I know a lot of pro football players who own Ferraris, Porsches, and Mercedes, or have four-wheel drive vehicles that cost almost four times as much as a tract house in 1959. So when the National Football League Players' Association goes on strike, it's not exactly like the ladies who toil in the garment district turning off their sewing machines to fight for better wages and working conditions.
Guys who work in trenches or car washes or fast-food restaurants probably can't believe it when they read where the average pro football player's salary is $230,000 a year. Of course the players justify that by saying that such figures are necessary because their careers are so short. All I can ever think of when I hear this is that I'd like to have one year at $230,000. After that, I would be willing to take my chances.
There was a time when things were too one-sided in the owners' favor - when players were underpaid and under-protected. But now the pendulum has swung so far in the opposite direction that the clock is beginning to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The major stumbling block to reaching an agreement is the union demand that teams no longer have to be compensated every time they lose a free agent to a rival bidder. The owners know that without this restriction salaries will continue to escalate. Players also want a bigger piece of the owners' television money.
The danger in any strike is that the public may suddenly discover that a product it once felt it had to have isn't that important after all.
The owners know this, which is one of the reasons why, if necessary, they plan to play the rest of the season with teams made up of former players, those who were cut in training camp, and whatever members of the union decide they will cross picket lines. The same quality of play won't be there, but if there is competition the public may buy it.
One of the main things I have against pro football is cost of attending the games. Ticket prices are much too high, and so is parking. It is also wrong when owners can hold their season-ticket buyers for ransom by forcing them to purchase seats to exhibition games.
If the players get a significant part of what they're asking in this strike, the cost to the owners will ultimately be passed on to TV advertisers and season-ticket holders. If the owners triumph, at least there won't be as much of a temptation to increase prices.