(Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The conversation among patrons of the bar Third and Long in Manhattan frequently revolves around sports, but only lately have they taken a more somber note. As the NFL lockout continues, the threat of a lost season grows daily and fans are forced to face the realities of the situation: a lost season could be catastrophic for fans and companies in the football business and would also affect cancer research, the fate of inner-city youths and the well-being of the world’s poorest citizens.

“When you go into the bar and listen to customers, they are all talking about it,” said Curtis Lanton, manager of Third and Long. “It’s a bunch of egotistical millionaires fighting over millions of dollars and the blue-collar fans are frustrated.”

A lost season would mean more than just disappointment for the avid fans.

“NFL Sundays are our biggest day by far,” Lanton said. “A lost season would definitely put a hurt on us as a neighborhood sports bar.”

Business on an NFL Sunday is nearly 70 percent higher than a typical Sunday for Michael Sinensky, who owns the popular Village Pourhouse sports bars, as well as sideBAR, in New York City.

“It could be the nail in the coffin for many bars,” he said. “It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, especially with the way the economy is. A lot of people would be hurt by a lockout and it just shows that the players and owners aren’t thinking about anybody else affected by this. A lost NFL season would be devastating.”

A lost season would also hurt the fight against cancer. Without an NFL season, there wouldn’t be a single bone-crushing hit on the field. And with bone-crushing hits come the hypocritical fines from the NFL. On one Sunday last season, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, New England safety Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson were fined a combined $175,000 for violent hits.

This fine money is divided among three charities, one of which is the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Care Center. The NFL accumulates approximately $3 million a year in on-field fine money, which is a lot of Cancer Care. On the surface, a James Harrison devastating hit is cheered by fans, debated by sports columnists and, ultimately (after the fine comes down) fussed about by players. But each hit also puts money towards charity and cancer research, which is another thing to remember when a player is rendered momentarily unconscious. Maybe Harrison hits so hard because he has a big heart and knows it’s going to have an impact beyond the game. Or maybe not. We won’t know without an NFL season.

A lost season could also stretch deep into NFL communities. Athletes do dumb things, like when Brett Favre took a cell-phone picture of his penis and sent it to a woman working for the New York Jets. The NFL fined him $50,000 for the text.

Off-field NFL fine money goes to a variety of charities, including many community-based organizations. So it’s likely that his text message not only sexually harassed a young woman, but it also built a field for inner-city kids. A determined young boy might have been able to avoid gangs and make something of himself through football thanks to one grainy cell-phone text message.

Without an NFL season, players won’t rack up fines for idiotic actions and as a result, some at-risk youths could become at-bigger-risk youths. And it doesn’t stop there. The NFL lockout even stretches into the poorest corners of this planet.

Unless you’ve been to Nambia, you probably don’t know little Sonkwe. He is one of thousands of children sporting a Pittsburgh Steelers Superbowl XLV Champions t-shirt. For the last 15 years, the NFL has donated the championship apparel from the losing Super Bowl team to WorldVision, a charity that distributes the 100,000 t-shirts, sweatshirts and other items to some of the neediest citizens around the world. Sonkwe can literally clothe himself in Ben Roethlisburger’s inadequacy.

If the NFL lockout cancels the season, this doesn’t happen. There is no 2012 Super Bowl. There are no t-shirts to send to Armenia, Nicaragua and other impoverished countries we don’t hear about until someone gives them stuff we don’t want. Sonkwe would be forced to clothe himself (metaphorically, this time) in Roethlisburger’s critical thinking skills, which are as flimsy as the Zambian economy.

And, most importantly, a lockout means millions of football fans don’t get the Sunday escape that is so important.

“The blue-collar guys struggling to make ends meet look forward to Sundays as an escape from our mundane lives, and that could be taken away by guys fighting over millions of dollars,” said Lanton, a Cleveland Browns fans.

Added Sinesky: “When the lockout ends, I’m going to do my own touchdown dance.”

Mark Chalifoux is a contributing writer to CBS Local and can be reached at mark.chalifoux@gmail.com

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