There is a paradox of sorts in athletics. Without the athlete, there is no product for the owners to sell, without the owners, there is no money to be made by athlete. Both need each other to survive and both hold equal leverage over the other when it comes to compensation.
The athlete, if talented enough can play the “if you won’t pay me, someone will” card, while the owner can play the “if you won’t play for the amount we can offer, someone else will.”
The NFL is on the brink of a lockout by the owners due to rifts between the owners and the players’ union concerning the distribution of revenue between the players and management. The players believe they are entitled to a larger share of team profits, while the owners are not willing to relinquish the amount of money the players are asking for.
As far as the terms of the agreement, amounts of money allotted to each side, etc., we the fans could not care less. In fact, many fans are sickened by the talks of lockouts and holdouts, and all other “‘outs” because both players and owners are already making more money than we, the fans, could dream of. All we want is a resolution.
The NFL owners and players union have yet to come to an agreement, even though there is a deadline set for March 4th. If there is no deal by March 4th, there will be no off-season football. This means no draft, no trades, no camps or workouts.
The NBA also faces labor disputes in the near future, but having been through a lockout in 2000 that was very destructive for the league, I doubt they’ll fail to reach an agreement in a timely fashion.
MLB is in a situation now where players are getting bigger and bigger contracts each year where soon the bubble is going to burst. Albert Pujols, of the St. Louis Cardinals, arguably the most dominant baseball player (all around) right now, is in the last year of his contract and wanting to become the highest paid player in the league. This would mean a contract of about 10 years at around $30 million per year. Trouble is, Pujols turned 31 years old this past January. A 10 year contract would have the Cardinals paying him through age 41. Most importantly, baseball contracts are guaranteed money.
Not to say that Albert couldn’t play until age 41, but will he be worth $30M per year in 10 years? In 8? Even 5? Possibly, but not likely.
Again, the issue facing the Cardinals is that if they don’t pay him this money, someone will. Eventually, there will come a time when a great player will have to be the first to take a cut. Just like the housing market, there comes a time when the price tag can’t get any higher and it’ll come crashing back down.
Because we love sports, we will pay to watch and pay to support. Because we pay to support, there will be a market and money to be made. And because people stand to make money, there will be conflict that we, the fan must endure. Sad that in all reality, we are just asking the owners and players to continue to let us pay their checks that they are arguing over.
In a world of perfect justice, all fans would boycott the professional teams in order to show the real pecking order, but again, our love for sports will rule over ethics in most cases.