In an effort to stay somewhat current in sports stories that are happening right now, I thought that I'd take a shot at clarifying -- to the best of my ability -- the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.
Actually, to me as a normal everyday fan, what happens off the actual gridiron kind of bores me. I see it as none of my business, what the dollar amount a player makes or a coach is getting or how much an owner had to pay to keep up a stadium. That is their deal. I just want my teams to rock come game time.
However, I do get the fact that if my team makes smart and fiscally prudent moves, we will have extra dough to get a free agent somewhere out there who might fill some gap that will make us better on paper at least.
So, in saying all of that, I do get that it is a business, and one that is not unlike my profession.
In my careers with Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, I have found that oftentimes I deal with some of the same issues as a pro athlete.
1) Your "earning years" are somewhat limited.
2) Although you may be at a venue to "play with heart," your real purpose to those who run the venues is to sell parking, beer, T-shirts, sundry concessions and otherwise put warm bodies into those varyingly priced seats.
3) No. 2 may sound a bit harsh; but the people who actually run things are the guys in suits. It's all about the bottom line.
From what I can glean, the biggest issue of this recent CBA is the fact that, with the $9 billion of revenues that the NFL has earned, the owners currently have rights to $1 billion to use for stadium upkeep/improvements. The owners now, however, would like to hike that amount to $2 billion.
The NFL Players Association seems to understand that certain expenses must be paid-out to keep the game, as a whole, relevant and pristine. But herein lies one of the rubs in the negotiation: The players want to first have the owners open up their books so the NFLPA can verify just exactly what all of those expenses are for, and where they are going.
That seems logical, right? Ah, but apparently the owners will not cough up the ledgers. This seems asinine to me. If I were a player, that point alone would be a deal-breaker.
The NFLPA, on the other hand, is willing to make some concessions but in return is asking for a fund in the area of $100 million to be used for retired players' care, for injuries and whatnot sustained during their playing days. It's for the older dudes who are now crippled because of their bodily sacrifice on the field.
We fans outside of the game may scoff at the fact that a player would ever be in need of dough. If you've played in the NFL, we think you must be set for life financially, right? I mean, a player who plays just three years probably makes more in those three years than a normal hard-working American makes in 25 years. Yeah, but check this out.
If you are a young man entering the NFL, and you are guaranteed say, $2 million to play for the next three years, does that mean that you know how to instantly handle that cash? First off, your agent takes 3-10 percent, so now you are down to $1.8 million. Oh, and then the tax man takes his 37 percent, so you are down to a little more than $1 million even without other payments, such as lawyer fees. The player at this point probably has some friends and family who he wants to take care of, and maybe he wants to buy a house and a car. Rarely do these guys think that their career is going to be short-lived, and they might even think that there is going to be a lot more cash coming when a new contract comes. I mean, these are top athletes and they are programmed to think in terms of success, not failure. More than likely, a young man programmed to think like this will just go ahead and spend what is left of this first windfall.
And then a career-ending injury happens, or some such other event that shortens or ends his career. Suddenly, all of that money is gone. In a flash. I've seen it happen to guys in the music industry, too. They just think the money train is an endless ride. It ain't.
In the case of the NFL, though, I have this sneaking suspicion that, in the end, this stuff will all get worked out before next season. It will wait until August or so -- just late enough that all of us fans start to get nervous and really jonesing for pro football. The owners will get what they want. The players will get what they want (I hope).
And us fans? Oh, you just know that we will end up paying more for our seats, our parking and our drinks, hats and jerseys.
Yeah, we love this game!
Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.