By Ann Liguori
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The heart of the NFL labor negotiations will have owners and players attempting to decide how to split nine billion dollars in annual NFL revenue. Wow. That’s quite a nice problem to have, don’t you think? Both owners and players should be thrilled that the NFL is the highest grossing sport in America and do everything possible to ensure it remains that way by making decisions that will not alienate the millions of fans who are the reason the league thrives.
So here’s my advice, as both sides need to maintain a certain perspective throughout this long process: Don’t take the popularity of your sport for granted!
All the posturing that takes place from both sides with very little progress gets very frustrating and turns off fans. Fans really don’t want to deal with these issues nor care too much about the specifics of these contract negotiations. They just want to watch their favorite players produce exciting plays with winning results.
It’s unfortunate that labor negotiations often require work stoppages, strikes and lockouts before anything gets done. Through the years, even though the NFL and other sports have remained popular, there are a percentage of fans who get so turned off with the entire process, they drop their support.
And from a sports talk show host and reporter’s standpoint, I can’t think of a more dreaded topic in sports to deal with. I remember covering the NFL players’ strike in 1987 and the MLB work stoppage that wiped out the 1994 World Series. It’s a dreadful assignment unless you love to wait around for days and days with no news. I can remember waiting outside the MLBPA office building for hours upon hours, camping out on the sidewalk with other reporters day after day in 1994, waiting for then MLBPA head Donald Fehr to come out and make a statement. The challenge was taking 30 minutes of “attorney speak” and selecting a ten second sound bite to incorporate in a 30 second report that made sense to listeners. That was the fun part, creating these reports, even though the sound bites rarely revealed much. It became an art form to turn what was said into an interesting, meaningful report until some major news was announced.
Perhaps both sides have learned from the past that preventing any interruptions in the season is counter- productive, particularly in a struggling economy. While the two sides attempt to pound out an agreement, the following seem to be no brainers:
-NFL players should have guaranteed contracts.
-The NFL season does not need to be lengthened. The current schedule works.
-The league should take better care of former players, increasing the benefits of the older players who did not earn high salaries when they played.
-More needs to be done in terms of protecting players from head injuries and caring for retired players who suffer from post concussion syndrome and other ailments related to their football careers.
How to divide the 9 billion dollars in annual revenue? I’ll never forget the advice my dear Aunt Theresa gave me when I asked how she and Uncle Dom stayed married for fifty years! She said, “Give and take.” And Uncle Dom replied, “Overlook.” Simple advice yet brilliant for success in any relationship even between owners and players.
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