Battle Red Onion: Coming Soon to A Theater Near You
March 13, 2011
Poughkeepsie, New YorkThere was no joy in Mudville on Friday, or in Cincinnati, or Dallas, or Oakland, or even in Green Bay, though that could be due to a case of bad sausages. On Friday, the NFL owners and players walked away from the negotiating table without a collective bargaining agreement, forcing the owners to lockout the players, and the players to decertify their union, opening the owners up to antitrust lawsuits.
The labor fight, a clash of hyperinflated egos, has devolved into little more than a nationally televised game of "point the finger" with both sides accusing the other of negotiating in bad faith.
But what of the fans? It's easy to forget the people who make this game possible in the first place. Like every other work stoppage in sports history, the fans have once again been ignored by the millionaires and billionaires fighting over how big a slice they get from the pie the fans baked. It looks as though this time, the fans may finally get to voice their grievances with the people fighting over their money.
One year ago, in a small town in upstate New York, Herbert Winklegloop, a humble accountant, created the first ever fans' union: the NFL Fans Association (NFLFA).
"I dreamt I was visited by the ghost of Gene Upshaw, last year. He told me that this DeMaurice Smith guy was using the players' union for his own ambitions and Goodell is a toady of the franchise owners. He also said that I am the only one who can force them into accepting a collective bargaining agreement. It was my destiny," said the 58-year-old plaid suit-wearing accountant as he cleaned out his ears with a screwdriver.
And so he did, he brought 20 of his closest friends, and season ticket holders for the New York Giants, to NFLFA headquarters located in Winklegloop's basement and told them of his vision, and his plan.
"We thought he cracked," said one of his friends, now treasurer of the NFLFA.
"I thought all them numbers he crunched finally made him soft in the head," said another NFLFA member.
They pooled their season ticket money, totaling just over $20,000 and posted billboards from Poughkeepsie to just outside New York City.
As of Thursday before the lockout, the NFLFA had a membership totaling approximately 1.5 million fans living in or near cities with NFL teams. With the lockout now in full swing, those ranks are expected to swell to around possibly 25 million fans, each paying a modest $75, about the cost of a single NFL game in many cities, in union dues and agreeing to a full boycott of anything NFL related: no tickets, no souvenirs, no clothing, nothing.
"Shoot yeah, I joined," said a new union member from Spring, Texas, "watching them millionaires squabble with billionaires is like watching the Red Sox and Yankees. What's the difference?"
With this possible expansion of membership, the NFLFA could have a potential bankroll of nearly 2 billion dollars to get the players' and owners' collective attention.
The fans' frustration has not really registered with the players, though, it seems.
"Fans? Since when have they mattered?" asked Terrell Owens, sitting next to a pool shaped in his likeness, "You can abuse them, break their hearts, piss 'em off and they'll keep coming back for more. I expect them back for more if we decide to return. After all, my new pet white tigers aren't going to feed themselves, after all."
Even DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the players' ex-union, seemed unimpressed.
"Where's the microphone? Here? Okay, thanks. Let me just take a moment to say here on national television that the fans have every right to be upset, to be angry with how the negotiations have gone. And as your next senator--um, I mean, as leader of the players' association, I humbly ask for your vote...I mean your support in telling the owners to give the players everything they want. No more should we see a retired shortstop--er--50-year-old running back with the mental and physical age of a 70-year-old. The best way to get what I want--I mean what the players want is to screw over the fans and blame everything on the owners."
Smith covered the microphones with his hand and said to his aide, "Are you sure there aren't shortstops in football?"
Surprisingly, the owners seem far more affronted by this new fan revolt than the players. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was the most vociferous, saying, after stepping out of his Scrooge McDuck-like pool filled with gold coins, "First those crybaby players start whining about how we don't pay them enough for the amount of pain they inflict and receive. I could deal with them. I remember at the University of Arkansas, I came within a whisker of getting hit myself, and that was plumb frightening. But these fans...how dare they complain about spending the money that we owners so rightfully deserve? Do they have any idea what kind of havoc this lockout has caused for us? I know my maids have had to work unpaid double shifts just to make sure that all my gold-clad furniture doesn't get all dusty."
Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots said sullenly, "I can't begin to tell you how many yacht races I've had to miss because of this nightmare. I really wish the players would just shut up and start hurting each other. And those fans better get out their pocketbooks. I may have to triple prices to Patriots games just to teach them a lesson."
Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis was unavailable for comment because he was busy drinking the blood of virgins to keep him alive.
"We are the ones in charge here," says Winklegloop, "and those rich spoiled creeps, all of them, have forgotten that. So now we're gonna remind them. We expect the players and owners to straighten up and fly right. That means a new CBA within the next month, and the draft goes on as planned; I mean I've already planned my draft party so it needs to happen or I'll have 30 pounds of wings that I'll have to throw in the trash."
Whether this new fan union will be successful is hard to tell. But with nearly two billion the NFLFA potentially available to them, a general boycott/strike of the NFL planned for as long as the lockout continues, and the deep-seeded rancor on all three sides of this argument, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
To join the National Football League Fans Association call:
*Phone number fictitious