Back in January, Bill Maher posited that what makes the NFL successful is a socialist attitude towards sharing the wealth among its franchises.While we can assure him now that the NFL is very much a capitalist venture, there is another way the NFL resembles the former Soviet Union.
The NFL controls the message.
Much like the U.S.S.R. had TASS and Pravda, the NFL has NFL.com and the NFL Network. In the ongoing labor dispute between the NFL ownership and the NFL Players Association, the league definitely has the upper hand in distributing its message.
For the last couple of weeks, there hasn't been a great deal to report. The lack of news has allowed the league and it's information disseminating agencies to spin the message and obfuscate the facts. And with repetition, it seems to be working.
Once a week, for a year now, I spend a few minutes talking football with the guy who runs the seafood department at the local grocery. Despite a fondness for the San Francisco 49ers, I've always found him to be knowledgable about the game and its workings. Last week he told me that he'd accept it if they used replacement players for the upcoming season. I had to remind him that this is a lockout, not a strike. The players haven't refused to play, they're going to court to have the lockout lifted. But that's easy to forget when the NFL issues statements directly to their own media outlets, and everyone else is content to report on what's been reported, rather than pursue information on their own.
Maybe what's needed are replacement owners. We have everything else in place empty stadiums; financed for the most part by we the people, fans, and players. Not to mention the thousands and thousands of people who depend on the income they derive from game day concessions and support. These are the true victims in this skirmish between the well-to-do and the fabulously wealthy, along with the bellboys, the bartenders, and the waitstaff who will feel every game day missed the most acutely.
On April 6, a judge will rule on an injunction to lift the lockout. If the lockout is lifted, it will signal a major victory for players, and for fans as well. Because while the league will almost certainly appeal, this ruling is our best hope at having a 2011 NFL season.