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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

NFL CBA B$ - Let's make a deal...

This is it. No, really. This really is it, the final day of decision for the NFL team owners. It's now or never. They either hold their noses and ratify a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, or they start down the long painful path to NFL Armageddon.

I'm hoping that the owners take the deal, even though, from what I've read, they don't particularly care for the offer they are being made. From this fan's perspective, I don't really care how all that money is divided up, all I care about is that the game is not interrupted and that it's integrity remains intact. For that to happen, that means there needs to be a salary cap.

It would be a shame if the NFL were to devolve into what Major League Baseball has become, where select teams, such as the Yankees and the Red Sox, teams with money to spend, are the perennial contenders year in and year out, while the majority of the teams, teams with far less money to spend, wind up as continual also-rans.

If you are a fan of the Washington Redskins, a team with a George Steinbrenner like owner in Dan Snyder, an owner with plenty of money and no apparent problem with throwing large amounts of it around, maybe an uncapped NFL is a future that you would like to see come to fruition, but what if you are a fan of a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars? Do you really want to see your NFL team turn into the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of football, a team that seems to have no hope of ever keeping up with the big boys of MLB? Or maybe you'd like to compare your NFL team to the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that puts up a fight every year, but continually ends up in the middle of the pack. Buffalo Bills fans, can you picture that scenario?

From my standpoint as a Pats fan, I want to see the NFL continue with a salary cap in place, but I'm confident that my team will be ok either way. The Pats have shown that they know how to be successful within the Salary Cap system, and if it were removed, I'm sure the Krafts would make good use of their money and bring the best players they could to New England.

I will admit, there is a greedy, stupid little part of me that would love to see this happen, because in an uncapped NFL, The Pats would be able to remain as one of those upper-echelon teams for many years to come, but the football fan in me is thinking about the big picture, and the game of football itself, and I know that without a salary cap, the overall quality of the game would begin to decline.

The thing that makes the NFL the greatest of the professional sports leagues is the quality of the competition every week. The NFL is the only pro game that I will watch, even if my team is not playing in the game. I will sit down on a Sunday afternoon and thoroughly enjoy watching a K.C. vs Jets or Atlanta vs. Green Bay game. And while I may occasionally watch an NHL game featuring a team other than the Boston Bruins, simply because I enjoy the game of hockey, I can't say that about baseball or basketball. I would never sit down to watch a baseball game not featuring the Red Sox or a basketball game not featuring the Celts. There's just not enough interest in the sport itself there for me.

In the NFL, it is different. In the NFL, every team has a chance to win, every week, regardless of the win-loss record. In the NFL, every year there is a chance that this could be the year for your team to win a championship, even if your team went 2-14 the previous season. Only in the NFL can a team go 5-11 one year and then the following year, win the league Championship. Stuff like that just does not happen in the other professional sports leagues.

Hopefully the NFL owners do the right thing, take the deal and stay on the path of football goodness that currently exists with a salary cap in place.

Unfortunately, putting my faith in a bunch of very, very rich men to cooperate with each other and share their money for the good of the game does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling, but I'm hoping that at the end of the day, the NFL owners will recognize what is at stake.


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