Tuesday, May 24, 2011


If the NFL were a person, it'd be Tiger Woods before he hit that fire
hydrant. You remember that guy, don't you? He dominated the world,
had every major sponsor eating out of his hand, was a ratings magnet,
and a gold-plated ATM machine who could make it rain at will. He was
the most powerful figure in sports since Muhammad Ali,  and one who
could repel controversy. Or so we thought.

The NFL owns the road for which all sports leagues travel. It's a
high-octane, high-performance machine that attracts great crowds
and record ratings. Fans are addicted to it, families plan around it
from September through February. It's the golden goose that has made
a lot of people rich beyond their wildest imagination. It's the perfect
league with a shield so big and powerful, nothing can penetrate it.
Um, maybe not.

Like the Tiger Woods we once knew, the NFL has been unstoppable.
It has everything, money, power, prestige, and an enormous following.
Crazed football fans flock to games and bars, wearing face paint and
their favorites teams apparel, and are so obsessed, they even put together
their own squads in fantasy leagues.

People used to tail Tiger like he was the pied-piper. Crowds twenty
deep would follow him, and those pictures of Tiger walking up the
18th fairway to claim another title with a mass of humanity behind
him, are hard to forget.

Perhaps the NFL is forgetting about the following they have. Every
Sunday, stadiums are packed to the gills with win-thirsty fans who
are passionate about their football and the teams that represent their
city. The NFL marketing machine has spit out a product so good, it
almost seems heaven sent, kind of like Tiger once was.

Now, at the height of their success, the NFL is about to engage in
self-sabotage, which as Tiger found out, leads to self-destruction. The
NFL, like Tiger, could be on the way to ruining a truly great thing.
Perhaps, just as Tiger felt a sense of entitlement in the terrible acts
that he committed, feeling that he was beyond reproach, the NFL
believes the act of pure greed will not affect their product one
damn bit.

With the NFL lockout in day whatever, fans have yet to hit the
panic button, but they've gotten a little jumpy. Training camps
are just around the corner and there hasn't seemed to be any progress
in making a deal. Splitting up a nine billion dollar pot shouldn't
be that hard to do, but the NFL owners are seemingly making it
impossible. The game has never been better, but it appears the
league is on the verge of screwing it up.

Will the fans forgive the league if there is a work stoppage? Oh,
they've come back before and helped make it better than it was
back then. But the NFL might be taking them a bit for granted this
time around. If you gauge the temperature of the fans on talk radio,
they might be ready to boil over, and never return to the game.

Many people around the country are struggling just to make ends meet.
A work stoppage caused by friction between the millionaires
and billionaires may cause irreparable damage this time, and fans
may not come back.

Many of us thought that after watching Tiger Woods fall like Humpty
Dumpty, that'd he have little trouble picking up the pieces. He was
far too talented not to make a full recovery. We were wrong.
If the NFL knocks itself over, don't assume they can put everything
back together and make itself as good as it used to be.

Right now, Roger Goodell and 32 NFL owners have jam-packed their
way into a black SUV. They are barreling down that driveway, reckless
and out of control. Dead ahead is that fire hydrant. Avoid it, and they
continue down that road to even more riches. Hit it, and a whole lot
of ugliness will spew out of it, just like what happened to Tiger Woods.

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