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Picking Sides in the NFL Lockout: Ownership vs. Players

Fandom is Associated With Ownership. Not Players (Courtesy AP & Michael Dwyer)

Sometimes, when I write for Sports Of Boston, I forget many of my previous memes I developed on my old website are lost on my new readers. I realized this notion during my NFL lockout podcast earlier this week.

One central theme revolved around the sentiment that, as fans, our allegiance lays with ownership above everything else. You’re more of a Robert Kraft fan than a Tom Brady fan. It’s not, “In Bill We Trust”, it’s “In the Kraft Group We Trust.” The Brady-Bellichik regime will end someday; on the other hand, presumably, the Kraft ownership is a fixed entity. The “Patriot Way” isn’t real, Patriot Place is.

That’s why, when a team makes a fatal trade, it hurts more than a player acting up. Your team’s ownership is looking at the bottom line, sure. But they are also cognizant of the relationship between success on the field and success on their balance sheet. So, sans the frugal Bruins ownership of the during the mid-90’s, our teams’ ownership groups are predominantly looking out for our best interests.

What are our best interests though? What do we get out of this relationship?

We get to live moments like, “It’s GOOOOOD! It’s GOOOD! And the Patriots, ARAARHH SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSSSSS!!!!!” And, “Anythin’s possible…anythinGGGGGs POOSSIBULLLLLLL!” Finally, “I DON’T WANT YA’WRE LIFE.”

(Okay, that last one was from Varsity Blues, and isn’t really related, or even real. Semantics aren’t in play here.)

Basically our end game revolves around one term: Nostalgia. We play the highlight reel of these gratifying moments, which are few and far in between, like we reminisce other paramount events in our lives like birthdays, first kisses, graduations, and your first HD TV.

So, am I suggesting this weird revelation insinuates players are actually the enemy? Of course not.

I think fans are unconsciously selfish. We want to see our team win, no matter what. For instance, I bet you wanted the Celtics to bring home Banner 18 this season, right?

Good. So did I.

……But how do you think Kendrick Perkins feels? Before the trade deadline – while he was still a key cog on the Celtics – he was killing himself trying to get back to the previous form he had before Game 6 of the Finals last year, when he blew out his knee. Perk worked his ass off last summer to contribute to the good fight this year, and look what our organization, our team did to him?

It felt like Danny Ainge turned into Vince McMahon when he traded Perk away. Consequently, the whole ‘rooting for laundry’ argument has gray areas too.

The sad part is Perk may never get back to where he was, it’s to early to tell. Players know this sob-story all to well. Remember promising Patriots running back Robert Edwards? He burst onto the scene his rookie season, only to blow out his knee during an exhibition game on the beach the following offseason. His career was submarined that afternoon, just like Perk’s Game 6 incident was deleterious to his next contract negotiation.

Things are worse in the NFL, where the only guaranteed money comes from a player’s initial signing bonus. That’s why you hear players, in any sport, re-affirm their ideology that ultimately, “It’s a business.” So selfishness of the players is justified by the reciprocated callousness from general managers when injuries occur or if skill erodes.

Consequently, a 4-sided relationship is formed. I can’t call it a square, because a square has equal sides. This, clearly, is not the case. There are the players, the owners making money off them, the agents making money for them, and the driving force behind the revenue – the fans. It’s a 4-sided relationship, with 3 of the sides gaining actual tangible gains. Meanwhile, the saps (the fans) have the intangible to hold onto such as aforementioned rush and nostalgia.

That’s why, I’m done. I’m done picking sides. Somewhere along the way, being a fan started to feel like buying a new car. You know going in, with the sales tax and commission, you are getting screwed to a degree. However, recently, the value we have is waning just like the value of a car immediately errodes once taken off the lot. And right now, in this NFL lockout, we’re at the 100,000 mile mark where the first sunk cost goes into our investment. Only the car has been stuck at the shop, and all we want to know is when we’re getting it back.

About Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is the author of the weekly Sports Media Musings column at Sports Of Boston. Hadfield is known as one of the top sports media critics in Boston. He also contributes to Boston Sports Media Watch. In November 2011, Hadfield helped launch the new SoB Point Taken blog featuring his podcasts & musings on sports, media and culture. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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