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Concerns Of A Lifelong NFL Fan

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I’ve been watching the NFL since I was old enough to talk. Some of my earliest memories are of an old Super Bowls video that my brother and I would watch. The video told the tales of Super Bowls I through XXIII.

I would reenact the most exciting Super Bowl moments in my backyard and dream of winning the Super Bowl myself. I watched that Super Bowl video over and over again.

I particularly recall being upset when seeing the Cowboys lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers–especially the Cowboys’ loss in Super Bowl XIII. Every time I watched that game, I hoped that Jackie Smith would finally catch Roger Staubach’s pass and score a touchdown! I hoped that the Cowboys would finally win. But Jackie Smith dropped the pass every time. It made me sad. Bless his heart.

When the Cowboys finally beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, I was only five years old, but I already felt like I had suffered through a lifetime of Super Bowl defeats. I was thrilled that the ‘Boys finally beat the Steelers.

Now, in addition to being a Dallas Cowboys fan, I’m also a Denver Broncos fan. I know that some people think you can’t be both, but you can, and I am. The story of why I root for both teams is not particularly interesting. Suffice it to say, I was raised following both teams, and when they play each other, I root for the Denver Broncos.

As a Denver Broncos fan, I still get chills up my spine when I think of Super Bowl XXXII. The emotions of that game have been immortalized by NFL Films, and I get teary-eyed whenever I relive those moments. Super Bowl XXXIII was also sweet in its own way. The Broncos were the best team that year, and they were destined to win a second straight Super Bowl. I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

Thanks for indulging me in a trip down Memory Lane. It was fun.

Unfortunately, the 2010-2011 NFL season is about as unpleasant as Memory Lane is nostalgic. The Broncos’ record is terrible: two wins and five losses. The Kansas City Chiefs are the only AFC West team with a winning record, but even in a terrible division like that, the Broncos have little chance of getting to the postseason.

Sadly, the Cowboys are a sob story just like the Broncos. The Cowboys’ hopes of hosting the Super Bowl were all but destroyed on Monday night when Tony Romo got injured against the Giants.

Injuries and failed expectations have defined the Broncos and Cowboys this year. I would love for both teams to prove me wrong, but I don’t see a comeback this time.

Unfortunately, the Broncos’ and the Cowboys’ records aren’t the only unpleasant items in this NFL season.

My thoughts are also full of gloom and doom as I consider the potential NFL Lockout and the inevitable 18-game regular season. An NFL Lockout would be terrible. It would mean the first year of my life without an NFL season (and the first year of my life without Brett Favre playing football on national TV). And, an 18-game regular season would just mean more opportunities for the game’s starters to get injured.

The lockout and the extended season deserve a closer look.

1) The NFL Lockout

I’ve had trouble understanding the hullabaloo about the lockout. I know that it’s a money issue. Millionaires and billionaires are mad about not having enough money.

After listening to ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, I gather that the players are currently getting 60% of the total revenue, and the owners want to change that 60% to 50%.

To flesh out this scenario, journalists use big phrases like “Collective Bargaining Agreement,” and NFL Players raise their index fingers in a sign of solidarity to protest against the Man.

That’s the NFL Lockout, more or less.

The frightening thing about this NFL Lockout deal, about the idea that there might be no football next season, is that there might be no football next season.

Whoa. No Monday Night Football. No playoffs. No Super Bowl. Even worse: no Fantasy Football.

No NFL season is bad news for every fantasy football manager, every family who watches football, every store that sells chips and dips for Monday Night Football, and the U.S. economy as a whole. Don’t beer and cars make up the majority of the U.S. economy? How are the beer and car commercials going to sell their products without pro football?

The NFL Lockout is bad news. The NFL and the Players Association need to resolve this situation, even though I have little sympathy for either the owners or the players. I don’t care about a few billion in either direction. I do care about watching the 2011-2012 season, however.

2) Expanding the NFL Season

This issue ranks just below the lockout on my list of “Bad things the NFL might do.” Expanding the NFL Season is a bad decision. I am an NFL fan, and I do not want to see an 18-game season.

The NFL is a business, and businesses need to make money. Successful businesses look for new ways to make money, but an expanded season is not the way to go.

The league’s number one resource is their players, and the players are exhaustible. Add to that the fact that football is a brutal game. Troy Aikman had one too many concussions and had to retire. Tiki Barber retired because he was ready to move on from the punishment that he took as a running back. Thus, the game takes a heavy toll on players’ bodies. Surviving in the NFL is difficult enough with 16 games. An expanded season will shorten players’ careers.

Some people say that the additional games can be justified by removing two of the preseason games. That exchange does not fix the problem, because starters don’t play very much in preseason games, anyway. However, they would have to play in two extra competitive games.

Ironically, at the same time that the league wants to expand the season to 18 regular season games, they’re stepping up rules to protect player safety. To be sure, there have been some horrifying head-to-head hits lately. Some of them were illegal hits.

The league is right in enforcing rules to protect player safety. However, the league needs to make sure that they are not thwarting their own designs. It needs to consider the fact that more competitive games would be detrimental to players’ safety. More games means less time for the players’ bodies to heal. It means making them play longer with injuries. It means more opportunities for lifelong injuries.

In short, it is a terrible idea.

Both the expanded season and the NFL Lockout frustrate me. I don’t know how the NFL Lockout issue is going to be resolved or know if the NFL will unwisely pursue its 18-game season.

I don’t know if the Broncos or the Cowboys will have an incredible comeback and scrape out a Wild Card spot either. However, I do know that I’ve been an NFL fan my entire life, and for the sake of what the NFL has meant to me, I hope for the best.

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