issue remaining for the court to consider was substantial similarity. The requisite criteria for substantial similarity is that the works be similar in both ideas and expression.
The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota easily concluded that Titlecraft’s trophies were substantially similar in idea to the Lombardi Trophy. There was no disputing the physical similarities between the trophies, including the downward-angled footballs atop tapered bases, the scale of the footballs to the bases, the lack of any other football-related adornments, the direction of the laces on the footballs, and the smooth surfaces of the footballs. Additionally, Titlecraft conceded that their trophies, much like the Lombardi Trophy, correlate to performance where they represent the highest achievement with regard to success. As for substantial similarity in expression, the standard is whether the concept and feel of the works is similar when viewed from an ordinary person’s perspective when observing the works together. The mere fact that there are differences between the works is irrelevant because the analysis hinges on their similarities. The court strongly determined that “no ordinary observer could conclude that Titlecraft’s trophies have anything but the same concept and feel as the Lombardi Trophy.” In fact, the court went on to state that Titlecraft’s trophies are “appropriations” of the Lombardi Trophy because they are so similar in “shape, size, aesthetics, and feel” when viewing them side by side.
In the end, the court ruled in favor of the NFL granting their motion for partial summary judgment against Titlecraft. What this means is that a conclusive finding of liability for copyright infringement has been determined by the court. Now it is just a matter of how much the damages will be. The case will likely get resolved within the next few months through alternative dispute resolution or with the assistance of the Magistrate Judge.
So what can we take away from this case? It is quite clear how protective the NFL is of its intellectual property and marks. I personally can attest to this as well. I negotiated a contract with the NFL to have Fantasy Judgment’s (www.fantasyjudgment.com) services offered on the NFL.com fantasy football website this past season. Part of the contract included me agreeing not to use, promote or advertise any of the NFL’s marks or logos on my website or through any forum when discussing Fantasy Judgment’s affiliation. I exchanged several emails with the NFL’s legal team so that I completely understood what I was allowed to do in regard to advertising and promoting this partnership. It was explained to me that there is significant value in the NFL’s marks, and they do not allow anyone to prosper from using these marks without appropriate compensation. It actually does make a lot of sense. While I can state on my website that Fantasy Judgment and the NFL have an agreement, I could not put the NFL logo or any other mark on the website along with that statement. In the current case, the NFL has a protected proprietary interest in the Lombardi Trophy. Any attempt to capitalize off of that intellectual property interest without just compensation is prohibited by the NFL and punishable by the courts. The reality is that the NFL was not necessarily harmed by Titlecraft’s use of the Lombardi Trophy as the basis for their products. The NFL is not in competition with Titlecraft selling replica trophies to fantasy football leagues. It all comes down to money. The NFL rightfully does not want anyone else to profit or gain off the use of its intellectual property. The moral of the story is – don’t mess with the NFL.
The fantasy sports industry has been continually growing over the last 20 years. Now firmly entrenched online, the industry has reached new heights and has even been relatively insulated from the economic problems facing the United States and the rest of the world. There are so many different niches within the fantasy sports universe, and this has promoted several entrepreneurs to capitalize on a thriving market. One of these markets is the fantasy sports trophy business. There clearly is a need and desire for such a product because people who play fantasy sports want to feel that sense of accomplishment when achieving victory. What better way to do that then provide a trophy – especially one similar to the actual NFL championship trophy? But again, there is a fine line between fantasy and reality. Titlecraft crossed that line, and it is going to cost them an unspecified amount of money (and perhaps more) for trying to replicate the NFL experience in the fantasy universe.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this issue. Leave a comment, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, write on Fantasy Judgment’s wall on Facebook, or find me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FantasyJudgment and send a tweet.
With Week 16 of the 2010 NFL season already underway, we are fast approaching the playoffs and Super Bowl XLV. There is undoubtedly a lot of excitement and anticipation going into these next few weeks as teams position themselves for a post-season run. But this NFL season has been quite an interesting ride the whole way through, and not for obvious reasons. This season will likely go down as a turning point in the NFL’s history because of so many issues, circumstances, individuals, and actions that have dominated the headlines. Needless to say, Commissioner Roger Goodell certainly is earning his paycheck this year.
First, there is the specter of a potential work stoppage heading into the 2011 season. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire and as of right now there is no deal in place. The current rumors coming from Goodell’s office are that he doesn’t expect there to be a work stoppage, but I for one am skeptical about that. The players and owners have too many issues and too much money at stake to just simply resolve their differences without exerting some form of control over each other. I for one doubt that any work stoppage or labor issues will effect the 2011 season. There will likely be lots of posturing between the players and owners after the Super Bowl and before training camps begin next summer. At the end of the day, all of the owners and players involved will realize there is too much money to risk over not starting the season on time. The ironic thing about that is that the owners would still actually make as much money whether the players play or not. But I think the owners are smart enough to realize that the NFL brand is the most powerful and prosperous in all of sports, and they will not want to risk ceding that control or power while the baseball season is in full swing.
Another issue of the day is that of players’ health and safety. The running theme this season has been protecting defenseless players from violent helmet-to-helmet blows or devastating hits on the field. There have been dozens of instances where players have been concussed, some multiple times, due to vicious hits by defensive players. But the policing of such hits has invaded what are deemed legal hits as well. It is one thing to penalize a helmet-to-helmet hit because they can be seen clearly by officials and players can control how they attack their opponents. But when players are being fined and penalized for hitting opposing players legally yet devastatingly, that is where the real problem comes in. First off, I doubt anyone who watches or supports professional football would be opposed to keeping its players safe from injuries. But the game of American football has always and will always involve physical contact between players. Most times, this physical contact is dangerous because of the opposing needs of each player. That is the nature of the game. To try and alter the way the game is played requires something much deeper and intricate than imposing new rules and penalties on professional athletes. There would need to be a major change in the philosophy of how football is taught to kids in Pop Warner and high school. This seems almost impossible to fathom, but how else could a player know, in the heat of the moment, that his potential strike against a receiver in mid-field will be the cause of a penalty, fine and/or possible suspension? Football is a game derived from strategy and played with instincts. This is a difficult balance to reach given the desire for players’ safety and the skills of opposing players simply playing the game of football. There are less than 1700 active players in the NFL who get paid to do this for a living. They have a specialized skill and knowingly assume the physical risks associated with playing football. That is not to say they deserve to be injured or shouldn’t be protected. But there is a reason they are getting paid to put on the shoulder pads and helmets. They know the inherent risks that are associated with the game. They know the histories of older retired players and the condition their bodies are in as a result of a lifetime in the NFL. Imposing fines, throwing flags, and issuing suspensions is all well and good to penalize players who cross the line. But that is a very fine line and not one that can be viewed objectively. This is where the problem lies, and Commissioner Roger Goodell has thrown himself right into this fire. He has imposed multiple fines on players for violent hits during the course of this season, and some of them would not have been deemed illegal prior to this year. If the Commissioner is going to continue ti pursue these avenues of recourse, then we all need to accept that the game of football has changed forever.
Along with these issues, the topic of expanding the NFL’s regular season to 18 games has been discussed ad nauseum. It does make sense because the pre-season is a complete waste of time for both players and fans. The four weeks of pre-season games are typically used to learn more about back-up players. Fans are paying lots of money to sit through games played by players that no one has ever heard of. There is no real desire to win the games, so there is no real interest by the fans either. Shortening the pre-season to two ganes and adding two games to the regular season does make sense from a financial and pragmatic standpoint. However, the flip side is once again players’ healthy and safety. Those pre-season games are typically not played with all-out vigor and effort. Uusally injuries that occur in the pre-season are flukes or self-sustained. If players are now going to have two extra games that count, that is an additional two games they they are subjecting themselves to the physical and mental demands that go into an already lengthy season. They are two more opportunities to sustain a career-ending injury. They are two more weeks of full practice and training. It makes sense why some players are against it. But from a fans’ perspective it is great. It is two more games to care about. It is two more weeks of fantasy football action. It is two more weeks to spend with friends and family eating wings and watching football on Sunday. It is a general money-maker for the league and the whole football industry. But at what cost? Do we the fans really concern ourselves with how many concussions Aaron Rodgers or Austin Collie have sustained? We care if we are fans of the Packers or Colts, or if we have them on our fantasy team. But do we truly care about the individual person who has to live with these head injuries? The sad truth is probably not. We want our teams to win and we want to enjoy the act of watching professional football games. By giving us two more weeks of the regular season, the NFL will be satisfying its fan base but at the expense and risk of its players.
At the end of the day, the NFL is going to do what it feels is best. It is hard to argue with any of their decisions given the mammoth success the NFL has experienced over the last 20 years. While baseball is the National Pasttime, football has become America’s sport. The NFL has grown by leaps and bounds and there are no indications it will slow down. But this next level of growth (expanding to 18 teams) could see some real detrimental effects on the players who play the game. That is certainly a reason why Commissioner Goodell is so focused on players’ safety, so maybe he really does know better than everyone. It is just a little difficult to grasp the hypocrisy and irony when you really break it down. The NFL wants to protect its players by changing the way the game is played, yet they want to expose its players to injury even more by expanding the schedule. That is why it is called a dichotomy.