I find it funny when I see ESPN story's talking about how the league needs to prove that fans want an 18 game season. I find it cute when I see there little sportsnation polls asking the fans if they prefer 16 games or 18 games. I find it laughable that they think the league will care that 75% of fans answered that they want to keep it at 16 games. Get the truth after the jump.
For all that ESPN claims to be the objective realistic voice in sports, their own delusions of grandeur are undermining their perceptions of reality. They understand that the league is feeling the heat from fans about charging regular season prices for a pre-season game, but for some reason their ability to reason seems to stop there. The league isn't going to do what makes the most sense, i.e. reduce admission prices to preseason games because that will arguably lower their revenue's. For all the grumblings several stadiums still sell-out their pre-season games. They are attempting to change their product so the fans will be happy to dish out their savings on it.
The polls I have stated above do show one thing, that is that most Americans agree; 2 more games isn't worth the extra beating the players will get. We can see that as things stand now more people will have to stand in horror as a human being gets strapped to a backboard, his teammates huddled together in prayer or mere concern. This will be because this man pushed past the invisible line between a healthy man performing a dangerous maneuver to an exhausted man performing the same maneuver, only because of his exhaustion this stunt is infinitely more dangerous. The problem is that the league hasn't shown it has the moral compass to rein themselves in. They haven't shown that they care about their players, only that their bottom line stays intact. At the bottom of things this is why the NFLPA and the NFL are so far apart at the negotiation table. The league wants to put it's players at a much greater risk at a pay-cut. Call me cynical but this is capitalism at work, not what fans want. Because whether we want it or not, if 2 more games are added to the schedule we won't pay any less attention because the W-L on those 2 games will matter. Whether we want 2 extra games or not, we will watch them, we will go to them and the league will make a lot more money.
The league doesn't have to prove that fans really want 2 more meaningful games. They have to prove to the players that they aren't going to get killed because of the owners' greed. The hubris of the NFL is to believe that athletes are too stupid to realize what is being done to them. Or that the average athlete is greedy enough that getting to make all this money is worth the added pain, abuse and family stress 2 more full games would entail. There may be a sliver of truth to that, because I doubt any players will quit the league if this goes through. However, expect them to fight this tooth and nail and only accept it because the truth is that the Owners hold all of the cards on this issue.
There is only one way that the NFL can add 2 games to the schedule without doing something morally reprehensible, but it is not going to happen. Since they plan on cutting the final 2 pre-season games, the players that lose are bubble players that may not make the 53 man roster. The only morally upright solution would be to either scrap the 18-game proposal, or allow for a 73 man roster with much for rotation in games. This would allow more of a shift system like in hockey that could preserve players. The reason it will never happen though is because those 20 extra players need to get paid. Which would mean that the league might actually have to increase the revenue percentage that goes to players. Essentially this would create a wash and Owner's wouldn't make all the extra money they plan on making.
The conclusion I've drawn from all this is that at fans we need to get loud and very clear that we think this is wrong. That if 18 games is where the league is going, and there isn't a significant change in roster and pay structure to make up for it, the Owner's will have betrayed themselves as the soulless hypocrites they are behaving like. If at all possible we need to be able to threaten the league with boycott, and make the threat tangible. If not, prepare to hear about a lot more brutal injuries. Unfortunately, I can't expect us as fans to succeed in this. Looking at myself I don't think I could give up being a fan of this sport. I pray that I'm the weak one, but I don't think that is the case. The NFL puts out a product we can't really refuse and they are taking advantage of it. I hope I'm wrong, I hope our opinion can be made relevant. I just don't have that much faith in humanity, especially that of the owners.