The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Wrong in so many ways

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The prospect of an 18-game schedule is the epicenter of the fight over a new labor agreement for many different reasons. At this point in the history of the game, an expanded schedule would make an enormous difference in every possible way. And the directions in which those differences run indicate just how far apart the owners and players are in the current labor struggle.

The owners and the league want more regular-season games for one very simple reason: revenue. Teams charge the same ticket prices for exhibition games (which should be scandalous in and of itself), but most preseason games have local broadcasts -- and without national television, there is no national-level ad revenue. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tries to tell you that he's all about an 18-game season because the fans are clamoring for more regular-season games, he's selling you a bill of goods. The ones clamoring for this are the ones who stand to benefit from it, and Goodell works for them.

The league has attempted to sell an expanded season as some grand Socialist gesture and an immediate solution to all player revenue concerns. More real games, more money, they say. But what you're not hearing from them is that the owners want 18 percent of whatever revenue percentage the players receive returned to them to offset costs. This despite the fact that the first $1 billion of the almost $9 billion in gross revenue brought in through the last fiscal year was shaved off and given to the owners. The players are already giving back, and now the owners want much more, at the expense of the health of the players and the quality of the game.

And make no mistake -- increased player injuries and decreased quality of play will result if the season is expanded. Goodell and the Competition Committee can naively go on all they want about changing the rules to forward the idea of player safety, but football is a game played by enormous men in terrifying shape who go at each other as hard as they possibly can. That danger is part of the appeal, and if Goodell reduces the game to its flag football equivalent, there won't be nearly as much revenue to spread around. Football is a violent game, and that violence is held in a very delicate balance.

Whether the NFL increases roster limits or finds another way to offset what will be an inevitable personnel cost, games will suffer. The result of any expansion in sports is a diluted talent pool; that's an inevitability. Teams looking to fill those rosters will take 10 UFL and CFL players when they would have had three before. Players who have no business in the pro game out of college will nonetheless get a chance, and it won't matter, because the players defending them won't be as good as they used to be. And what is Goodell going to do when the Colts win the AFC South in Week 12 (as they always seem to do), a fact that would now have Peyton Manning's team playing a month and half of meaningless games? Will Goodell do as he's done before and threaten to find a way to force teams to play a certain number of starters?

Like most plans with Goodell at the helm, the 18-game schedule is a poor idea in theory, an impractical notion in execution, and an impossible fix over time. The fans will get more of an inferior product, the players will get a larger percentage of a smaller share, and eventually, the owners will see diminishing returns. And about the time of the next CBA negotiations, I foresee a level of resentment from the Players' Association that makes any further dealings even more contentious than they currently are. The expanded schedule is a horrible idea, and it never should have come this far.

By Doug Farrar  |  August 31, 2010; 1:48 AM ET  | Category:  Competition Committee , Doug Farrar , NFL , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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