Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Superbowl Sunday: Greedy players, greedier owners, and seven-layer dip

As many of us are well aware, Sunday marks America's unofficial sports holiday, a national daylong fest of gluttony and television watching (two of my preferred activities any time of the year).

Most refer to it as Superbowl Sunday. Others may dub it "National I-really-have-to-pee-but-I-can't-leave-the-room-because-the-commercials-are-better-than-the-game" Day, or "Why-don't-I-just-forget-about-the-chips-and-eat-the-dip-with-a-spoon" Day. But, for whatever moniker we may opt, it's a great excuse to gather with friends and family and waste an entire Sunday in the name of huge men hurling their bodies at each other in pursuit of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Among all this warm and fuzzy revelry, however, a storm of labor unrest is a brewin' in the National Football League. The league's collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the 2010-11 season, and both the players' union and the owners are sparring over a new pact. In 2008, the league grossed approximately $6 billion in operating revenue, of which the players' union received and divvied up approximately 60%. Sounds pretty good to me.

The owners are now proposing an 18% reduction in revenue share for the players. They claim that since their group assumes 100% of the cost, they should not be compelled to forfeit 60% of the proceeds. The players' union, while pointing out that they are not only the workers, but also the product, are pushing for a five-year extension to the existing agreement. Management, in the words of famed broadcaster Keith Jackson, have barked out, "Whoa, Nelly!"

I've got quite a problem with both sides in this matter; we're talking about billionaires using their leverage against millionaires. America has a checkered history visa vie labor/management relations—we were industrialized through the exploitation of slaves, immigrants and children. The unions have made massive strides in defining fair wages and labor law, and many of our ancestors were harmed in this struggle. In addition, a new sector of our population, known as the middle class, emerged as a direct result of organized labor.

Are we comparing apples to apples when it comes to this battle of entertainment industry giants versus coal miners in Kentucky? I think not, so here's my solution for owners and players alike:

Unless you want to completely alienate that guy from Pittsburgh, who paints his face, straps on his foam finger and spends his living wages on eight dollar beers at the stadium, just extend your existing agreement. It's like when that favorite pair of pleated, gabardine slacks develops a hole in its crotch, you march right down to Penney's and buy a new pair just like it.

Come on, owners and players. It's not broken. Don't try to fix it.

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