The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 23, 2011

RALPH COUEY | An autumn of silence?

The Tribune-Democrat

— The approach to every autumn, for as long as I can remember, brought for me a rising excitement. The arrival of the cooler breezes meant that football season had arrived.

But this fall may arrive with an uncommon silence. In stadiums across the country, instead of the roar of the crowds, only the whisper of the wind will be heard. Owners and players find themselves athwart serious issues that have to be resolved to ensure the healthy future of the game and those who play it.

Owners want an 18-game season. More games, more tickets, more revenue. Players want to be compensated for those extra two weeks (and who around here wants to work for free?) and are very concerned at the effect of two additional weeks of violence will have on their bodies. This is a very real issue.

Earl Campbell was a dominant running back with the Houston Oilers. He was an immensely powerful man with thighs the girth of which would rival a mature oak tree. His best year was 1980, when he rushed for nearly 2,000 yards. But his career lasted only eight years.

And the last time I saw Earl Campbell, he was in a wheelchair.

NFL careers are short, about six years, according to Commissioner Roger Goodell. A player’s peak earnings will last about half that. Because of that, the player’s union wants to do away with the salary cap, in order to maximize their earnings. Owners want the cap because they want to control salaries. Also, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the cap kept the wealthier teams from dominating year after year, while small-market teams withered away. This has meant that football is relatively competitive; giving all teams a shot at acquiring talented players.

Owners refuse to reveal their earnings to the union, thus placing in doubt the issue of revenue sharing.

The debates and arguments continue with no solution in sight.

 Ralph Couey is a freelance writer living in Somerset. He is a frequent contributor to The Tribune-Democrat.

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