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Let’s not be too gleeful at the NFL’s labor issues, baseball fans

Mar 11, 2011, 9:30 AM EDT

NFL Lockout Looms As Negotiations Reach Final Day Getty Images

I’m not at all comfortable with the glee some in the baseball world have had at the NFL’s labor issues. I mean, no, I really don’t care about the NFL all that much in and of itself and won’t miss it if it’s gone, but the situation is ugly there and I tend to think that when bad things happen in other sports that it’s bad for baseball in some way too.

Part of this is because I think the division between sports fans and non-sports fans is more significant than the division between baseball fans and, say, football fans. Because of this, I worry that if football’s ills turn people off, it risks turning them off sports, not just off football. Likewise, to the extent there is litigation between the NFL players and the league, it will likely have implications for labor relations in other sports too, so baseball fans do have a stake in all of this.

So no, my interest in the NFL’s labor situation has not been one borne of schadenfreude.  It’s been more of cautious curiosity and at least a mild bit of trepidation.

Against that backdrop comes a thought-provoking article from Larry at IIATMS, in which he talks about how the existence of the salary cap is so central to the current NFL battle and how, if baseball had one like so many people want, it would likely make its labor problems worse, not better.  It’s worth a read, especially if you’ve found yourself engaged in the salary cap wars over the past 15 years or so.

The larger lesson to take from this is that there really aren’t any panaceas in this world.  Things that solve problem X always — always — lead to unintended consequence Y. Those consequences may be minor or they may be major, but the point is that anyone who says that any given course of action would cure all of a complicated system’s ills is pretty much full of it.

  1. BC - Mar 11, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    If you think the NFL situation is bad, read up on the NBA situation. The NBA is going to go bye-bye for a long time. And, you’ll likely lose 2 to 4 teams. THAT one is going to be protracted and ugly.

    • Jeremiah Graves - Mar 11, 2011 at 9:51 AM

      the NBA?!

      …that’s still a thing?!

      • BC - Mar 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM

        Well, until June anyway. Then its, sayonara.
        I only pay attention when the Celtics are relevant. It’s 6th on my list of sports anyway (NFL, NASCAR, Baseball, College Basketball, College Football all beat it), only beating out the NHL and Curling (which I do think is pretty cool though).

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:19 AM

        Yeah, those brooms are fun, we use them for 4 game sweeps of the Red Sox in July.

      • marinersnate - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:42 PM

        “Yeah, those brooms are fun, we use them for 4 game sweeps of the Red Sox in July.”

        Yep. I bet the Red Sox are just crying at the thought of having to face the combo of AJ, Garcia, and Colon/Nova in three of those four games.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:31 AM

      I vote to get rid of the Lakers and the Heat.

      • BC - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:56 AM

        I vote to get rid of the Lakers, Spurs, Heat, Bulls and Magic. I want to see the Celtics grab one more before everyone retires.

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:03 PM

        I’d join in, but I don’t think we have one of those NBA teams around here.

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:07 PM

        As a Sixers um…uh…well…er, fan, I guess, I most certainly don’t want to see the Micks win again. It’s time for the Collins boys to keep their run going all the way through the Finals in August…or September…or whenever the hell basketball ends.

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        Len, (pick either Carmelo/Deron) just heard you say that and has demanded to be traded.

  2. yankeesfanlen - Mar 11, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    I like the idea of owners running willy-nilly and insulting each other, complaining about profitable small teams, lamenting the loss of key players to richer teams and generally running amok. Then the players play this confusion for all it’s worth, with handy guys like Scott Boras around, and hone their talents and skill levels to maximize their individual earnings.
    Trying to even the playing field financially leaves less motivation to increase total revenue. I don’t know what would be worse, the Pirates spending $200M, the Yankees $40M, or everyone $100M.

    • florida76 - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      The NFL will figure out this current labor problem, and come up with a reasonable solution for both sides. Whatever happens, you won’t see a Steinbrenner situation, or teams dismantling like you see in MLB.

      Regarding the author’s idea for increased revenue sharing to substitute for a salary cap, the figure would have to be high enough to be effective. We can’t continue to see teams with payrolls close to $200M, while others are much lower. It’s fundamentally unfair to have that kind of disparity, even a child can see that.

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        When small teams do not spend the money in the pool toward improving their team, that’s not disparity, that’s avarice. You ascribe that to the Yankees while failing to see it in the “poor teams”.

      • pwf207 - Mar 11, 2011 at 1:02 PM

        the owners in the NFL negotiated a salary cap not out of concerns about competitiveness but to put a cap on the most substantial portion of their costs, that is player salaries. that is why they are negotiating over the distribution of a billion dollars right now. the owners have at most a passing concern with competitiveness, see Loria, Jeffrey and whoever owns the Pirates among others. no one at the bargaining table during these CBA negotiations cares about fan concerns beyond how they impact revenue generated. these are private for-profit businesses, they are not in this to make you happy your home town team won a tournament, they are in it to make money and increase their social status and prestige.

      • frug - Mar 11, 2011 at 4:20 PM

        I’d be shocked if there is any substantial increase in revenue sharing since 90% of the money paid out under the current agreement comes from only 4 teams (Yanks, Mets, Red Sox and Cubs).

  3. scapistron - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    I’d love to see all of the undrafted players form their own union prior to the draft. I think it is terrible that a union you are not yet a part of gets to determine how you should be compensated.

    • sportsdrenched - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:17 AM

      Why? They haven’t done anything at the MLB level at that point.

      Unions have their place, but I think you should actually contribute to the Unions trade before belonging to one.

      • scapistron - Mar 11, 2011 at 11:39 AM

        Lets say for example you graduate college and go off to be an accountant. Though in this world the accountants have all formed a union, and during their negotiations with the firms one of the concessions they made to ownership was that all the new accountants coming in will be paid minimum wage for 3 years before they can start moving up the pay scale. And in return you pay all of your current accountants more.

        Does that really sound right to you?

      • Utley's Hair - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:10 PM

        Wow…you have a really warped vision of what minimum wage is.

      • scapistron - Mar 11, 2011 at 3:02 PM

        Its my wrapped little make believe world to make a point. The value of the wage itself is not the point, it is that a group to which you are not a part of is using your potential earnings as a bargaining chip.

  4. Utley's Hair - Mar 11, 2011 at 12:13 PM

    Wait! Craig, first you say no throwing batteries, and now THIS?!?!? This blog sucks.

  5. kindasporty - Mar 11, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    I don’t understand why anyone would take glee in another’s struggles. Baseball and football are not directly competing. Personally I’m a fan of both but if someone else isn’t then that’s their prerogative. In no way does football hurting make being a baseball fan more pleasurable. The same could be said the other way around. I mean I don’t like NASCAR or hockey but I don’t wish that they would disappear.

  6. frug - Mar 11, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    NFLPA has officially filed for decertification according to ESPN.

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