Thursday, July 28, 2011

List of Demands

Did you hear the NFL lockout is over?

The most nauseating and pointless lead story for the past two weeks...three weeks...month...four months finally came to an end.  But don't worry - when you wake up tomorrow, you'll hear about free agents and 10-year CBA marriages and shortened training camp workloads and Brett Favre.  I have a migraine just imaging the speculation and impending chaos.  You might be lured to the stories of Albert Haynesworth and OchoCinco joining the Patriots or the drama that is "where will Kyle Orton end up," but it's just offseason fodder and fools gold.

September 8th can't get here fast enough.

I haven't spoken to anyone of my friends or family that has cared about the lockout.  In fact, I wrote my buddy Robby back on March 12th to ask if I should cancel my Sunday Ticket.  His exact response: they'll get a deal done...cancel nothing. 

There wasn't a fan in their right mind that thought we'd lose football the way we lost a World Series or an entire NHL season. The NFL's imminent start was just that, and fans were just bludgeoned during the news cycle like a dusty carpet with a stain on it. Those dozens of people that followed the lockout, I would imagine, are overjoyed that free agency is here. The rest of us can at least start watching players in pads push each other around instead of hopping off a bus and hold a briefcase on their way out of a revolving door.

Doesn't it make you just a little upset, though, when the players and owners mention "getting a deal done for the fans" or "now the fans can enjoy football" or "it's all about the fans."  Really?  All about us...awesome.  Football is back?  I'm sorry - did someone lose it? 

I'm glad the game is about the fans.  If this really is the case, Mr. Commissioner and Mr. Dee Smith, why not take action to make the game better for the fans.  Here are five simple demands that we the fans have for the next 10 years:

1) Please lock the league out after every draft and don't open shop until July 25th.  You can make it a national holiday of sorts.  Since the players have negotiated an ultra-sensitive practice limitation workload and since players have whined and lobbied for fewer team-run offseason workouts, then please do us all the favor of not getting in our way for a good three months.  You've proven you can negotiate terms for labor peace in five days, even though you were allotted five months.

2) No Thursday Night Football.  You are not bringing more exposure to the most popular sports league by shoving it on a cable package that few households own and relegating those households to enjoy 49ers at Seahawks.  Save Thursdays for Opening Night, Thanksgiving, maybe a Thursday special in December, but nothing more.

3) Expand the playoffs by one team.  Home field advantage is not the prize it once was (see 2010 Green Bay Packers, 2007 NY Giants, 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers.)  Players crave time off and more money.  Give the number one seed the luxury of the only bye week in the conference playoffs and have seeds 2 through 7 duke it out with Saturday and Sunday tripleheaders!  More games on television means more revenue and more playoff bonuses.

4) Free Parking.  Yes, it sounds a bit crazy and near impossible.  But try it for a couple games and watch what happens.  Your stadium experience will immediately be improved when fans start their game day ritual without having to worry about dropping $30 for parking.  Attendance will improve, fans will be rowdier, and season-ticket waiting lists will become special, again.  It's a small gesture to the fans that, no longer how poorly or wonderfully your team is playing, we want you here.

5) Please fix overtime.  My plan - (1) 10-minute overtime quarter - play the entire 10 minutes with regular rules.  If the game is tied after the 10-minute overtime, the team with the ball retains the ball, but must begin on their own 30-yard line.  Now the game is sudden death - no clock needed.  The coin toss no longer decides most of the outcome, it eliminates any tie games, it places value on overtime in the regular season, and it rewards teams for keeping possession of the football, not just lining-up for a field goal.

I doubt any of these will happen, but if the league were truly devoted to the fan experience, including more play on the field without expanding the schedule to 18 games, it will consider alternative ways to make its product better without watering it down. 

Here's hoping we don't have to suffer through another NFL offseason like 2011.  If we do, I don't think the masses will be as quick to embrace the league like we are currently.  Maybe Goddell and others will take the necessary steps to make the product for the fans better rather than posturing through the business of the league.
Don't you dare...
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