There has been a lot of talk about the collective bargain agreement and the imposed lockout. All of these articles talk about billionaire owners and millionaire players arguing over money, but we have to take a closer, deeper look at what these talks really are. It is not really about the money. If it was, the two sides would have had their lawyers sit down and hammer out a contract long before the CBA expired. What all of this really comes down to is, pride.
The owners have pride in being in a brotherhood of those that own a team. They have pride that as a group they must defend one another. They still remember the sting of the last CBA and look to take it out on the players association this time. Owners like John Mara & Steve Tisch, Robert Kraft and Jim Irsay who properly manage their clubs must defend owners like Al Davis, Dan Snyder and Jerry Richardson. The Giants, Patriots and Colts have stabled structure and front office compared to the Raiders, Redskins and Panthers who have newly installed coaches in place. The Giants for example decline in giving Albert Haynesworth the mega contract to bring in 3 solid free agents. The Redskins on the other hand signed Haynesworth to a 40 or so million dollars guaranteed contract and are now looking to cut him after months of disruptions. These owners also have pride in trying to outdo the other 31 brethren they have to compete with. The resistance to showing the players their books is their pride. You always want to know what the other person is making, but you do not want to them to know what you are making. Everyone wants to walk around like they are the big dog of the yard but none want it to be shown out in the open.
The players also have pride, pride in their game. For them it is not just a game or a job, but a craft. One does not play this game for years building up nicks, bruises and aches unless one loves the game. Guys like Rich Seubert who shattered his foot, and Shaun O’hara who is battling several heel injuries are what the game is truly about. Players grind all year long and fight severe injuries to continue playing a game they love. On the wrong side of 30, these guys continue to bring their A game and keeping the young guns like Will Beatty on the bench. Pure athletic talent alone would not get you far in the game. 1st round picks like JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf chosen on talent alone failed to survive in the league. Hard work, dedication and pride are key to playing this game. Pat Tillman is another hero of the game. He did what very few have ever done. Tillman refused millions more from the Superbowl winner St. Louis Rams to accept a contract from his originally drafted Arizona Cardinals. Then, he left behind 3.6 million dollars and joined the Armed Forces following September 11th. It was not money or fame that kept Tillman with the Cardinals, for in the end it was his pride that caused him to leave a game he love for a country he would die for.
The standoff between owners and players may look like it is only about money. But it is more than that, it is about pride. And now it is just a matter of whose pride is going to fade first. Will it be the billionaire owners with their biggest assets frozen by the courts? Or will it be the players whose body age and competitive fire weaken as the clock ticks without football.