Since the owners of the NFL unanimously vetoed the expiring collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Player's Association way back in the halcyon days of 2008, there's been a thick cloud of mist shrouding just what the professional football landscape will be in the year 2011. With continued reports coming out of every mouth available parroting the woes of work stoppage, it's not looking good for Sunday football lovers. Of course, as Jason Whitlock says, this could all just be madness. It certainly ain't Sparta.
Regardless of the talking heads, the possibility is there and we have to entertain the consequences of the players not getting their fair share. The owners are taking a hard stance against what the players want (mo' money) and are seemingly willing to completely forego the 2011 season. They've already extended TV deals through and past 2011 (ironic, no?), so it isn't like they're going to be without revenue. Add to that no players clamoring for a paycheck, and you've got a whole heck of a lot of incentives for the owners.
To fully fathom what we're staring in the face right now, I'm going to take you back to 1982. I know a lot of you weren't yet born then. Heck, I wasn't either. Just humor me. Imagine turning on your TV and dialing the channel knob (or using a, gulp, wired remote) to ABC in hopes of catching some primetime MNF. Instead, you're met with Jaws II. I'd imagine you'd be pretty upset. Well, so was my Uncle. He had heard (or read, in this particular era) nothing about a player strike. Low and behold, in 82, that's exactly what the players did.
The ‘82 dispute mirrored the current situation: the NFLPA wanted a greater share of the revenues earned by the teams. The strike lasted fifty-seven days and the networks went to great (some would say terrible) lengths to provide some form of football entertainment to the masses. NBC started showing CFL games, presumably prefaced with a notice similar to "No, your TV picture is not stretched out, that's actually how wide the field is." CBS resorted to showing coverage of Division III College football, with such awesome teams as Wittenberg University and Occidental College. Oh boy! FYI, the Falcons defaulted into the playoffs that year since the season was shortened to nine games and the playoff field was expanded to sixteen teams. How'd we do? Vikings, I hate you. The Redskins eventually took home the prize.
Another 80's lockout rolled around for all of a week in 87, but it was telegraphed. The NFLPA attempted a mid-season strike and it only amounted to scab players filling in until the big boys came back to play (some notables did cross the picket lines). It lasted three weeks and gave the world the "Spare Bears" up in Chicago. Chief among the scabby forest dwellers? One Sean Payton. Surely you've heard of him. Oh, and FYI, the nearly-healing-from-the-scabs Redskins managed to finish this year on top too.
So which would be a more likely occurrence? Networks airing Huntsville Junior College Dropouts versus Folsom State Prison Roughnecks games? Jaws II? Maybe. More likely, you'll get a heavy dose of the UFL, CFL, and AFL. It'd be great exposure for those leagues, but let's be honest; no one would really care outside of the miniscule markets those leagues inhabit. Let it be known though that with a TV deal in place some form of NFL football will be aired, even if it's the latest "follies" special. So we can at least have some levity in such a trying time. Do not, however, hold out hope that the NFLPA will try to organize some form of football to be watched. They tried that in 82 and the ratings were only slightly better than cable reruns of The Jeff Foxworthy Show. Oh, and the players wouldn't have health insurance, so any injury would be totally out of pocket. Clearly put, unless signed to another league with the same benefits of the NFL, the players would have no incentive to play.
I guess the most important thing you can take away from my little history lecture is that, should a lockout occur and there is no football in 2011, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Redskins will win the Super Bowl.