Perception, as the National Football League and its players may learn, is the ultimate weapon in the court of public opinion.

Against the backdrop of perhaps the most wide-open season in decades lies the ugly specter that come next November, Sundays will be filled only a crisp, fall wind throughout NFL stadiums as owners and players gird their loins for what is expected to be a hotly contested labor battle that threatens to test the patience of the followers who can’t firmly grasp why a multi-billion dollar pie cannot be divided equally.

Commissioner Roger Goddell and NFLPA rep DeMaurice Smith continue to dig their respective heels in, with no new meetings scheduled until next month. In the meantime, the excitement that comes from the weekly struggle in search of a dominant power on the field becomes tempered as the clock ticks closer to a boardroom clash regarding revenue sharing and compromises in exchange for two extra games the league does not need.


Billionaire owners vs. millionaire players


Yeah…that’ll go over well in a nation that is still shaking off the cobwebs of the Ivan Drago-like sledgehammer that nearly turned our economy into Apollo Creed two years ago.

Hmmm…with nearly a 1/10 of the country still looking for a job, millions fighting like hell to keep their American Dream of a house alive while nearly 50 million facing life without health insurance, the NFL appears all too ready to flick the switch off the most popular sport in America because neither side knows the damn meaning of the word “compromise.”

It reeks of sheer arrogance on both sides that a lockout is an option.

With ticket prices already out of reach to the majority of common fans and the Super Bowl becoming nothing more than a corporate orgy of excessiveness, the NFL appears willing to flip its loyal, rabid fan base a stiff “Eff You!” on the premise that once the filthy rich and stinking rich come together on a deal that will bring economic harmony to the land of touchdowns and fumbles, fans will be back like abused puppies (sorry about that, Michael Vick), willing to come back as if nothing happened.

You sure you want to play that game, Commish? Yeah, that guaranteed television money makes for a nice rainy day stash for the owners next fall, but how about down the road, when perception of greed begins to erode the image of the league?

How about you, Mr. Smith? Right now, the majority of fans side with your constituents, but how is that perception about privileged, materialistic prima donnas going to work if we enter next November watching three-hour blocks of The Good Wife or Lie to Me instead of Indianapolis at Pittsburgh or Green Bay at New Orleans?

Fans are not as forgiving as either of you may think. As you both prepare your game plans, keep the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind” in your vernacular.

This isn’t 1982 or 1987. The world’s changed, and you’d be amazed as to how quickly fans can (and in some cases, will) move on without the NFL, even if the league thinks Scabs will ease the wound.

Think UFC owner Dana White won’t take full advantage of your follies?

Common Americans are weary of being tossed aside in the name of interests that make the rich richer and leave average fans footing a bigger bill to watch a game in person. The time is nearing when the common man snaps and vents its anger in a rage against the machine that has taken it for granted.

Lockout if you want, NFL. Just know it’s a game you’re not favored to win.