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Pro Football: Was that the last Super Bowl?

March 16, 2011 |  1:05 pm

Roger Goodell

And you thought the Wisconsin labor union battle was tough. Wait until there's no Super Bowl --  uh, make that Super Bowl XLVI -- next year.

Somewhat lost in this hectic news week has been the breakdown in talks over a new contract between the NFL Players Assn. and NFL owners.

If you're like most casual fans, you may have trouble understanding the issues. So here's a primer:

On one side are super-rich guys, called owners. How rich? Well, there are 32 NFL teams, and every one of them is ranked in Forbes' list of the top 50 sports franchises in the world. The Dallas Cowboys, in fact, are the second-most-valuable sports franchise in the world, at $1.65 billion, Forbes says.

How good do the owners have it? Here's what Richard Walden, head of sports finance at JPMorgan Chase, said: "I've never seen an NFL team lose money."

On the other side are the more-normal rich guys, called players. How rich?  The minimum salary is $325,000. Stars, of course, earn much more: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets $18 million a year.

What are they fighting over?  The league splits $9.3 billion in revenue. The owners want more of it.  The players don't want to give up their share. 

In between are the chumps -- er, I mean, the fans -- who ultimately provide that $9.3 billion. 

Oh, and the owners want to play 18 games instead of 16, which the players don't want to do, because most of the players are so beaten up by the time their careers are over that the phrase "walking away from the game" is a bad joke.

Anyway, there's a lot more legal stuff going on, but it's boring. It boils down to this: the two rich sides aren't talking anymore. 

Like in any labor dispute, though, sacrifices must be made.

For example, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and league general counsel Jeff Pash are slashing their salaries to $1 each until there's a settlement. Goodell earns about $10 million a year, including bonuses, and Pash nearly $5 million. Hopefully they have enough saved up to get them over the hump.

And on the player's side, the union has issued a 64-page handbook that offers money-saving tips. Mostly normal, common-sense stuff like:

-- Reduce the size of your entourage. 

-- Hold off on buying motorized toys and expensive jewelry,

-- If you go out, remember to "leave the club with your wallet and budget intact." And when socializing, do so "with a purpose," such as dining out to network.

-- Say "no" or "not now" to money requests from family and friends.

-- Don't "pay friends to perform work that you can easily do."

Still, as you can imagine, feelings are raw. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, for example, described the players' situation this way:  

 "It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money ... the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money. I understand that; these are business-minded people.... But as players, we have to stand our ground and say, 'Hey -- without us, there's no football.' "

Peterson makes about $10 million a year.

Personally, I'm on Peterson's side (not the slavery part; just in general; as the son of a union man, I always take the side of the working man).

Besides, the players may think they're rich now, but as Times columnist Bill Plaschke wrote, "a study showed that 78% of NFL players are either bankrupt, divorced or unemployed within two years after the end of their career."

I doubt that's true of any of the owners. 


NFL stadium: A near-unanimous nay by letter writers

L.A. should follow the cheeseheads

Pro football in L.A.: Paging James Cameron

Cartoon: Pitching a professional foosball team for L.A.

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, joined at left by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson,  speaks with reporters at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington on Friday. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Opinion L.A.

Observations and provocations
from The Times' Opinion staff

March 16, 2011 buzz: Sex, lies and faith

Most viewed: Secrecy won't heal a sex scandal

The names of church officials should be included on the confidential documents to make good on the L.A. archdiocese's vow of transparency and accountability in its pledge to help heal old wounds, writes the editorial board. Is new Archbishop Jose Gomez up to the task?

Most commented: Republicans: Why stop lying on the way to the White House?

What do Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Rick Santorum all have in common? (No, it doesn't involve Fox News' payroll.)

Most shared: Shaking open our self-centered eyes

"The key is not to rid ourselves of seeing the world in human terms," writes Fenton Johnson, author of "Keeping Faith: A Skeptic's Journey Among Christian and Buddhist Monks." He continues:

We're imaginative creatures, our imaginations are where our greatest fun lies, and besides, we comprehend the universe by placing it in a box whose boundaries and metaphors we draw from human experience. We don't need to abandon anthropomorphism, but we desperately need a bit of distance from the tendency to see the world through our inevitably self-centered eyes.

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Abortion. Again. Still. Always?

Curious, isn't it? Conservatives in the "tea party" and beyond are ardently committed to undoing the healthcare law that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama about a year ago. Watch out, they warn! It comes between doctors and patients! It takes away choice from patients! It lets politicians and bureaucrats dictate treatment! How un-American!

Well, looky here, America.

Conservative legislators in a score of states are trying to do exactly what they profess to despise: to step between doctors and female patients, to take away choice from female patients, to dictate treatment to female patients.

South Dakota's politicians are about to require women to wait 72 hours after they see a doctor before they can go ahead with an abortion. Women will have to have mandatory counseling at a crisis pregnancy clinic that, in all likelihood, is one of those places where women are only "counseled" not to have an abortion. No, no, says one influential supporter of this law. This isn't pressuring someone not to have an abortion. It's just a free second opinion!

Ohio is debating whether to prohibit women from having abortions at all if there's a detectable fetal heartbeat. And in Texas, pregnant women seeking an abortion could be required, ordered, mandated -- choose your word -- to look at fetal sonograms and listen to doctors' in-depth description of them before they would be permitted to have an abortion.

Texas GOP state Rep. Sarah Davis sees the, shall we say, inconsistency of what her fellow Republicans are trying to do. As she said in a statement, "To me, the issue at stake was not about abortion, but about the role of government in our personal lives. I was compelled to seek office following the passage of 'ObamaCare,' as I am vehemently against the government involving itself in our healthcare decisions. The Sonogram Bill does just that -- government interference with the doctor-patient relationship.''

Across the aisle there in Austin, Democratic Rep. Marisa Marquez gigged the opposition by introducing an amendment mandating that if a woman who is forced to watch a sonogram decides to go through with her pregnancy, she can get a court order to require the father to get a vasectomy -- if he's already fathered at least two other out-of-wedlock children.

As the Dallas Morning News reported, female legislators on both sides of the aisle applauded.


Chipping away abortion rights

Congress versus Planned Parenthood: Game on?

Women's rights: Let's abort the bills proposed by Christopher H. Smith, Joe Pitts and Mike Pence

-- Patt Morrison

Dust-Up: Should the entertainment industry accept piracy as a cost of doing business? [Round 2]

Piracy-ComputerIn the first installment of our piracy Dust-Up, Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, and Andrew Keen, advisor to Arts and Labs, debated how big a risk piracy poses to the entertainment industry. Voicing the opinion of many Internet users and online entrepreneurs, Feld said it was time for the industry to adapt. Keen disagreed and argued for more legal protection,  not just for Hollywood but for the independent filmmakers and copyright holders who'll be driven away if piracy continues.

Today they face off on whether piracy should be accepted as a cost of doing business.

Says Feld:

[L]earning to accept some losses as a cost of doing business, just as retailers do with shoplifting, opens up doors to billions of dollars in new sales. Crushing Napster didn’t help the music industry, but embracing iTunes did.

Says Keen:

No, nothing -- especially complex legislation over a subject as controversial as online intellectual property -- is ever perfect. But, as a legal scholar, Harold knows better than me that man-made laws are, by definition, imperfect. Yet that shouldn't mean that we surrender to the online thieves by treating piracy as a "cost of doing business" and simply write off the billions of dollars lost every year to the American entertainment industry as an unavoidable misfortune, like a plague of locusts or that proverbial bolt of lightning from the heavens.

Continue reading Round 2 of their debate after the jump.

In case you missed it: How big a risk does piracy pose to the entertainment industry? [Round 1]

Check back Thursday: What's the true impact of illegal downloading on jobs and the arts? [Round 3]

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Fernando Capristan and Elena Campillo use links through websites at Emule and RapidShare to download movies in Spain. Credit: Angel Navarrete

Continue reading »

Politics: Recalls are busting out all over

Carlos Alvarez An angry electorate is not a patient electorate. Hence the profusion of recall elections at the local and state level across the country, including one Tuesday on whether to recall Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas. The two drew the ire of billionaire car dealer (and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles) Norman Braman, who helped fund the recall effort, because they supported a 14% increase in the county's property tax rate and a pay raise for county employees.

It's fairly easy to follow a single recall effort, particularly when it's happening in your community, but keeping track of them all? That's a job for someone like Joshua Spivak, a scholar of U.S. recalls who's a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York. Now Spivak has loosed his expertise on the blogosphere, launching The Recall Elections Blog.

Here's how Spivak described his efforts in an e-mail. Note how he debunks the "angry electorate" meme I relied on at the top of this very post (my bad!):

Wisconsin, Miami and other jurisdictions have led some to cite a wave of unprecedented voter anger as being the cause of the revitalization of the recall. This is a strange assertion as it ignores more important developments, primarily technological changes, which suggest that the recall is now coming into its own and, barring changes in the law, will continue to grow in use nationwide.

The recall is also interesting from a theoretical perspective as it puts a heavy thumb on the scale of one of the fundamental "irresistible force v. immovable object" questions of representative democracy, namely, whether an elected official should act as a trustee and vote his own opinion, or perform as a delegate and vote according to the wishes of his constituency.

I intend to use the blog to critically examine the latest updates on recalls happening across the nation, the history of the device, provide a detailed examination for state legislative recalls that have taken place up till now, and look at some of the big historical figures involved with the recall.

The near-existential question he raised about the proper role of elected representatives is, to me, the most interesting one raised by the recall phenomenon. Anyway, if you're interested in what's happening in Miami, Wisconsin or anywhere else the ground is crumbling under officeholders, check out Spivak's blog. It's young yet -- he started it last week -- but it's a wonderful topic.

-- Jon Healey

 Photo: Miami Mayor (for now) Carlos Alvarez. Credit: Associated Press

Republicans: Why stop lying on the way to the White House?

As my colleague Dan Turner noted previously, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann's worst blunders have less to do with historical trivia than her willingness to propagate outrageous lies, including the myths of President Obama's "death panels" (which she didn't invent but was happy to retell) and that lavish trip to Asia that supposedly cost taxpayers $200 million a day. Bachmann isn't alone among fellow 2012 GOP hopefuls. Separately, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee entertained conspiracy-like theories related to Kenya; Sarah Palin midwifed the "death panels" canard; and Rick Santorum, he of "man-on-dog" infamy, accused the president of supporting infanticide.  

Mythomania aside, what do they all have in common? (No, it doesn't involve Fox News' payroll.) According to a new Gallup poll, those five bomb-throwers have the biggest shares of devoted followers among the 2012 GOP field:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leads the field of possible GOP presidential candidates in "positive intensity" among Republicans nationwide with a score of +25 among Republicans who are familiar with him, followed by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with a score of +20. Huckabee is recognized by 87% of Republicans, compared with Bachmann's 52%. A number of other possible Republican presidential candidates trail these two in Positive Intensity Scores, including Sarah Palin, who is the best known of the group.


It's tempting to dismiss the poll as a symptom of early-primary politics, which often favor a party's less centrist elements (Howard Dean, anyone?). John McCain, after all, was the subject of numerous political obituaries before coming back to snag his party's nod. But the hopefuls in the 2012 GOP field have something important in common with McCain: They're running against the incumbent. McCain had always traded heavily on his willingnes to oppose a fellow Republican in the White House, which served him well politically (in the primaries, anyway) when that Republican's poll ratings dipped to Nixonian lows.

The 2012 race shaped up into a contest on the incumbent not long after Obama emptied his boxes in the Oval Office. The Romneys, Pawlentys and other less galvanizing technocrats can try to wait out this wave of GOP populism, but it has been the hyperbole and, yes, lies from the Bachmanns and Palins that have added weight to the president's falling poll numbers. In playing a huge part in weakening the incumbent and boosting the chances of Mitt Romney et al in the general election, the "tea party" favorites have turned themselves into formidable opponents for their more qualified Republican pragmatists to overcome.  

With results like these (so far, anyway), why quit fibbing?


Politicians: It's not the gaffes, it's the lies

Fact-checking Michele Bachmann: What good is it?

Fox News pulls Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum off the air because of their interest in running for president

-- Paul Thornton 

March 15, 2011 buzz: Exploiting Japan's tragedy? And a feasible way for conflict resolution between Israel and Palestine?

Most viewed and shared: Talk about a meltdown

In his Tuesday column, Jonah Goldberg wishes that politicians and activists wouldn't use Japan's nuclear plant crisis to bolster their own policy agendas.

"A crisis," Rahm Emanuel famously declared in the early days of the Obama administration, "is a terrible thing to waste."

That this axiom didn't generate more controversy always struck me as bizarre. I mean, shouldn't it be "a crisis is a terrible thing to exploit"?

Most commented: A fatal Israeli-Palestinian flaw

The board's editorial about the "self-destructive tit-for-tat mentality" that continues the cycle of conflict between Israel and Palestine has received a lot of responses. Here's one from "Archibald" who wishes more people would recognize our "common humanity" as a way to move toward peace.

For some, Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, and posters here, what I will suggest will be impossible: To recognize our common humanity. If you grieve and demand revenge for the murdered children of Itamar but do not grieve the murdered children of Sabra and Chatila Massacres or vice-versa, then you are part of the cycle of violence. The reason that recognizing our common humanity should be evident, but I will elucidate the point: Killing a person requires that one person believes that the other person is less than human and thus deserves death. It is harder for one person to kill another person. Recognizing our common humanity will not resolve all the problems, but Palestinians recognizing Israeli security needs while Israelis merely recognizing the Palestinian people right to exist would be small steps toward a just peace.

--Alexandra Le Tellier

March Madness: Everyone into the office pool

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