The end of the prolonged lockout marked the beginning of what some have described as the most frenzied period of “off season” activity in the history of the NFL. Like a computer utilizing “zip files” to condense massive amounts of information, the NFL “unzipped” what usually extends over the course of 6 months into a period of only a few days. Undrafted Free Agent signings, draft choice negotiations, trades and free agency exploded all over the laptops of GM’s across the League.
The media were like “sharks on chum” as blog after blog, tweet after tweet shot out “up to the second” coverage on the details of transactions and contract negotiations – team by team, player by player. The phenomena reminded me some of paparazzi chasing Hollywood starlets. As if some glimpse of the “signing bonus” language or the finer points of “non-likely to be earned” incentives will make us adore our favorite player that much more. Pro sports contract negotiations; the salacious details of the verbal jousting and resultant millions associated with an agreement have become the “story within the story”.
- Why are we so mesmerized by entire segments of a Sports Center dedicated to the intra-workings of lawyer-agents and club capologists in the middle of summer vacation?
- What difference does it make if the player earns $50,000 or $75,000 for attending 90% of the offseason workouts?
- Why should we pay attention to the “playtime incentive” of our club’s long snapper?
- Will mankind truly benefit from a “split contract” in the second year?
These questions you’ll ultimately settle yourself, but in the short-term the answers appear directly linked with our expectations of performance on the field. Rare is it to find another profession where salaries are laid out as a measuring stick to production. Perhaps in the public sector it becomes our “right to know” what police, firefighters and the military are being compensated for their service. But in the private sector only athletes and actors tend to be singled out like this. Shoot, even then the actor gets paid for a “stinker”. Hard to cut George Clooney in the middle of a take.
Show me the money!
No, sports stars are held to a higher accountability because of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars they’re paid to entertain our expectations. Even the agents who represent them become “rock stars” in the process for the extra $500,000 earned in an early roster bonus and getting a full guarantee for “skill and injury”. Lawyers for gosh sakes!
The media that reports it all? Don’t get me going. The ability to speed dial a club’s assistant PR director for any “latest” on negotiations or “numbers” of a deal can win a Pulitzer Prize. Beat your cross town competitor with the fastest Tweet and the Emmy is yours!
Pro sports contract negotiating and its subsequent reporting is BIG BIZ. Just ask Jerry Maguire.
Field of Dreams
Seriously, why is it so important?
Because young men get to play the game we all loved in elementary, middle, high school and college, and get paid rather handsomely for doing so. Fast cars, pretty women, jacuzzis on the patio, front row seats. All these come with the other perks and privileges of being a professional football player. In a sense “they have what you want”.
Once upon a time FOOTBALL was the business. Names like Halas, Brown and Lombardi put focus on the character of the game and the men who played it. Outside distractions were just that, distracting. If it so happened that the public saw fit to pay a few bucks for a ticket, great. If not, they’d still be out on the “frozen tundra” regardless.
Now the BUSINESS is football. Tie yourself to any aspect of the pro sports contract negotiation process; agent, media, public relations, financial adviser, realtor, car salesman – you name it – and you too can be a STAR! As for the fans it’s like a Greek Tragedy, or Romans at the Coliseum, the “bigger the contract” the “longer the fall”. The players become our thespians, our gladiators – THUMBS UP, THUMBS DOWN.
Fast cars, pretty women, jacuzzis on the patio, front row seats; all in a day’s work of contract negotiations.