Pro Football: Was that the last Super Bowl?
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.
-- 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