The Walking Wounded The NFL Treats Like Disposable Trash

The bad news: Due to technical difficulties beyond our control, arrival of your Trash Talk thread has been delayed. The good news: The pilots have slept off most of their intoxication and managed to stumble into the cockpit and are ready for take off! I don’t know why, but it just seems like football, both pro and college, is in a weird doldrum recently. Boise State’s hard knocks overtime loss to Nevada took a lot of the anti-BCS anarchist intrigue air out of the balloon – although, to be fair, TCU is still there in that role I guess. Doesn’t seem the same though. And in the NFL, there just are not a lot of overly compelling story lines right now, although I think that will change when we get down to the last three weeks of the regular season.

Before we get down to the weekly game talk, there is a serious side of the business of football, a part that is not a game, that needs to be discussed. The long term health concerns of the players. As seemingly well paid and glamorous a job professional football player seems to be, the fact is when their career is over, these men are still relatively quite young chronologically but much older, physically compromised and beat up physically and, far too often as we now know, mentally too. The video from former NFL player and current NFL Player’s Association staff member Nolan Harrison describes player injuries as they relate to health and safety on the field and once a career is over.

The National Football League is insanely profitable. The average NFL game attendance league wide is 67,519. For every game of a 16 game schedule, and if you were not aware, teams make customers buying season tickets also buy tickets to at least two, sometimes three, preseason games at full regular season face value as part of the season ticket package. That is before you even get to the otherworldly television broadcast packages the NFL has negotiated, which are the most lucrative, by far, of any in the entertainment/sports industry. For the period of 2006 to 2013, the broadcast rights fees generated are: CBS $622.5 million/yr, Fox $712.5 million/yr, NBC $650 million/yr, and ESPN $1.1 billion/yr for a total yearly broadcast revenue of $3.085 billion per year. That is without delving into perhaps the most profitable income streams for NFL owners, the ancillary modalities such as merchandizing, advertising and concessions. There is a lot of money being made here, total revenue for the league was estimated to be over $6 Billion a year five years ago; it is undoubtedly significantly higher now.

With NFL owners threatening a lockout unless players agree to major concessions, the NFL is headed for a labor dispute that would leave stadium seats empty, TV screens blank and the Emptywheel Blog Trashless next fall. The knee jerk reaction may be that it is hard to get too worked up over a battle between billionaire owners and millionaire players, but keep in mind that the average NFL player is not Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, has a average salary of well less than a million dollars a year and the average NFL career is only 3.5 years. That is pretty limited compared to the owners who have a lifetime license to sit back print money.

So, when the expected shutdown and lockout by the fat cat NFL owners occurs next season, keep in mind the disparity between the owners and players, and the very real long term health issues the players face as a result of earning the owners all that money and providing Sunday enjoyment for the rest of us. Beneath the high dollar glossy surface, it is still a fairness in a dangerous workplace issue with a union trying to better the conditions for the rank and file workers. Oh, and also keep in mind that the owners have negotiated TV deals that guarantee them revenues approachng $4.5 billion even if games are not played in the 2011 season. Coupled with the elimination of $4.4 billion in player salaries and benefits during a lockout, it could make a 2011 season without games still very profitable for the owners.

[Am going to add more substantive content shortly, but wanted to get this up for the peoples to yammer on in the meantime since both Quackers-Beavers and two chumps from the pay to play SEC Conference are currently in action]

44 replies
    • bmaz says:

      Have you watched the Quack Attack?? I don’t think it is any foregone conclusion that Auburn wins. Ought to be disqualified. The rule is crystal clear that monetary take, or even active participation in a scheme to do so, by family members is the same as if the player did it and is a mandatory suspension. Letting Cam Newton play just because Auburn is a SEC school with a chance to play for the BCS is a bullshit sham.

      • bobschacht says:

        Well, yes, as a matter of fact I was watching the Quack Attack yesterday, and for the first half it was not all that impressive. Maybe even the first 3 quarters– and they weren’t even playing a BCS team.

        The Quack and Boise State are very similar in a lot of ways, and both got bogged down once they met a determined and effective defense. But they can be very exciting, and but for the lack of a decent kicker, Boise State would still be in the running.

        Bob in AZ

  1. radiofreewill says:

    I think the Quackers are too light to beat Auburn, but it would be a good game – assuming that both Auburn and Oregon win today, which isn’t a given.

    Allthough, Auburn did just score on a hail mary at the end of the first half…28-14.

    • bmaz says:

      The football gods just unjustifiably gave Auburn a boost. Jesus Fucking H Christ. Here is the thing, Auburn is good, but they can be had by an offense that can get into the secondary, whether by pass or explosive run. Oregon has both. Remember a two loss Alabama beat Auburn in every metric but the final score where they lost by a single point. As much as I am not all that crazy about this Auburn team, and the guy that they are riding to where they are, it would be a hell of a game with the Duckies.

  2. rosalind says:

    Zenyatta Appreciation Day tomorrow at H’wood Park:

    Zenyatta will make her final public appearance in California during a special celebration Sunday, December 5 at Hollywood Park.

    The 6-year-old Street Cry mare, who finished her spectacular career with 19 wins in 20 starts and more than $7.3 million in earnings, will visit the saddling paddock after the sixth race, giving her legion of fans another opportunity to show their admiration.

    Not long after, Zenyatta, who has called Hollywood Park home for more than three years, will head to the track and parade in front of both the grandstand and clubhouse area.

  3. john in sacramento says:

    I must have some pretty poor reading comprehension skills, because it seems pretty clear to me …

    If at any time before or after matriculation in a member institution a student-athlete or any member of his/her family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond or in addition to that permitted by the Bylaws of this Conference… such student-athlete shall be ineligible for competition in any intercollegiate sport within the Conference for the remainder of his/her college career.

    … that there’re shenanigans going on

    • bmaz says:

      Exactly. There was a reason Auburn itself suspended Newton. The reason is because they were convinced there were facts sufficiently compelling that Newton, his father and/or family had done just that and Auburn wanted no part of willfully ignoring or condoning that and risking their ass on the line too. Or the SEC and BCS Championship they might lose if they had not already. If that were not the case, Auburn, instead of issuing a finding that Newton was ineligible going forward, would have issued a conclusion that there was insufficient evidence at this time and submitted the matter to the NCAA. That is not what happened, and there is a reason that is not what happened.

  4. Petrocelli says:

    I just wanna stop in to say … Drew Fookin’ Brees !

    His last drive to score the winning TD was the best drive of the NFL season.

    The Canadian Flutie League wrapped up another season last Sunday, with Montreal winning Earl Grey’s TeaCup … now onto Hockey !

  5. Chief says:

    I do not remember the year exactly, but it was around 1998 – 2000. The retired/ex-NFL players had sued for care for players from some earlier era.

    It was the spokesman on TV that shocked me. It was Walt Sweeney. The reason I remembered him was that I played high school football against him and his team, Cohasset HS from Cohasset, MA. He was an All-America at Syracuse Univ and then played for the San Diego Chargers. He was probably sixty at the time and he looked like the shell of a man who was ninety years old.

    Insanely profitable, shoot-em-up-with-drugs so they will not feel the pain and discard ’em when someone better comes along, I refuse to support the NFL in any way.

  6. PJEvans says:

    The only reason I don’t object to multi-million-dollar annual paychecks for athletes is that for so many of them a year or two is all they’ll have at that level, and some will require a lot of medical care afterward. (I’d think a lot of them might be willing to trade some of that money for better pension/health benefits. There aren’t many who can play for years and come out with enough money to pay for their own medical.)

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    Petro, I thought Flutie was still with the Generals in the Meadowlands, which NJ should have restored to marsh, not developed into Gaunts stadium.

    On the wear which sports causes; there was a jiffy interview with Joe Montana in 2009 when he put his house and its lands on the market at the $49 million pricepoint, planning to move to LA to be near a football school his son was to attend. The interviewer commented on Jennifer*s equitation. Joe*s typically laconic rejoinder, that he barely can ride; too many hurts from getting tackled. He got the pay, but his body is making him pay in middle age. Descriptions of the digs are available there, with the original announcement of the placing the home and property for sale there. I have yet to locate the interview; it*s probably only three sentences in length. He always was spare with words.

    There was a radio program, which I heard ~10 years ago, similarly, about the toll horse racing takes upon many 2 year olds very soon after their careers as fastest steed on earth.

  8. bmaz says:


    Favre suffered the injury when he was drilled on a vicious — but clean — hit by Bills linebacker Arthur Moats while throwing a pass, which the Bills intercepted. Favre never saw Moats coming, and the force of the hit planted Favre face-first into the Metrodome turf. He stayed on the ground, appearing to be in agony.

    The early word is that Favre injured his shoulder, and his return is questionable. Favre was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson, the former Vikings starter, who became the backup when Favre showed up in 2009. While Jackson was on the field, Favre attempted to throw a pass on the sideline, but when he struggled to do so, he walked to the locker room.

    • Phoenix Woman says:

      A-yep. Buffalo’s spotted T-Jack a few TDs, but we’ll see what happens come the third quarter.

      As for this:

      …the owners have negotiated TV deals that guarantee them revenues approaching $4.5 billion even if games are not played in the 2011 season.

      That needs to be emphasized over and over again. The owners have no fucking reason to play fair in 2011. None.

      • PJEvans says:

        One of the reasons there’s no NFL team in Los Angeles is that the owners want the public to fund the stadium (and the parking) but the owners would get the revenue, even from non-football events.
        And they still wonder why they can’t convince people that we really really need a team here.

        • Phoenix Woman says:

          Aha! Can you find some linkies on this? Over here in MN, the folks pushing for a taxpayer-funded stadium are making noises like Ziggy’s ohsoveryclose to packing up for LA unless we give him a stadium like we just gave the Twins.

  9. Linnaeus says:

    A former neighbor of mine is an ex-NFL player, whose name I’m sure some here would recognize if I were to mention it. He is yet another example of what a career in the NFL sometimes gets you besides money. He was well-paid during most of his time in football, but lost much of his earnings due to some horribly bad decisions on his part (which he would be the first to admit). That said, the toll that playing in the NFL exacted from him, physically, is very clear. He could only walk up and down stairs very slowly. I saw the scars on his arms from the surgeries he needed. He told me about when he played with not one, but two broken arms and was getting the fabled long-needle shots of cortisone or whatever so that he could play and not be in agony. After he told he story, he summed it up with, “There’s a lot that people don’t know about football.”

    He and his wife lived very modestly on his wife’s salary as a nurse, along with any residual benefits he may get as a former NFL player.

  10. JTMinIA says:

    New course offering at Auburn University:

    “Authentic Appearance of Sports Injuries”
    Dept of Sports and Exercise Science
    (cross-listed: Dept of Theatre Arts)
    Winter-break Schedule (Jan 2 thru Jan 9th; final exam: 8:30 pm ET, Jan 10th)
    zero credits

  11. bobschacht says:

    You’re absolutely right about the plight of our 21st century gladiators.

    But the OT between the Dolts and the Owboys is getting exciting. The Owboys just intercepted Payton Place. Until then, Mo Mentum had been with the Dolts.

    Bob in AZ

  12. 4jkb4ia says:

    I know the Cardinals suck, but the first win by the Rams in four years is worth some confirmed gloating. I am anticipating more gloating tomorrow.

  13. bobschacht says:

    Owboys score first in OT by a foot!

    Cardinals-Rams game was forgettable. The first half really was all about FOOTball– every single score was a field goal. Anderson led scoring drives the first two times the Cardinals had the ball. However, after three quarters, they pulled Anderson and put in Hall to see what would happen. He and his teammates proved unable to pick up a blitz, so after a few minutes of messing around, Hall fumbled and injured his shoulder recovering a fumble, so they went to Door #3, who completed a few good passes before he, too, failed to pick up the blitz quickly enough.

    The Cardinals’ defense played well enough, but the offense, after the first quarter, stank.

    When does Michael Vick play next?

    Bob in AZ

  14. mzchief says:

    “Before we get down to the weekly game talk, there is a serious side of the business of football, a part that is not a game, that needs to be discussed. The long term health concerns of the players. As seemingly well paid and glamorous a job professional football player seems to be, the fact is when their career is over, these men are still relatively quite young chronologically but much older, physically compromised and beat up physically and, far too often as we now know, mentally too. The video from former NFL player and current NFL Player’s Association staff member Nolan Harrison describes player injuries as they relate to health and safety on the field and once a career is over.” – Nolan Harrison

    If folks knew upfront that they would be used up and thrown away like tissue, would they become professional players? What motivated them in the first place to choose this? Now that they are older, wiser and in chronic pain, how do they feel about Just Say Now?

    • dakine01 says:

      That’s the bowl game con – it really doesn’t matter the record or anything, it is who can bring in the biggest spenders.

      As I think one of the guys at Sports Illustrated puts it, when the Bowl selections say “Big Ten #4” or “Big East #3” it isn’t the Big Ten team with the 4th best record or Big East team with the 3rd best record. It’s the team that the particular bowl likes as they choose the “4th Big Ten” team

      • dakine01 says:

        Actually, that one is due to an agreement the BCS made to maintain the fiction that it isn’t only for the so-called major football conferences. The “BCS” bowls rotate on providing a slot to the highest non automatic qualifier and one of the regular teams gets into the “Championship” game. This year is the Rose Bowl’s turn to give it up when Oregon got into the Championship.

        VA Tech is in as the ACC champ

        The biggest problem is CT as the Big East automatic qualifier since this year as a football conference the Big East is behind both the Mountain West and WAC (which is why TCU was invited to join the “Big East” starting in 2012)

    • bobschacht says:

      I made my holiday travel plans on the assumption that Michigan would NOT be in a bowl game this year. Now I will have to negotiate with my California in-laws over toob-time in order to see the Michigan bowl game.

      Michigan and Notre Dame both have national TV audiences, so even when they have mediocre teams, a national audience is guaranteed. This year, in the case of Michigan, their potent offense and lousy defense assure a high-scoring game, which is also what bowl sponsors like, even if half the points are scored on interceptions.

      I went to ESPN to get their bowl schedule, which I would recommend. Two pages of bowl games, listed in chronological order, with network coverage indicated for each game. The Boise State game is scheduled for the night that I arrive at my brother’s house in Illinois; don’t know if I’ll get to watch that one.

      Bob in AZ

  15. rosalind says:

    Dodger Divorce update: rumblings have it the Judge will be handing down his decision tomorrow (Tuesday) on the validity of the MPA (Marital Property Agreement). Who’s gonna get the win, Team Jamie or Team Frank?

    stay tuned…

  16. 4jkb4ia says:

    This is a complete embarrassment on national television. EW does not even seem to be having a very trying day. Kevin Drum, for instance, had an excellent righteous rant this morning (by Kevin Drum standards)

  17. bobschacht says:

    Anyone else watch the Pats demolish the Jets tonight?

    I guess I’ve been thinking naively about who the “starters” are. One of the analysts announcing the game tonight made a comment about the Pats game plan that suggested that the Patriots starters were decided on the basis of one-on-one match-ups so that the plays called were designed to pit specific offensive guys against specific defenders to exploit their weaknesses, or offensive guy strengths.

    This made me think of NBA games, especially the Suns recently, because they’re still trying to figure out who their starting 5 guys are. Which 5 guys the Suns put out on the floor depends in part on which 5 guys the other team puts on the floor. Each side is looking for “match-ups” that they can exploit. So, why should football be any different?

    Of course, this strategy depends on having good intel on each opposing player. And this depends mostly on having the staff and resources to research the bejezus out of the game films. And why not? bmaz has pointed out that the owners are making money hand over fist anyway, so for a few thousand bucks (i.e., pocket change) you can hire lots of film analysts to sort things out for the coaching staff to look at.

    Bob in AZ

    • BayStateLibrul says:

      “45-3. The New York tabloids ought to have fun with this one.” — Bob Ryan

      Trash talk, as silent as the Jets offense.
      Short pass, short pass, short pass.
      Whattabout Adrian Gonzalez’s departure from San Diego?
      Eight years @ 20 million.
      Thank you John Henry, for opening up your Hedge Fund wallet.

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