Commentary

NFL lockout? Why it's coming

For players and owners, how much of too much is enough?

Updated: July 26, 2010, 2:58 PM ET
By Jeff MacGregor | ESPN.com

As a public service this morning, I direct you to this list of the criminally insane. And to this list of the stupidest people in the world.

When approaching anybody on either list, use caution!

[+] Enlargehe luxury yacht 'Eclipse' of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich
Getty ImagesRussian billionaire Roman Abramovich's yacht towers over those owned by American pro sports franchise owners.

Because every one of the 1,728 people -- 32 NFL owners and 1,696 NFL players -- are clearly out of their minds, and represent a danger not just to themselves, but to you and to me and to logic and sense and Sunday afternoons.

So a couple of quick thoughts today on right and wrong, on money and value, on compassion and contempt and on the prospect of an NFL lockout in 2011.

The first step to problem-solving and fair-minded conflict resolution is understanding. So forget what you may have already read or heard on the subject, let's begin by framing the NFL owners' core argument for a lockout:

"I need a bigger boat."

And the counterargument offered by the NFL players:

"So do we."

I may have oversimplified that. Let me try again.

Here is the NFL Owners' Argument In Favor Of A Lockout: "My magical NFL franchise money-printing machine may or may not be printing fractionally less money than it was last year. I'm not really sure. I have people who keep track of that. What I really want is a bigger boat. And a sandwich. Edward? Where is he? EDWARD! Where do you slip off to when my back's turned? Have cook make me one of those lobster rolls I like so much. But easy on the rémoulade, for God's sake, I have hot yoga tomorrow. What was I saying?"

Which leads to the NFL Players Association Counterargument: "In a time of terrible economic struggle, with unemployment and discontent rising all around us, with ordinary families fighting to stay together and make ends meet, we take great pride in being able to keep a straight face when we say that a fourth-string receiver on a last place team is worth a million dollars a year."

[+] EnlargeLobster Roll
AP Photo/Larry CroweLet's face it, even rich NFL owners get hungry.

No, sorry, that's not it. Let me try again.

The owners ask:

"Won't someone please take pity on me and make me stop overpaying these players of my own free will?"

And the players answer:

"You know, not just anybody can kick a ball. Especially in pants this tight."

Nope. But I feel like we're getting much closer to it. Hang on.

The owners:

"As a Capitalist, I condemn Socialism in the most vigorous manner possible. Condemn it! With vigor! Except insofar as 'revenue sharing' accounts for a huge portion of my pre-tax profits. And by 'revenue sharing' I mean 'redistribution of wealth.' And by 'pre-tax,' I mean that I won't really be paying any taxes at all. Ever. That's what accountants are for. And tax shelters. I saved $70 million in personal taxes last year alone thanks to a fictitious ermine ranch, a shuttered kettle-corn factory and four unreleased movies starring Sybil Danning and Michael Dudikoff. And the city paid for our new stadium, so there's that."

The players' association:

"What in the world would happen to any of us without football? Most of us are unfit for anything else. Some of us majored in Gym -- GYM! -- and minored in Contemporary Theories of Gym. Some of us can barely read. Seriously. Because someone else pulled us through. Through school. Through life. Teachers, friends, administrators, tutors, coaches, agents. Sandra Bullock. Because we were tall and strong and fast and could catch a ball or knock other people down. Everybody wants to help a football player. No matter what it costs."

Almost there. I can feel it.

The owners:

"What's the saying? 'Too much is never enough?' That's very true. Unless we're talking about this damned rémoulade! Edward! EDWARD!"

The players' association responds:

[+] Enlargelocked out
David McNew/Getty ImagesSome labor conflicts are based on actual grievances that could affect the future of the business and workers' ability to care for their families.

"In three years most of these kids will have been spat out of the game. They'll be broke and barely employable. Old at 25. A few others will make it deeper into the years, deeper into the game, and you cross your fingers that they don't wind up crippled; or blow everything they earned on exotic cars that don't run and exotic women who do and a house with 11 bathrooms and nothing in the refrigerator. A bare handful become superstars. Part of their job is to help us all forget about the others who never made it."

I'm failing to get us to the heart of this argument. Unless failure is the heart of this argument.

In any case, none of this applies to the Green Bay Packers, who are publicly owned. So they don't have one crazy owner.

They have 112,000 crazy owners.

Every one of whom wants a bigger boat.

Next Week: What To Do When There's No One To Root For.

Jeff MacGregor is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Please continue to submit your answers to his question "What are sports for?" You can e-mail him at jeff_macgregor@hotmail.com.

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