Friday February 18th, 2011

Nearly two weeks have passed since Super Bowl XLV, and although I no longer remember the score or Aaron Rodgers' passing yardage or the number of advertisements that featured some sort of boneheaded lug and a potato chip, one figure refuses to escape my temporal lobe: $200.

That's the amount the National Football League charged 4,000 fans to stand outside of Cowboys Stadium and watch the game on a big-screen television. As reported in Peter King's recent Sports Illustrated profile of Roger Goodell, when the idea of having people pay big bucks to stare at a TV near the action was first hatched in the league offices, it was deemed ludicrous.

Then -- BAM! -- the tickets sold out.

"It was like a shark hitting red meat," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told King. "We're thinking of selling more tickets. I know this: However many we print, people will buy."

Within the NFL's New York City headquarters, the out-of-the-blue $800,000 profit was surely greeted with high fives and whoops and whatever other celebratory device football executives tend to break out when it comes to milking fans of every last cent. Upon closer inspection, however, the earnings symbolize something drastically different: The undeniable truth that when it comes to the seemingly inevitable NFL lockout, the league's executives and owners fall on the side of devilish greed.

Or, put differently: Who the hell charges people $200 to watch a game on TV outside a stadium? Even if there's coin to be made. Even if 4,000 people are dumb enough to fork over the cash. Even if you could hear the cheers and smell the popcorn from inside. Even if a couple of Cowboys' cheerleaders visited the suckers, eh, I mean, patrons. Seriously, what genre of insidious, money-hungry, tone-deaf, suit-wearing homo Sapien thinks this is the proper way to treat your most diehard fans?

Maybe the NFL was trying to steal a page from the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which sets up a large JumboTron TV in Madison Square Park, and even provides bleacher and AstroTurn seating. There is, however, one slight difference: The U.S. Open supplies the services for free. Maybe the NFL was trying to steal a page from Wimbledon, which charges non-ticket holders five pounds to walk the grounds and watch the action on large monitors. Oh, wait -- all of that money goes to charity.

The truth is, as the lockout looms and the two sides seem to make little-to-no progress, the $200 serves as a perfect example of the want-it-both-ways hypocrites of the NFL. The league loves its fans, but will pull a stunt like the Cowboys Stadium joke. The league is terribly concerned about player safety, yet the commissioner and owners are adamant about extending a 16-game season to an even more punishing 18-game season (even though nobody seems to want the change). The league needs a reduction in the percentage of revenue going to the players, but it adamantly refuses to show each team's full audited financial statement as proof.

If I'm DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, I make THE OWNERS CHARGED FANS $200 TO WATCH A GAME ON TV OUTSIDE A STADIUM my slogan, my mantra and my post-yoga fill-in for namaste. I print it up on signs, I tattoo it to my forehead, I repeat it over and over and over again until everyone in America gets the gist.

There are few greater examples of greed. There are few greater indictments of character.

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