The NFL Lockout Could Be a Good Thing for the Fans [On the Contrary] Jun01

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The NFL Lockout Could Be a Good Thing for the Fans [On the Contrary]

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need. Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards were on to something (though I prefer my punctuation to their delivery). It is a reassuring statement on the surface, but if you analyze it closely, you’ll see there are some qualifiers in there. “Sometimes” you’ll get what you need. Not always. The way the Rolling Stones sing it, it sounds more like you only need to try sometimes, and as long as you occasionally give a little effort your needs will be met. My version is cautiously optimistic, while still leaving the possibility that incredible effort could be met with failure to even achieve the basic necessities.

I like to call myself an optimistic pessimist. When offered the old glass of water test, I tend to see it as half empty. However, it is only half empty. It could be worse. It could be mostly empty. It could even be spilled and have nothing in it. In current culture, this approach to life is referred to as “defensive pessimism”—preparing for the worst as a way to never get blindsided by it. I prefer the “optimistic” to “defensive,” partly because as a contrarian I like paradoxes, but more so because it feels less calculated. Anyone can plan for the worst possible conclusion to be prepared for it—it’s a rational approach. But expecting the worst and then finding the bright side once those expectations are met—that’s a skill.

Which brings me to the NFL Lockout. I feel like I’ve lost all non-sports fans at this point (if they even made it this far after that headline), but just in case here is a quick recap. The NFL makes a boatload of money and profits increase every year. Right now the owners of the teams want to receive a larger share of these profits than they now have in their contract with the players union. The players are happy with their collective bargaining agreement and do not see a reason to give up any money when the sport actually grows in profits each year. Since the players won’t agree to the new contract, the owners have locked them out of the facilities, not allowing any practices and threatening the upcoming 2011 season.

We’re starting to see the effects of the lockout now, when most teams would be having mini camp practices and programs for their new draft picks. But it won’t be until August that we’ll really feel the effects. No preseason. No trips to training camp to watch practices and potentially meet future husbands (as worked out for the lucky (?) lady who is marrying Ben Roethlisberger). No “Hard Knocks” series on HBO, the only thing that made preseason football compelling. Whatever will we do?

A lockout would be a bad thing for a lot of people. It would affect a lot of livelihoods, and I’m not talking about players. Stadium workers, broadcasters, trainers, restaurateurs, and countless other unforeseen workers would be victims of a prolonged work stoppage. It would suck for them. It sucks for me, because it’s one less thing to write about here. But I think it’s extremely unlikely that the NFL will miss an entire season. There’s too much money to be made. They could be out for several weeks, which would take a toll, but hopefully not a crippling one.

What I find interesting is that the emphasis of the effect of the lockout does not seem to be on the workers. Everyone talks about the effect on the fans. It’s a testament to how self-centered we are, and how consumer-oriented the culture is. Now this is really not news to anyone, but I would posit that a football-less September could actually be a very good thing for rabid fans. Yes, there will be some shock and depression from not having the church of NFL to worship every Sunday (and Monday Night, and sometimes Thursdays). But it won’t be as hard as it would be had the season actually started and then been cancelled. We just will have to find something else to do with our time, whether it is finding a substitute sport (hello college football), developing a hobby, reading more, getting more work done, or going to the movies.

What it will do for the fans is force them out of complacency. It’s like a forced diet, and anything that requires people to grow and become active is a good thing. We settle too much for easy things. I know I do. While the prospect of not heading to the Steelers’ bar on Sunday mornings this fall is disappointing, I can’t help but think of the possibilities all of that freed up time could offer, not to mention the health benefits of skipping the obligatory beer and junk food for the games.

I hope that the NFL season goes forward without a hitch this fall, but I’m not losing any sleep over the possibility of losing one form of entertainment. There are plenty of other things out there to distract my productivity. It’s good to be denied the things we want occasionally. It makes us try to find substitutes and maybe through that trying we can get what we really need (sing it choir).

featured image credit: luckygirllefty