Photo by the Associated Press
With the National Football League finally ending its four and a half month lockout, we fans have experienced something akin to waking up from a coma on Christmas day. We’ve collectively been on life support for the summer, only to open our eyes to Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson standing by our hospital bed, carrying boxes of glistening presents and telling us everything is going to be OK. And even if you never took the lockout seriously, you had to at least breathe a sigh of relief knowing your Sundays have once again been booked through February.
It’s not like we wouldn’t have survived the long, cold winter without the NFL, and maybe we would have simply piled all of our enthusiasm into college football. However, we can’t say there wouldn’t have been something missing each week. Fantasy football, friends, family, all the elation and anguish that comes with rooting for your favorite team. And regardless of whether you win or lose, you can’t forget the occasional fit of drunken debauchery. If baseball is still considered to be America’s pastime, then football should be dubbed “America’s Obsession.” I shudder to think of the possible ramifications of a fall season without the great game. Especially in a time of recession, we Americans deserve a little more escapism to go along with our super hero blockbusters.
The post-lockout era has been somewhat of a blessing since its termination. It’s analogous to a person who survives a near death experience and realizes there is so much to do in life and so little time. The free agent signing period has been reduced from a whole summer to a few weeks of frenetic activity. And it’s the fans who are enjoying the
frenzied rush to sign the top players available. The Eagles have assembled what some consider to be a dream team, beefing up their defensive line by adding Pro-Bowl defensive end Jason Babin. They didn’t stop there, and in a matter of days they had locked up all-star cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. The newly signed Vince Young and Ronnie Brown will add depth to an explosive offense.
The New England Patriots have also gotten into the act, signing high-profile troublemakers Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson. The pace at which these high salary deals are being accomplished is adding another element of excitement to a league that will undoubtedly be on the verge of eruption come September. Perhaps the NFL should take note of the amplified interest the fans have given to a usually long and boring process. A two week free agency period could be marketed in such a way as to become a revenue-making precursor to the season itself. It’s easy to picture ESPN or HBO producing a two week special chronicling the behind-the-scenes mayhem that goes along with signing the league’s best talent. Maybe the NFL is already eyeing the dollar signs.
Yet despite the pleasant surprises that have resulted from the NFL lockout, we shouldn’t be so quick to forgive. The past few years have been riddled with uncertainty. The NFL, the NBA, and the United States government have all been strangled by debates on how each respective entity should move forward in these times. But regardless of what the argument is, it is the public who is suffering the most. We are the ones buying the tickets, watching the television, and paying our taxes. The NFL would cease to exist if we all decided one day that we just didn’t care anymore. And while there is a sense of catharsis that comes with ending the lockout or avoiding a Federal default, it pales in comparison to a season fully devoted to the game itself, or a government that is tackling the issues with a healthy mix of bipartisanship. Yes, we are excited for the new season, and happy to be able to watch a sport so essential to American culture. But of all the positives that came out of the lockout, hopefully one will resonate above the others: At the end of the day, the only true remedy is to shut up and go back to work.