NFL Economics – - And Some Other Stuff Too

It’s time for some NFL commentary – - even if you will have to excuse me for not focusing on the workout stats for players at the NFL Combine. The NFL Network (NFLN) has not become the universally accepted sports property that the owners envisioned it would become when they launched the idea. Most of the big cable systems have stiff-armed the NFL’s demands that they make NFLN part of their basic package while the NFL still intended to charge the operators a hefty subscriber fee. And then in December last year, the network made what seemed to be a good PR move by making the final regular season game between the 15-0 Pats and the NY Giants available to everyone by putting it on network over-the-air TV too.

Fans who paid extra for the channel felt as if they had been betrayed. Much worse, those carriers who put NFLN in the basic package felt hosed – - and carriers have the means to “get even”. Dish Network used to offer NFLN as part of the basic satellite TV package; not any more, they don’t. As of today, Dish Network has moved NFLN up to a higher level of subscription and the basic result is that NFLN is now available in even fewer households. There are 113 million households in the US with TVs; in the wake of the Dish Network change in service, NFLN is now available in only 31 million; that’s less than 28% for those of you keeping score at home.

There is talk that the NFL owners might opt to negate some of the final years of the current CBA sometime later this year meaning that 2009 would be a normal season and 2010 would be an “uncapped year” – - because the only reason a salary cap exists and is permissible under anti-trust laws is that the union and management have bargained to create it and its limitations. Then comes the “threat” of a lockout in 2011.

Folks, if the NFL owners and the NFLPA are stupid enough to get to the point of a lockout, each and every one of them should be branded as dumb enough to take an hour to cook Minute Rice. This is an “industry” that generates billions of dollars of revenue per year, humongous profits for the owners and outrageous salaries for the players. If all those folks cannot figure out how to keep milking that cash cow, they should all be taken away and isolated from the rest of humanity lest they contaminate the gene pool. Have any of the people involved in decision making here noticed how great things are for the NHL after they lost a season to a lockout about 3 years ago?

Allow me to give you a minor example of the amount of money involved with the NFL that goes above and beyond the reporting of player contracts. Once the new Cowboys’ stadium is finished in Texas, some of the fans there will be asked to fork over $150K as a “personal seat license fee”. For that $150K, they get one thing and one thing only’; they then have the option to purchase season tickets for that seat at $340 per game. Oh yes, exhibition games in August will be mandatory buys. Can you imagine what the Cowboys might be thinking of charging their fans if they had actually put teams on the field sometime in the last decade that had actually won a playoff game?

In the Cowboys’ current venue, lower level club seats from end-zone to end-zone cost $130 per game; all of them will cost $340 per game in the new stadium; in round numbers, that is a 150% price increase. And those $150K seat licenses represent a more than minor increase over each and every other seat license fee in the NFL; currently, the most expensive ones are in Carolina where they cost $12K. The Cowboys could take in $250 – 350M in seat license fees alone. Now, tell me again how any of the “economic issues” are so thorny that they cannot be resolved in time to assure that this kind of cash tsunami remains uninterrupted…

Rex Grossman will be back with the Bears next year – - but he only has a one-year deal. I must say that I don’t get that. If the guy whom you project to be a major competitor for your starting QB job is not worth at least a three-year deal, why do you think he can be your starting QB? Let me say that if he is indeed the starting QB, Rex Grossman puts a huge burden on the Bears’ defensive unit. How does he do that?

    Winning in the NFL relates closely to winning the turnover battle in any given game.

    In his last 24 games, Rex Grossman has thrown 27 INTs and fumbled the ball 14 times. Even if the Bears only lost half of those fumbles, Grossman turns the ball over about 1.5 times per game.

    So – - – the Bears defense starts out needing to get 2 turnovers every game just to be “competitive”. That’s a lot of pressure on the defense.

I need to comment on reports related to Oregon QB, Dennis Dixon. Before I get nasty e-mail/comments from Oregon fans about how heartless I am or how I might be a racist because I thought it possible to make negative comments about a Black quarterback, please recall that I said that Oregon suffered a humongous setback when it had a shot at the BCS championship game once Dennis Dixon was injured. I said he was the guy who made that offense run; he was their most valuable player. I do not deny for an instant that he has some major football skills.

HOW-EVAH, [/Stephen A. Smith] Dennis Dixon did himself no favors at all in terms of his draft standing when reports surfaced in Oregon papers that Dixon and Darius Miles went to a Portland strip club together recently. While I do not frequent strip clubs, I have no problem with men who find that kind of thing entertaining. I would always rather watch a good game on TV; but that’s just me. The problem for Dennis Dixon here is the company he kept that evening – - and I do not refer to any of the women whose chosen profession is to take their clothes off as a way to entertain the “gentlemen” in the house.

Dennis Dixon has been in Oregon for the last four years. He has made the academic all-conference team; so, he is not a dumb-bunny. And so he has to know that going out on the town with Darius Miles anywhere in Oregon is tantamount to keeping bad company. Dennis Dixon is rehabbing his knee at the moment so NFL teams may have some questions about his football readiness; the last thing he needed to do is give them reason to question his judgment. But he did just that.

Because the Washington Redskins control the news coming out of their organization almost as tightly as did Sadaam Hussein just before and during the Iraq hostilities, it’s hard to know what is real and what is PR spin. But there are reports that the reason that Jim Zorn and Greg Blache were hired as offensive and defensive coordinators in the first place was because head coaching candidate Jim Fassel said those were the guys he would target if he got the head-coaching job. Having heard that and then acted on his suggestion/advice, the Redskins’ brass then also decided that Jim Fassel was not the guy to be the head coach of the team – - and so they goosed Jim Zorn up into that head-coaching role and then hired a new offensive coordinator.

Look, I have no idea if Jim Zorn will be a great NFL head coach or if he will be a huge hiring error. By the way, neither does anyone else; the jury will probably not be in on that question for at least two seasons – - assuming that the Skins have too much talent to do a 1-15 snooze-fest as did the Dolphins for Cam “One-And-Done” Cameron. But does any of this make any logical sense to you?

Finally, the reports and the commentaries related to the Patriots and “Spygate” continue to escalate and become more conspiratorial as the days go by. Here is when you’ll know that this story has taken on a life of its own:

      Senator Arlen Specter – previously a staff person for the Warren Commission – reveals that there is reason to believe that Bill Belichick was in fact on the grassy knoll in Dallas on that fateful day. He wasn’t there with a rifle; he was there with a movie camera filming everything.

      And now that you mention it, has anyone ever seen Bill Belichick and Abraham Zapruder in the same room together…?

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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